Well, if the headline wasn’t self-explanatory enough for you, I would say I’m not exactly hopeful of England’s World Cup prospects, no matter how much Roy implores me to ‘put a tenner on them’.
I don’t think it would be too controversial to say there’s not a lot of love lost for Steve McClaren in England. He probably has to go down as the worst England Manager in the Modern Era, and in that ill-advised moment of brashness one day, when he thought saying ‘ Judge me on the results’ was a good idea, he created the noose with which he was hanged when England failed to qualify for Euro 2008 under his leadership. After that McClaren, like those who are defined by failures for the national team often do, was essentially banished from the country, deemed so thoroughly unemployable by English clubs that he spent four years working in the Dutch and German leagues.
Despite last night’s 2-1 loss to bottom of the league Barnsley, a result that ended Brighton’s unbeaten run of six games, many fans are now asking if the Seagulls can repeat last year’s success of reaching the play-offs and possibly taking it one step further by securing promotion.
After a rocky start to the season, losing their first three fixtures, Oscar Garcia’s men have managed to pull themselves off the floor and into some decent form, with them now sitting comfortably with only three points from the play-offs. Four of the next seven fixtures are against teams who are in the lower end of the table; maximum points are needed in these games as the last couple of weeks of January includes especially tricky fixtures with Burnley, Leeds and Derby. The Christmas period will go a long way in deciding Brighton’s season, in my opinion.
A 4-0 drubbing at Everton does not necessarily a disaster make, but the worry is there for Stoke; only three points above the drop zone, there’s no question that the Potters could soon find themselves in one almighty dog-fight very soon indeed. Now that their ex-manager and antithesis of relegation Tony Pulis has joined Stoke’s Selhurst Park rivals (and now that Crystal Palace are starting to string a few wins together), Hughes’ men are in dire need of a bunch of good performances themselves, not to mention many more goals and above all results. With tonight’s crunch match against Cardiff City coming up at the Britannia – I’d go so far as to call this a six-pointer already – Stoke face a decisive December, with tough matches against Chelsea and Villa at home, interspersed between tricky fixtures at Hull, Newcastle and Spurs.