AS England’s ‘young Lions™‘ roared to a 0-0 win over the might of Ukraine, led by Liverpool’s own Steven Gerrard, Reds up and down the country cheered with delight at the prospect of edging closer to a place at the World Cup, courtesy of the great minds at the FA and legendary coach, Roy Hodgson.
I can’t imagine how hard it must be for those in the Southern press who come up with that kind of drivel on a regular basis, but the reality of the situation these days is that 90% of fans put their clubs before their country and many players do too and while England’s performance against Ukraine on Tuesday night was atrocious, it did get what appeared to be the desired result and edged England 1 point closer to qualification.
The fact that we have a number of our key players potentially lining up for their nations next summer though could prove to be as much of a hindrance as it is a benefit.
With key stars such as Gerrard, Suarez, Lucas and Johnson all very likely to be at the World Cup and youngsters such as Coutinho, Mignolet, Henderson and Sturridge all pushing for regular starting berths for their countries it’s likely that we’ll see a lot of good performances from the squad as a whole this season.
And once each country guarantees qualification, we’re likely to see unrivalled consistency. This is certainly one season we’re unlikely to hear the word ‘tiredness’ in the final couple of months too, as most players with realistic prospects of representing their countries at the World Cup give it their all.
Conversely, World Cup years – or any international tournament – are notoriously bad for clubs, with players coming back tired, injured or, even worse, with their heads turned toward what they believe to be ‘better things’.
It’s happened before (as in the cases of Owen and Gerrard), when a player is away on International duty, at a major tournament surrounding by colleagues who have just had great seasons. Of course, the way to counter that is to have a great season ourselves, so we’ll see how that goes.
As for tiredness and injuries though, there’s little that can be done in that regard and the more players we have at the World Cup, the more likely it is that we’ll have a slow start to the following season. With the elder statesmen such as Gerrard too, there is a much greater chance for injuries and fatigue at this late stage of his career and for such an important player, can that really be risked?
I’m aware that few Reds give a great deal of thought to England these days and, in fairness, it’s with good reason and I’m one of those myself. But I do like to follow my teams players when they’re on international duty and the World Cup is a great event that few of us will miss.
Which means we’re left in a position of A. knowing our players will work hard to get to the World Cup and wanting them to be able to experience that and B. knowing that, at the same time, our entire squad is unlikely to come out of the World Cup unscathed for one of many reasons.
Either way, we’ll just have to endure the tournament with fingers crossed and gritted teeth, hoping that any improvement in performances this season don’t result in the club and fans paying for it next season.
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