Negative

Saturday was billed as “The Day of Destiny” by Sky Sports, with two big football finals where in the build-up we led to believe the prize for the first one, the Championship play-off final, was bigger because of the financial rewards. A strange way to measure the prize in sport. On a similar note, Chelsea’s win in the Champions League meant they qualified for the tournament next year, which in itself will probably be worth around at least £20m in extra revenue than being in the Europa League; but you don’t get medals, open-top bus parades or a place in the Club’s roll-of-honour for increased turnover, although in Chelsea’s case, their finances have been key to their success.

However, even with the backing of a billionaire owner for nine years that allowed them to have the luxury of a £50m player on the bench despite a handful of suspensions, Chelsea’s approach to the game was that of an underdog looking for a giant killing, with defensive, negative tactics; and as Johan Cruyff told De Telegraaf, the outcome was one that no-one, other than Chelsea fans, could be happy with.

As with the game earlier in the day, when West Ham beat Blackpool with a late goal in a 2-1 win, the better side lost. Blackpool played some excellent football at Wembley, and like Bayern later in the evening, had their finishing been up to scratch on the day, would have run out comfortable winners. So it was nice that the following night Napoli beat Juventus 2-0 with a fluid, attacking passing game that stopped the Italian Champions completing a double, and going through their domestic season unbeaten with their often pragmatic approach.

Earlier in the week the England squad was announced, undermining the hopes of this Football Column suggestions a day earlier that the English Football could be about to embark on a new dawn. Two players that should have surely been in the starting XI in the summer, Michael Carrick and Aaron Lennon, haven’t event made the squad, with Lennon’s exclusion in comparison to those picked ahead of him is even more surprising when his stats are analysed. While Carrick understandably has had enough of being poorly treated by successive Managers, he would have played if managed properly, yet Hodgson worryingly doesn’t think he is better than “the four” (presumably including Lampard and Barry) picked ahead of him.

Rather than adopting a fresh start, Roy Hodgson has taken an approach of picking players for the finals on the basis of who was involved in qualification. Or at least that is his official line, and one of the reasons he cited in Rio Ferdinand’s omission, although answers in his press conference when he announced the squad, when asked about whether there would be any issues of harmony with having Terry and Ferdinand in the squad if there were no doubts (excuses) about Ferdinand on football grounds, revealed the main reason why Ferdinand was actually excluded.

And on his selection of Andy Carroll, Hodgson recognised that form is a factor, which makes it all the more surprising so many other Liverpool players have either made the squad or are on standby. The call-up of Martin Kelly last night suggests Micah Richards is now behind Kyle Walker, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Glen Johnson and now Kelly as an English right-back. And if anymore pull-out, it will be interesting to see if Kyle Naughton gets a phone-call before Richards. Sure Richards doesn’t play every week, and is often left out of big games for Manchester City, but so is James Milner, but yet Hodgson has picked him ahead of Lennon. The thought the Richards has upset someone at the FA is now hard to shift.

Rather than being a fresh England team led by Scott Parker in the summer, it is one of all the largely familiar, as Lampard and Gerrard get another chance to try and keep the ball on the international stage, as most of the better teams in the tournament will do with ease. Last Saturday showed the best teams don’t always win, so England have a chance. But the chances would have been increased if the better footballing players were in the side, based on a 4-2-3-1, with Carrick and Parker as the two, with attacking talents including Lennon, Rooney and Young playing between opposition lines. Instead, with a squad so poorly received, Hodgson may find out that Cruyff won’t be the only one unhappy with negative displays in the summer.

MG

The Substantive Football Columnist Mel Gomes’ new e-book ‘Glory Nights: From Wankdorf to Wembley’ is now available to buy for a Kindle from Amazon for £4.27 inc VAT, and for a number of other formats including as a PDF, an online download and for Apple, Palm and Sony hand-held devices from Smashwords. With recollections of matches including Clasicos, Milan Derbies and Diego Maradona’s one appearance at White Hart Lane, it covers a journey over land and sea in the 2010-11 Champions League. New, independent writing on popular culture, it is being backed by The Substantive.