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The Golden Generation... Mk II


Stretch

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23/06/10

It had happened once again. Summer was ruined.

Tattered and torn St George flags littered the kerb of every busy road. Tabloid sports writers were busily wheeling out their best 'YOU LET US DOWN' rant. Hundreds of pub managers across the country told their barmen and women they could have the forthcoming Sunday evening off after all, with Bosnia vs Cameroon not likely to attract such a massive crowd as had previously been expected.

And Scotland, one can presume, collectively wet itself laughing.

England, amid the usual fanfare and hype that traditionally accompanies the 'best squad we've ever had', and led by one of the world's priciest coaches, had fallen spectacularly in South Africa. A trio of group stage draws - against the less than glamourous opposition of Algeria, Bosnia and USA - had seen a rather humiliating elimination at the first hurdle.

Capello and his squad had barely touched down in London before the position at the top of this rather stinking pile was vacated and talk of the next England manager had begun. Obviously forgetting the couple of years prior to Euro 2008, the media generally insisted on a passionate Englishman rather than expensive foreigner taking charge this time.

The initial bookies' favourites, respected household names such as Redknapp, Hodgson and Allardyce, quickly ruled themselves out of the running and committed themselves to their clubs, which led attention to a handful of younger possibilities, presumably as they had less of a reputation to ruin by accepting the poisoned chalice of managing England.

In the end, leaving a nation of pessimistic fans dreading another couple of years of agony, it was a man younger than some of the traditional squad, with just a couple of mediocre years in charge at West Ham on the CV, who took control.

My name, Rob Carter, would be the next in a long line to presumably become a by-word for 'massive failure'...

Notes: FM10.3, just England leagues loaded, with the old FM09 player-retain file in there to give me a wealth of options to travel a bit after I've finished with England.

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03/06/12

Two years later, qualification to Euro 2012 had been secured easily enough. The ball began rolling nicely with a 5-0 win in Azerbaijan and a 3-1 victory over Iceland. Disappointing home draws against the chasing pair of Slovakia and Ireland sandwiched another 3-1 win, this time in Macedonia, however a run of five straight wins through the return legs saw us safely through to the finals as unbeaten group winners, with Slovakia pipping Ireland to the playoff place - and eventual qualification - thanks to the Irish failing to pick up the win they required against our side on the final matchday.

The campaign, however, particularly after the likelihood of qualification climbed after the early draws, drew media focus away from the results and the performances somewhat. The changing of the guard quickly became the sole interest of certain parts of the football community, as being a 30-something with the thick end of 100 caps no longer guaranteed a place on the Wembley pitch, as it seemingly had done for so many years.

Gradually the usual big names slipped down and out of the pecking order, and as the nation waited to hear the 23 men who would be flying to Poland, bookies offered slim odds on there being a total lack of survivors from the shambles of 2010.

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England Squad - Euro 2012

1. Robert GREEN, 32 (West Ham United) - 28 caps

Finally firmly established as England's number one after years of indecision. Will hope to impress in his first major tournament as first choice and could hold the place until the next World Cup at least.

2. Glen JOHNSON, 27 (Liverpool) - 43 caps

Remains first choice at right back, combining strength at the back with decent ability pushing forward. Lack of any major challenger for his place keeps him safe for now, although the young Gosling is being watched closely.

3. Leighton BAINES, 27 (Everton) - 10 caps

Taken over the place from Ashley Cole since 2010, and generally impressive. Faces stiff competition from Mattock who's been in cracking form the last domestic season.

4. Jack RODWELL, 21 (Everton) - 7 caps/1 goal

Another Evertonian who's enjoying the better of a running battle with Cattermole for the holding midfield place. Capped a splendid debut against Slovakia with a goal and has impressed when played since.

5. John TERRY (captain), 31 (Chelsea) - 82 caps/8 goals

Remains the skipper despite all the changes around him, although may slip down the order in the next couple of years as I seek a long term partner for Gary Cahill. Potential names can impress with the former Bolton man absent with a hamstring tear this summer.

6. Michael JOHNSON, 24 (Manchester City) - 9 caps/2goals

Generally one of the first choice pairing from a band of impressive central midfielders in and around the squad. Impressive with a range of passing ability and his two goals both demonstrated a powerful shooting boot from distance.

7. Joe COLE, 30 (Chelsea) - 82 caps/15 goals

The veteran Chelsea man remains a regular, although generally chopping and changing with fellow 30+ Gerrard for a place in the first XI.

8. Steven GERRARD, 32 (Liverpool) - 99 caps/22 goals

Probably the swansong for the Reds legend, he'll look to bring the curtain down on his Three Lions career in style.

9. Wayne ROONEY, 26 (Manchester United) - 81 caps/37 goals

Needs little introduction, getting into good scoring form of late and looks like it won't be long before he takes Charlton's scoring record.

10. Nathan DELFOUNESO, 21 (Aston Villa) - 3 caps/2 goals

Quickly assumed the place of second choice to Rooney with a trio of good performances off the bench, coupled with his form for Villa. Bright future lies ahead.

11. James MILNER, 26 (Aston Villa) - 9 caps/4 goals

Very impressive when used so far, a major threat down the flanks and chips in with a share of the goals as well.

12. Carlton COLE, 28 (West Ham United) - 10 caps/3 goals

Once something of a laughing stock, the big Hammers forward has enjoyed a superb season in the league, netting 22 times, and opened his England account in his handful of recent appearances.

13. Joe HART, 25 (Manchester City) - 8 caps

Gets the odd appearance here and there, but for now awaiting Green to step aside. As things stand, definitely next in line to the number one shirt.

14. Lee CATTERMOLE, 24 (Sunderland) - 12 caps

Was my early first choice in defensive midfield, replacing the aging likes of Barry and Carrick, but has recently played second fiddle to the impressive Rodwell.

15. Joe MATTOCK, 22 (West Bromwich Albion) - 2 caps

Largely untried with just a couple of 45-minute friendly showings to his name, but has held his own and his impressive showings for his club make it worth a punt having him along as backup to Leighton.

16. Danny GUTHRIE, 25 (Newcastle United) - 3 caps/1 goal

A little down the order for a place in the first team, but took man of the match on his England debut and looks a reliable enough player if played.

17. Ryan SHAWCROSS, 24 (Manchester United) - 6 caps

Became one of the world's priciest defenders with a £15million move to Man Utd a year ago, and will look to stake his claim to a regular spot at the back with usual first choice Cahill missing the tournament.

18. Fabian DELPH, 22 (Aston Villa) - 6 caps

Mostly used off the bench thus far, but looks a good young player and will capitalise on any struggle from the first choice names.

19. Steven TAYLOR, 26 (Newcastle United) - 3 caps

Solid enough defender, a regular on the bench due to his talent either centrally or on the right.

20. Dan GOSLING, 22 (Everton) - 5 caps

Another bench regular, Dan's versatile and can play right back or in midfield. Ideally he'll progress into a long term replacement for Glen Johnson.

21. Ben FOSTER, 29 (Manchester United) - 5 caps

Perhaps a star that will never quite make it, he spent so long before earning the shirt at Old Trafford, he's now backup to Green on the international scene and it's likely Hart will leapfrog him in the queue beyond that.

22. Mark NOBLE, 25 (West Ham United) - 12 caps/3 goals

Impressive since replacing Lampard as the more attack-minded of the central midfield duo, could become a similarly vital member of the squad in the coming years.

23. Jack WILSHERE, 20 (Arsenal) - 7 caps/2 goals

Generally appears off the bench and is useful as an impact sub against a tiring defence. A big hope for the future.

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12/06/12

European Championships 2012 Group C (1/3)

Stadion Lecha, Poznan (Att: 44,000)

Serbia vs. England

Green, G Johnson, Baines, Terry, Shawcross, Rodwell, M Johnson (Guthrie 67), Noble, Gerrard (Milner 45), J Cole, Rooney (Delfouneso 45)

My first major campaign opened on a warm Polish evening, with a tough clash we'd need something out of to ensure we're well positioned long before the final group match against France, however a sloppy first half seemed to set us up for another disappointing summer.

A handful of half chances were all we had to show as our attack faltered against a well organised defence. Rooney took a knock early on and struggled to make much impact, and was forced off at the break, along with the ineffective Gerrard, and it was the half time introduction of the Aston Villa duo that proved the turning point.

Milner was lively down the right and caused endless problems, and early in the second half broke forward to tap in a Joe Cole pass, only for a flag to rule it out, and later saw the linesman raise his arm again to disallow Delfouneso's header from his cross.

However the young Villa striker grabbed all the points, capitalising on a rare lapse of concentration at the back and firing home a beautiful chipped pass from his teammate, and the single goal was enough as the opposing attack failed to equal the impressive performance at the back, and rarely troubled Green.

Serbia 0 England 1 (Delfouneso 67)

Man of the Match: Neven Subotic

17/06/12

European Championships 2012 Group C (2/3)

Arena Baltycha, Gdansk (44,000)

England vs. Slovenia

Green, G Johnson, Mattock, Terry, Shawcross, Rodwell (Cattermole 76), M Johnson, Noble, Gerrard (Milner 57), Cole (Wilshere 68), Delfouneso

The young duo of Mattock and Delfouneso were thrown into the limelight with the first England starts after Baines and Rooney both twisted their knee against Serbia, and were ruled out until at least the Quarter Final stage. Fortunately the team made sure they'd get a chance to play again this summer by wrapping up qualification with a routine victory over the weaker member of the group.

