Reflection & evaluation are inherent components to football. Players & coaches alike- to reexamine your flaws is to take responsibility for your actions; whether that be a lapse in concentration by an individual or tactical decision from a manager that has backfired. The far-reaching appeal of the beautiful game has led to an overwhelming mass media around the world that has ensured that every possible talking point has been dissected to sometimes an almost pessimistic level- none as pessimistic than the English media during a World Cup tournament.
A changing of the guard was what resonated from Gareth Southgate’s 23 man squad for the World Cup as at the time of selection, his 3 chosen goalkeepers had just 9 international caps between them at the time- Stoke City’s Jack Butland (age 25) with 7 Everton’s Jordan Pickford (age 24) with 2 & Burnley stand-in ‘keeper Nick Pope (age 26) yet to take his bow on the international stage. This was already a bone of contention amongst the many media outlets that a have grown to seeing the place in-between the sticks occupied by more experienced names such as Peter Shilton & David Seaman who had 5 experiences of World Cup finals between them.
The English media have made no bones over the inexplicably high standard they hold the national team goalkeeper to. Refresh back to Robert Green’s error against the USA in 2010 & the flippancy shown towards him by the many headlines dedicated to his blunder. Or cast your mind back to Paul Robinson’s mistimed swing at a Gary Neville back pass against Croatia in 2006- the man himself voiced his unhappiness with the unjust scrutiny that bordered on personal attacks by the media.
Fast forward to the national enquiry surrounding Pickford following Adnan Januzaj’s curling effort that put the English 1-0 down against Belgium- despite winning their opening 2 group games: scoring 8 & conceding just 2, the criticism of the goalkeeper is all too familiar.
Throwing my 2 pence in, I believe both Danny Rose & Fabian Delph are the main culprits for what is an otherwise lovely goal by Januzaj. The defenders prove little help as they stand their ground, allowing the left-footed Belgian to curl one round the corner short-sighting Pickford in the process. To his credit, ITV pundit Neville highlighted the faults of the defence along his analogy of Pickford’s attempted dive but the bandwagoning finger-pointing at the Everton number 1 has called for the Goalkeeper’s Union to back Pickford’s decision making, including 85′ league & cup double winner Neville Southall.
As established by England’s recent “leaked team” debacle, the media’s function is not to support their team although these lines can sometimes be blurred by the patriotic fever caused by the World Cup, but that doesn’t mean players can be ridiculed for factors & variables they simply have no control over such as their height. Pickford has been fundamental to Everton salvaging a respectable 8th place finish after a dreadful season & is deservedly England’s number 1.
With the knockout stages upon us & the 3 Lions looking as fearsome as ever, lets prolong the friendly rapport between the media & players, which we see from the humorous games of darts that take place at Repino & show due respect to the boys in Russia.
Max Carlyle (@Max_Carlyle)