‘Two up, Two down’ – International football is still sh*t

‘Two up, Two down’ – International football is still sh*t

Two up, Two down

In our fourth edition of ‘Two up, Two down’, we’ve somehow managed to find a couple of good things to take away from the weekend of football, whereas finding the ‘two down’ wasn’t as hard…

TWO UP – Michael O’Neill

The Northern Ireland manager’s stock will never be higher. Despite failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, it’s impossible to say the 48-year-old hasn’t done a fantastic job during his 6 years in charge. Northern Ireland qualified for the 2016 European Championships in France after topping their group. A 2-0 win over Ukraine saw O’Neill’s side reach the Round of 16. A 1-0 defeat to Wales saw their tournament cut short.

After coming a very impressive second in their qualifying group for the 2018 World Cup, Northern Ireland faced Switzerland in a play-off. A shocker of a referee decision has prevented the Green Army from making it to Russia, however they leave the process with their heads held high after massively overachieving for the last few years under O’Neill.

Michael O’Neill signed a new four-year contract in March 2016, however after being heavily linked with the vacant Scotland job, it could be the end of the road for Northern Ireland under their current boss. The former Shamrock Rovers manager has also been linked with the Rangers job and with no competitive football for a while for Northern Ireland, now might be the time for O’Neill to consider his next step. Whatever his decision, he’ll forever be considered a legend amongst Northern Irish fans after producing a team which was always 100% committed and punched above their weight against much bigger nations.

Two up, Two down

Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill.

TWO UP – Kieran Tierney

Captained Celtic – ✓

Captained Scotland – ✓

Not bad for a 20-year-old. The Celtic left-back has only played 60 games for the club and is already being linked with clubs like Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and even Real Madrid. Former Celtic striker Chris Sutton is a big fan of the full-back. “I look at the likes of Luke Shaw at Manchester United at £30m and Kyle Walker going to Manchester City for £50m. Tierney at £30m would be a bargain. He’s only 20 and with his attitude he will get even better.”

Tierney was named captain of Scotland for the first time against the Netherlands and is just one month older than when Darren Fletcher captained the Scots in 2004.

How long Kieran Tierney will stay at Celtic for remains to be seen, however after recently putting pen-to-paper on a six-year deal, it looks like the defender won’t be heading south or to Madrid anytime soon.

TWO DOWN – Marcus Maddison

The Peterborough United winger is making a name for himself, for all the wrong reasons. Maddison is arguably one of the most talented players in League One, however his recent diving antics are not only embarrassing but simply disgraceful. Here’s how his own fans reacted to it…

If you haven’t seen the incident yet, search for it on Twitter and make your own mind up about it…

TWO DOWN – England’s national team

It says an awful lot when Ruben Loftus-Cheek, on his international debut, steals the show. The Crystal Palace loanee was man of the match against Germany on Friday after cruising his way through what would be the most nervous 90 minutes of anyone else’s life. The 21-year-old looked assured on the ball and for the first time in a while gave some attacking threat from the centre of the park. A midfield that is normally littered with sideways-passers, actually looked creative for once.

Two up, Two down

England’s Ruben Loftus-Cheek during International Friendly match between England and Germany at Wembley Stadium.

Another notable debutant was Jordan Pickford, who kept Gareth Southgate’s side in the game with a couple of brilliant saves.

Despite these two positives, seven drop-outs from the original squad is extremely poor. In a World Cup year, it can only be a bad thing for the (small) hopes of the nation that either there is a serious injury problem, club managers have too much power or there’s simply a lack of passion to represent England. After registering just one shot on target against Germany and scoring only two goals in their previous two internationals, Gareth Southgate needs to somehow add attacking threat to the side.

A lack of squad depth may not be the reason England fail to win a first World Cup since 1966 next summer, however it’s far from helpful. To be dishing out debuts months before the tournament begins can’t be seen as good preparation. This is a problem that is much bigger and longer-term than a Gareth Southgate issue, however there always seems to be a feeling of ‘building for the future’ when England is concerned. The future never seems to become the present.

Two up, Two down