Despite an early blow when Andraz Kirm rose to head in a Robert Koren cross, we were always the better side and only a top class performance from keeper Samir Handanovic kept a zero next to our name on the scoreboard for so long. The equaliser finally came shortly before the interval though with Michael Johnson running through and tapping in Cole's low cross, and after the break there was only ever going to be one winner.

Two corners undid the threat of Slovenia, both met by the head of John Terry, albeit with assistance from the woodwork and the back of the unfortunate Handanovic for one of those. It wasn't perfect, but it was mission accomplished and ensured we'd join Germany, Denmark and Portugal in reaching the last eight with a match to spare.

England 3 (M Johnson 37, Handanovic og 56, Terry 87) Slovenia 1 (Kirm 23)

Man of the Match: Samir Handanovic

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  • 3 weeks later...

20/06/12

European Championships 2012 Group C (3/3)

Stadion Lecha, Poznan (Att: 44,000)

England vs. France

Green, G Johnson, Mattock, Terry, Shawcross, Rodwell, Delph (M Johnson 57), Noble, Gerrard, J Cole (Milner 69), Delfouneso (C Cole 45)

It was hard to pick where we'd rather finish here. A French win would put us second and a likely clash with an impressive looking Portugal side, while a point or more would top the group and most likely set up a quarter final tie with holders Spain.

In the end a fairly dull goalless draw played out, neither side causing too many issues for the opposition, and both Green and Lloris enjoying a good day at the office.

It saw us through as group winners, with France getting the point they needed to secure their place ahead of Slovenia, and lined up a shock tie for us against Austria, who'd dethroned the Champions to join Portugal in the last eight.

England 0 France 0

Man of the Match: Robert Green

Elsewhere as the group stages concluded, both hosts ended their tournaments bottom of their groups, with Germany and Denmark quickly qualifying from Group A with two wins before a German win saw them top the group, with Slovakia and Poland drawing to finish on a single point at the bottom. Ukraine also propped up their group, pointless after defeats to Italy, Greece and Israel who finished in that order. France would face Portugal in the pick of the last eight ties, while Turkey were the final team eliminated as they finished bottom in Group D.

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23/06/12

European Championships 2012 Quarter Final

Stadion Slaski, Chorzow (Att: 47,202)

England vs. Austria

Green, G Johnson, Mattock, Terry, Shawcross, Rodwell (Cattermole 47), Delph, Noble, Gerrard (J Cole 45), Milner, Delfouneso (Rooney 72)

It was far from the potentially epic clash against Spain or Portugal that we'd expected at the start of the tournament, but nonetheless it was far from a simple passage to the last four, as the 2008 co-hosts showed exactly why they'd progressed at the holders' expense, with solid defending and a lively forward line.

We did well to take an early lead, Delfouneso running onto Rodwell's long pass and firing in a cracker from the edge of the box that Ramazan Özcan had no chance of stopping, but thereafter Austria probably enjoyed the better of the first half possession, and fully deserved to level just before the break when Andreas Ivanschitz finished a neat passing move with a close range effort.

A swift boot up the backside over half time fired up an England side determined to perform though, and it only needed one more goal to secure a place in the semis. Joe Cole's long shot was well saved, but unfortunately for the Austrian keeper Noble was the quickest to reach the loose ball, and easily found the back of the net.

The scoreline could have finished more flattering with Rooney, Cattermole and Milner all coming close to scoring, but aside from his mistake for the winner, Özcan was in fine form to give his teammates a chance of springing another upset - but sadly the outfield squad couldn't oblige, with Marko Arnautovic particularly guilty after missing a sitter late on.

England 2 (Delfouneso 11, Noble 61) Austria 1 (Ivanschitz 43)

Man of the Match: Ramazan Özcan

Other Quarter Final Results:

Germany 3-1 Greece (AET); Denmark 0-2 Italy; France 0-3 Portugal

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28/06/12

European Championships 2012 Semi Final

Stadion Narodowy, Warszawa (Att: 55,000)

Italy vs. England

Green, G Johnson, Baines, Terry, Shawcross (Taylor 45), Rodwell, M Johnson, Noble, Milner, J Cole (Wilshere 45), Rooney (Delfouneso 63)

Rooney returned from his injury to the starting line-up, and within 45 seconds he'd lit the fusewire on a thrilling encounter, finishing a quick break straight from the kick off with a rasping 20-yarder that found the top corner behind Buffon.

The lead failed to last too long though, cancelled out when Mario Balotelli outjumped Shawcross to nod in a Paolo De Ceglie cross, and within minutes of that the Italians moved in front, Pepe's long ball releasing Alberto Paloschi who placed neatly past Green.

It remained a tense battle, although mostly fought in midfield with little for the opposing 'keepers to worry about, as Italy seemed content to sit on the lead and grind out a result, particularly after they lost one of their stars in Daniele De Rossi to injury shortly before the break.

A dangerous tactic to use in such a match, they paid the price for their lack of urgency in the final third, when Rodwell finally found a way past Buffon, smashing home a stunning effort from 25 yards with just a few minutes left on the clock, which looked certain to force an extra half an hour's play. But as the seconds ticked away, ecstacy turned to agony as Paloschi and Pirlo exchanged passes to break the defence and Paloschi grabbed his second of the match to send the Azzurri to the final.

Italy 3 (Balotelli 12, Paloschi 16, 89) England 2 (Rooney 1, Rodwell 86)

Man of the Match: Alberto Paloschi

Elsewhere, Germany joined them in the final with a suprise 2-0 victory over Portugal, who'd looked by far the stronger of the two in the earlier rounds, but couldn't do enough to deny the Italians in Kiev. A goalless draw was something of an anticlimax to the tournament, but Italy held their nerve to win 4-2 in the shootout.

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Despite his semi-final exit, Cristiano Ronaldo enjoyed a successful tournament with Portugal and his record of five games and five goals earned him both the Golden Boot ahead of Giuseppe Rossi and our conqueror Alberto Paloschi, and the Player of the Tournament award with Paloschi and Claudio Marchisio trailing.

Four Englishmen made the subs bench of the Italian dominated Dream Team, namely Green, Terry, Delfouneso and Noble. The winners donated a total of twelve, with Buffon, Santon, Criscito, Chiellini, Giovinco, Marchisio, De Rossi, Rossi and Paloschi among the first XI and Simone Pepe, Mario Balotelli and Paolo De Ceglie on the bench.

The remaining two spots in the top eleven were both Portuguese, with Bruno Alves joining Ronaldo from the semi-finalists, who also had Raúl Meireles and José Bosingwa among the subs. Finally, Mathieu Flamini and Bakary Sagna represented France while Grigoris Makos earned a place for helping the 2004 champions into the knockout stages.

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08/09/12

International Friendly

Wembley, London (Att: 66,570)

England vs. Greece

Green, G Johnson (Gosling 72), Mattock, Terry, Cahill, Rodwell (Cattermole 72), M Johnson (Delph 45), Noble, Albrighton (Wilshere 45), Milner, Rooney (Vernon 59)

Our first match since the painful end to Euro 2012 saw a simple enough friendly ahead of opening our World Cup Qualifying campaign in Israel. Steven Gerrard and Joe Cole found themselves consigned to the history books in favour of younger talent, Aston Villa's right winger Marc Albrighton given a debut alongside teammate Milner.

On the night, the result was secured within half an hour by a trio of near identical goals. Three great passes from Noble, three strikes past Nikos Katsaras from Rooney did the job nicely - and took the Man Utd striker into the 40s and within single figures of eclipsing Bobby Charlton's record.

Giannis Papadopoulos headed in Endiri Shahini's long throw to pull one back, and sub keeper Alexandros Tsorvas outperformed Katsaras massively to keep us from adding to our three, but we'd easily secured the win and would head off on Wednesday with some much-needed momentum.

England 3 (Rooney 6, 10, 30) Greece 1 (Papadopoulos 43)

Man of the Match: Wayne Rooney

12/09/12

World Cup 2014 European Qualifying Group 9 (1/8)

Ramat Gan Stadium, Ramat Gan (41,583)

Israel vs. England

Green, G Johnson, Baines, Terry, Cahill, Rodwell, M Johnson (Delph 62), Noble (Vernon 45), Albrighton, Milner, Rooney (Delfouneso 80)

The road to Brazil began with a less than routine victory in Israel, who to be honest looked the better side early on and fully deserved to go in front in the first half. A great passing move orchestrated by Yossi Benayoun and Gai Assulin was finished off by Ben Sahar tapping into the bottom corner.

Fortunately we came into form after half time, and were quickly level when Rooney headed in Rodwell's looping cross. The action slowed somewhat after this, the hosts happy to sit on an impressive point against the group favourites, however our repeated attacking finally broke through late in the game, Milner firing a low pass across goal that Delph was only too happy to tap in for all three points.

Israel 1 (Sahar 24) England 2 (Rooney 50, Delph 82)

Man of the Match: Gary Cahill

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