Between the embarrassment of Brazil and start of Euro 2016, there was a brief moment when Roy Hodgson seemed to have a handle on what his best formation and starting line-up was, yet as England’s Euro 2016 campaign got underway yesterday, England’s most indecisive manager ever reverted to type.

The warning signs were there in the pre-tournament friendlies as Hodgson failed to settle on a formation or any semblance of consistency in his line-up. Friendlies are generally the time to experiment, but friendlies on the brink of a major tournament aren’t. They’re valuable games in which you need to give your starting XI chance to get comfortable with each other and the system they’ll be playing. Instead, Roy Hodgson wasted those valuable minutes of preparation time scratching his head and dithering on vital decisions.

I’m not without sympathy for the England boss because the best players he has available to him seem to share positions with other high-quality players (Vardy and Kane, Alli and Rooney). Then you have specific problems like Jack Wilshere and Raheem Sterling, both quality players but the former is constantly broken and lacking match fitness and the latter, for all his flashes of brilliance, still hasn’t found an end product.

As it was, the formation and line-up Hodgson went with wasn’t a bad one. Rooney proved himself more than capable in central midfield and England dominated a game they should probably have closed out in the first half. Russia held on though and it wasn’t until midway through the second half England broke the deadlock with an Eric Dier freekick.

At this point, Russia had nothing to lose and were bound to come on strongly. What had seemed like a Hodgson masterstroke – leaving Vardy on the bench to finish them off with his pace late in the game when Russia were tiring and chasing the game – was surely about to reap its reward?

Nope.

Instead, Hodgson started making baffling decisions. First he brought Jack Wilshere on for the captain and driving force behind what had been a very good performance up to that point, Wayne Rooney. It wasn’t that Wilshere coming on was a bad call, but the obvious replacement was Sterling or Lallana (who’d had a very good first half, but gone quiet in the second).

Then, in a typically conservative, incredibly baffling moment of madness, Hodgson brought on James Milner. I love Milner, but he adds nothing at this point. Russia have England on the backfoot and are starting to put pressure on a defence which had looked dodgy throughout, particularly from set plays. Trying to sure up that defence with a slow midfielder, must go down as one of the worst substitutions an England manager has ever made.

Had Hodgson gone for Jamie Vardy instead, all he needs to do is stand on the halfway line and give them something to think about. I don’t care how good they are, no team in this competition is going to commit everyone forward while someone with Jamie Vardy’s pace stands ready to punish you for it. He immediately removes players from Russia’s onslaught by his mere presence. Not only that, but he provides the outlet for when an England player does get the ball. All they need to do knowing Vardy (with fresh legs) is on the pitch, is smash it into a channel for him to chase and by doing so, we immediately turn the tables.

Instead, we tried to rely on our truly awful defence and were predictably punished for it.

There’s hope for England, it just requires Hodgson to go against his basic instincts. Our failure to close that game out rests on his shoulders. But England should field the same starting XI v Wales, they’ll have learnt from this first outing and now know what worked and what didn’t, then all Hodgson needs to do is make better substitutions. Don’t take off the guy who’s been running the show when Lallana has gone quiet and Raheem Sterling is failing to deliver the killer blow. And for crying out loud, Jamie Vardy versus tired legs is a nuclear bomb like threat from the bench. There’s no manager alive who wasn’t putting him on at 1-0.

Elsewhere…

Congratulations to any Welsh fans who might be reading this. As a Leeds United fan, it’s great to see Chris Coleman continue to build on the progress Gary Speed made.

Props for this too…

  • henrymouni

    Bit like watching Leeds!
    Huff & puff but no end product.
    Russia are a very poor team!!

  • Scotsman

    Typical media and English response to not winning, happens every tournament, English fans and media build expectations and go into overdrive. The sooner England learns to approach games like other home nations then you might just win something instead of assuming it’s a done deal before the tournament starts.

    England were unlucky against Russia after dominating for the majority but that’s football, we’ve seen it happen many times. Raheem Sterling should have been subbed, he’s got pace but was like a headless chicken, no end product.

    A . SCOTSMAN

    • TSS

      True, we definitely get carried away, though there’s been less of that this time round I feel. Think we were scarred by performance in Brazil. Either way, no excusing those subs, you can’t expect to hold a 1-0 lead with how terrible our defence is – nor should we try when the attack is very good.

      • JDC

        Scotsman / TSS … like a few others on Twitter, I often find myself wanting England to lose, or at best, draw. However, I looked forward to this game with positive anticipation, hoping that Roy the boy would throw caution to the wind and ‘go for it’ with all the young, in form talent available to him. Then, along came ‘the gruesome twosome’, Tyldesley and Hoddle who started their overly biased commentary and comments, we only needed their former sidekick, Adrian Chiles to appear to complete the comedy trio … at least we were spared that. They continued with their overpatriotic diatribe and hype, and were simply not watching the same game as me … before half time I reverted to type, totally bored by their rantings.

        The Welsh game offered far more in the way of passion and interest and was far more enjoyable to this proud Yorkshireman … maybe the memory of Gary Speed was enough.

  • Melbourne Leeds

    great summation of all Hodgsons failings – expect us to go out early again and Hodgson to be ditched shortly afterwards

    • Matthew

      I think if England can beat Wales, there won’t be a problem. A pretty big “If” there though. Slovakia won’t be a problem if England can get the win over Wales.

  • Kevin

    Its sad when the only goal we got was from a free kick, and from the start i could see were this game was going, with England players bottling it again, shots from fourty yards out, the back four plus the keeper were more dangerouse than the Russion forwards, time to come home again still we have got the welsh to rub our noses in it , hope they go on and win it, one thing is certain, we woan’t.

  • Matthew

    Conceding in the final few minutes after playing well is a typical Leeds United thing. Surprised to see that from England lol.

  • Jay Suscenko

    oh dear me posting pissed WHY THE FLIPPING HECK did he ot have Vardy on the pitch is my question !!! at 1-0 Russia were vunverable to counter attacks yet twat face made no substituitons !!!!!!!! everey England fans were shouting for Vardy, and oh well we need to send him umbarellas !!!
    SPEEDO SPEEDO SPEEDO !!!!!!!!!!!! THERES ONLY ONE GARY SPEED ONLY ONE GARY SPEED !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Matthew

    Wales got it wrong tactically. Parking the bus against England and inviting pressure is a ridiculous thing to do. Especially when you consider the quality in that squad. Wales should have been more ambitious instead of playing for a point. It would have made the game more entertaining.

    • Matthew

      Well that’s Group B finished. Overall, it has made me wish that England was in a harder group with teams that want to win. Absolutely no enjoyment watching England facing teams that want to park the bus for the entirety of the game because they lack the quality to win. Though saying that, England lack the ability to break down these types of teams which is clearly evident. I’d take England against anyone like Germany or Italy or Spain, teams with the quality and mindset to play football.

  • James Anderson

    That is the only reason English had been compelled to defeat to Iceland… very poor performance of English players we had to watch!!!
    http://www.golden-goals.com/