My mission is to take England to glory at this year's European Championships, but without using any of the players in the real-life squad. It's difficult to tell how it's going because so far we've played Lithuania, Slovenia, Switzerland and San Marino. It’s time to speed this process up, otherwise we are in danger of turning this series into Alternative Meaningless Matches rather than Alternative Euros.
Find Part 1 in which little happens here, find Part 2 where we vanquish the Lithuanians and Slovenians here and find Part 3 where we somewhat impressively take down Switzerland here. I select my squad for friendlies against Spain and France, which will be a stern test for this motley crew.
|Mark Noble for Prime Minister.|
A barely fit Phil Jones comes in for an injured Scott Dann. It displeases me that I pick someone with little game time, least of all someone with little game time who plays for Manchester United, because I don’t want to become what I hate. But Jones will be an important player in France and I need to integrate him into my group of players sooner rather than later. Otherwise it’s the usual bunch of England superstars in my squad, from Callum Wilson to Sam Byram.
I line up thusly against the juggernauts of Spain:
|Look at them with their two holding midfielders, the boring bastards. We'll show them how to football. Luke Shaw playing at left-wing? You bet your arse he is.|
I decide to maintain our blood-and-guts attacking approach. If we’re going to lose to Spain, we’re going to do so in style.
Aaaaaand not only do we lose to Spain, but we do so timidly and insipidly. Juan Mata gives the Spanish a comfortable 1-0 lead at half-time, which David Silva and Sergio Ramos add to after the break. A Redmond cross from deep is converted by Danny Ings but it’s all for naught. Actually, it’s all for one I suppose. But one to Spain’s three has left me feeling trepidation for the Euros. We barely had a sniff of a chance other than the goal, and I doubt how effective our set-up is against opposition capable of passing the ball.
I revert to the classic Salter 5-3-2 formation to take on France. Here are the Three Lions, all eleven of them:
|Wilson vs Varane, Cork vs Pogba and Cresswell vs Griezmann will be crucial tactical battles. I can't see how we can lose this one.|
15 minutes are all we need to take the lead. Cresswell whips in an early cross which is nodded home by Rodriguez, and I’m starting to think that early crosses are our best means of grabbing a goal. 90 minutes of our wing-backs whipping in early crosses and who will be able to stop us? Not you. The rest of the match is a real snoozer of an affair, the kind that would have Twitter in uproar at just how tedious both teams’ performances were. Alas, France ended with something to show for their tedium when Antoine Griezmann bagged a late equaliser. Nonetheless we held our own against one of the world’s elite, so that’s nice.
Elsewhere West Bromwich Albion, bottom of the Premier League, dispose of Tony Pulis. As England manager I am honoured to be bestowed the opportunity to vote for the winner of the World Golden Ball. In a season dominated by the traditional forces of Messi, Ronaldo and Suarez, I decide to vote for Alvaro Negredo, Sergio Busquets and Raffael. Suck on that one, Cristiano.
But put those trivial matters to one side, for it's time for the EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS GROUP STAGE DRAW. This is exciting! Because of my managerial prowess England will be entering the tournament as one of the 1st seeds. We get drawn into Group E, because E is for England. Take a look at these second seeds and see if you can work out which team I would least like to face.
|For those who can't be bothered to click on the picture to make it bigger, that's Croatia, Germany, Italy, Poland, Russia and Ukraine.|
So of course, we get drawn Germany. The 3rd and 4th seeds are all fairly agreeable, so I’m indifferent to find that we will be pitted against Austria and Slovenia. We trashed Slovenia 4-1 in my second match in charge and will be taking them on in our first match of the Euros. Get three points on the board, and the match against Germany will hopefully be redundant. Because we sure as hell ain’t winning that.
In other news, mid-table Chelsea wave goodbye to Guus Hiddink and replace him with David Moyes in a move that I’m sure their fan-base received with applause and tolerance. My beloved Ipswich relieve Mick McCarthy of his duties and offer me a job interview. As tempting as this is, I will need to be fully focused on taking England to their customary quarter-final defeat.
Messi beats Luis Suarez and James Rodriguez to win the World Golden Ball in a massive injustice to Alvaro Negredo. In a quick-fire spate of sackings, Newcastle and Middlesbrough fire McClaren and Karanka respectively on the same day and Liverpool fall out of love with Jurgen Klopp.
John Terry has fallen back into love with international football though, and responded to my persuasion to renounce his retirement. Sure, I know what John has done. He’s a bad man. But he’s having a barnstormer of a season and he can play on the left side of my defence. People won’t like it, but if I cared about what people like then I would never have started a match against Spain with Steve Cook and Ryan Shawcross as my centre-back pairing.
John Terry will go into contention for our next match. As fate would have it, it’s against our old friends Germany…
|My reaction to getting drawn with Germany in our group, and then having to play them next in a friendly. Those pesky Germans and their footballing ability.|
Next time: see how our match against Germany bodes for our European campaign, find out which Greece-based player I desperately draft into my squad, and discover how complete unknown Mario Alsdorf has become one of the most dangerous players on the international stage. This sounds more intriguing than an episode of Poirot. It’s not.