In the first instalment of my daily England FM diary I took the reins of one of the highest-pressure jobs in football. Having said that, it’s not like previous managers, since maybe Terry Venables, gave me a tough act to follow.
My first game was a friendly versus Argentina and we won 2-1. Goals from Leighton Baines and Gary Cahill cancelled out Eric Lamela’s opener in a match where we dominated possession. I almost forgot Leo Messi was even playing!
It’s early days in terms of getting the players comfortable with the play style I want to see from them but I expect most to be competent in the 4-2-3-1, one of the most commonly-used formations in the Premier League. Most of my best players are used to playing in a possession-based system at club level, such as the Liverpool, Man United and Arsenal players. We’re going to play proper football that’s easy on the eye.
There was little time to dwell on the encouraging Argentina friendly as Switzerland were up next at the Stade de Suisse Wankdorf in European Championship Qualifying.
This contest meant a lot more than the previous game because it would influence our chances of progressing in a competition we expected to do well in and I was more apprehensive as we were the favourites. I had huge respect for the Suisse who have some talented players, especially in attack, such as Xerdan Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka.
The Switzerland tie was another where we had the lion’s share of possession, however, there appeared little to separate the sides.
We conceded two but still manage to win 3-2. I hate conceding, even if I win, so I’ll tweak my tactics to make us more solid. I think my roaming playmaker might have to become a deep lying playmaker.
I should mention that both of their goals had a significant element of luck to them. The first came when Joe Hart parried a shot to Switzerland’s Josip Drmic, who passed in to an empty net. The second came when Jack Colback’s tackle knocked the ball 20 yards perfectly in to the path of striker Seferovic, who finished calmly.
When you’re used to only managing a club side, you soon see how challenging picking a squad for a national team can be. I think I’m finding that with England’s mature players we have quality not quantity.
It was good to get three points on the board and next we faced Slovenia, another test and potential banana skin.
We completely dominated the Slovenes but they did manage a couple of goals, one from the penalty spot. It ended 4-2 though.
We are now top of the group before another championship game against Lithuania!
Lithuania would have the honour of facing Harry Kane in his first senior England appearance.
You’ll never guess what. He scored on 43 seconds. Amazing. It looked like it could be a very long day for the Lithuanians.
Danny Welbeck, in for the injured Wayne Rooney, added to the lead on ten minutes with a rebound in to an open net.
And that man again – Kane secured a brace on 19 minutes with a powerful effort in to the far corner of the net.
Daniel Sturridge added two of his own to pile on the embarrassment making the final score 5-0.
There were anxious looks late on though when Kane was carried off injured.
Here’s how Group E looks after our third win: