Kevin Garside: Only narrow thinking keeps England so dull

The Way I See It: The full-backs rip forward in support of inflexible wingers in a grim reprise of Seventies football dystopia

Big Mac heaven gets the Euro 2012 makeover. There they sit, football thrill seekers glued to the action on TV, unable to look away as the burgers make their entrance. The ad men deal in aspirations. They are right to pitch the action in this way. It is meant to be dramatic, uplifting and fun. The only difficulty is squaring this idealised living room scene with the English experience.

Watching England play football has the aesthetic appeal of Bill Sikes' dog. For those not familiar with Oliver Twist, think of a breed that could pull a truck up hill, or take a barn door of its hinges with a nod of its bulbous head. Bill would beat the beast bloody yet back it would come for more. There is a dependable quality in the animal but not one that makes the heart skip a beat watching it go about its work.

The Bull Terrier can do nothing to transform its prospects. It is bound to a brute of an owner and set of predetermined canine characteristics. But what of John Bull? To listen to some you might think our footballers are similarly hamstrung by type. They are routinely classified as a subspecies that lacks the ability, technique, wit and vision of our continental cousins, condemned to exist in a footballing half-light, feeding off scraps, nicking results.

Roy Hodgson appears to have chosen for his team a minimalist path, prioritising containment over creativity. But it doesn't have to be that way. Greece, a man and a goal down to the hosts Poland in the opening match, showed what can be achieved with a change of attitude and approach. They were given the last rights at half-time by the BBC panel, concluding that only a set piece could save them. It was an example of the kind of narrow thinking that informs too much of our game. Good job the Greeks weren't listening. After levelling inside six minutes they might have taken all three points.

Next up Russia. After a quiet 15 minutes shaded by the Czechs, Russia began to assert a rhythmic grip. Midfield runners burst forward beyond the ball, dragging the Czech defence out of shape. There was nothing exotic or complicated about the patterns weaved, just attacking fundamentals playing out via the agency of competent footballers, not world beaters. Andrei Arshavin was involved in the pageant for goodness sake. Arsenal could not discard him quick enough so it can't be about brilliance.

We are told that England cannot reach for the stars because this particular group is not capable. Really? In what area is Steven Gerrard lacking compared, for example, to German fulcrum Bastian Schweinsteiger? What aspect of Wayne Rooney's technique is deficient? Is Lukas Podolski the better man? Mario Gomez? Don't think so. There was no technical fallibility in the deft finish of Danny Welbeck against Belgium nor in Ashley Young's feet as he sliced through the Norwegian defence to score.

I offer no defence of Jordan Henderson or Stewart Downing and accept that James Milner is nobody's idea of a footballing rainmaker but he is good enough to hold down a place with the English champions. The difference at the Etihad is the fluid, attacking template to which Milner is attached.

Gomez and Podolski thrive for Germany because of the support from Schweinsteiger, Sami Khedira and Mezut Özil, who arrive at pace and in numbers. In Hodgson's model, the creative hub of Gerrard and Scott Parker duplicate each other in the deep space in front of their own back four, dislocating the team's offensive function. It is left to the full-backs to rip forward in support of wingers inflexibly working their channels in a grim reprise of Seventies football dystopia. In this scheme the ball moves either slowly or long and possession is almost impossible to boss.

The wonder is that we suffer it. Isn't football supposed to lift us out of the monotony of our working lives, to provide relief from the daily grind? From where does the assumption arise that defensive rigour is the surest way of delivering success? And don't offer Chelsea's Champions League triumph to make the case. Last-ditch defending of that magnitude is simply not sustainable.

Maybe Hodgson shares a long-standing distrust of the flair player that has blighted our national side since the dark days of national strikes and 30-hour weeks, when footballers of the calibre of Alan Hudson (2), Tony Currie (17), Stan Bowles (5), Duncan McKenzie (0), Rodney Marsh (9) and Frank Worthington (8) amassed only 41 caps between them. Glenn Hoddle gained 53 a decade later but it was nothing like the number his tender gifts deserved. The players on this list did not lack skill, only the belief of those picking the team.

English methods, not technique, have held us back. It is incumbent on Hodgson to get his head up, to aspire to a new aesthetic, to look beyond the 1-0 win. He speaks a few languages. How about adding German to the list? After finishing bottom of their group at Euro 2000, Europe's most successful nation tore up the blueprint and went with youth and pace. Look at them now. Achtung baby!

Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Voices
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Sport
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
football
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths surrounding the enigmatic singer
Sport
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
Life and Style
life
Sport
Christian Benteke of Aston Villa celebrates scoring the winner for Aston Villa
football
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
News
Bill O'Reilly attends The Hollywood Reporter 35 Most Powerful People In Media Celebration at The Four Seasons Restaurant on April 16, 2014 in New York City
media It is the second time he and the channel have clarified statements
News
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn