Melton Times sports editor’s blog: Settled squad key to England’s Euro 2016 fortunes

It's make your mind up time for Roy Hodgson EMN-160329-171315002
It's make your mind up time for Roy Hodgson EMN-160329-171315002
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How do you solve a problem like the England football team? It’s a question that would have left the greatest thinkers in history with heads scratched red raw.

It would have left that most cocksure of predictors Nostradamus throwing his hands in the air muttering ‘hell if I know!’

So you have to feel a bit of sympathy for the men from the FA - never the most enlightened at the best of times - that this most enduring of weighty conundrums has fallen at their door.

In the light of Saturday’s improbably thrilling comeback in Germany, it’s easy for the dreamers among us, starved of success for so long, to get carried away. And not for the first time.

Dreaming is good, healthy even, but it’s also worth remembering it was only a friendly, a type of match Germany tends to treat as seriously as a training exercise.

Expect a different kind of beast when the real thing starts.

And can we expect Roy to send out a team so refreshing, young, fearless and unscarred by failure when it really matters? I’m not so sure.

Of course, the serial failures which tend to occur the moment English footballers come up against a half-decent opponent are down to a complex web of root causes.

The poor condition of grassroots and professional league football are chief among them.

My own view is as unsophisticated as you would expect from someone who has never coached or managed.

It doesn’t require the nouse of an eminent brain surgeon or gifted rocket scientist to understand its logic.

It’s simple – pick a settled team playing to familiar systems.

As simplistic as this idea seems, it has defied the logic of the finest minds in English football over the years in the run-up to major tournaments.

They behave like kids in a sweet shop as their big moment hoves into view, never able to decide whether to stick or twist when it comes to naming their best XI, right up to the final warm-up game.

More uncapped players were handed their chance this week, a little over two months before the mysterious final England XI will be mouthing the words to God Save The Queen at their Euro 2016 opener.

Over the years the back four of my own team has regularly performed as though they’d just met.

Performing with such little mutual understanding that visitors from Mars would have been fooled into thinking on first sighting they had (a) never trained together or (b) hated the sight of each other.

Hodgson clearly believes there is nothing wrong with making this jokey reference a real-life philosophy.

There will always be the odd player coming into top form at the last minute who cannot be ignored, but by now, the team which starts in Marseille on June 1 should have been playing together from the turn of the year.

Instead Roy too easily has his head turned by TV pundits, newspaper headlines and social media polls demanding the inclusion of the latest wunderkind.

Success in football is not all about having the best 11 players, as has been proven so astoundingly in the EPL this season.

The best teams are running away with the league, not the clubs with the notionally better players.

And this counts double in the international game.

Germany are the hottest example of that. Yes, they produce excellent footballers, but their extraordinary consistency at World Cups comes from their in-built teamwork and their ability to perfect a system.

Sadly, Hodgson seems no nearer to discovering a vision of how he wants his teams to play as the day he was given the keys to the door at Wembley.

Terry Venables came closest to getting his mitts on a trophy at Euro 96.

He ignored public clamour to play Steve McManaman, England’s most exciting winger of the time, and instead insisted on starting the understated Darren Anderton, knowing he would better fit the system he wanted from his team.

Sticking to clear, well-rehearsed plans with the best ‘team’ so nearly paid off.

What we saw in Berlin, for a friendly, was a tantalising glimpse of what England football could and should be.

It just so often isn’t.