The Tony Gale Column

Friday 13 May 2016 10:45

I know we were up against the side bottom of the league in our final game, but we had to go and get a win, and we did. So it was positive that we ended with a victory as that gives you a bit of momentum going into next year, but we’ll still look back at the campaign as an underachievement. When you look at the league position, although we comfortably had a big enough points total to stay up, it still isn’t good that we finished where we did. We know that our placing should be a lot higher than that, and the owner does as well.

Shahid Khan has said that he’s going to support Slaviša Jokanović this summer, and he, in turn, has admitted that lots of changes are needed. I’d go along with that. Nobody can say the Chairman hasn’t supported the manager, whoever it’s been. All you want is a chairman who’s going to back you, and that’s what he’s done. This pre-season and transfer window we need to be prudent with our signings, and you’d imagine there’ll be a number of comings and goings before the new campaign kicks off. Slaviša has got the whole pre-season to get his ideas over and pattern of play, and then we’ve got to hit the ground running. That will be ideal for the team, and give the crowd a boost as well, because it’s been a while since we’ve had a good season now.

I was pleased to see that Scott Parker signed a one-year extension this week. I like Scotty, he’s a nice lad. It’s important to have good pros in and around the Club, that’s what it’s all about. So as good as he is, I don’t think Scott’s been signed to another year just for his play, he’s also been signed to have around the place, which is very wise because you need good pros who have been there, seen it, done it, and you need pros who reacted in the way that he did towards the end of the season. I don’t think it was any coincidence that he was playing in the side when we had that good run of results that pretty much made us safe. You can tell he’s got the respect of the players in the changing room, and you can’t underestimate the influence that good pros have on young kids coming through. Scotty’s a top pro, there’s no doubt about it, so it’s a good signing.

As it’s my final column of the season, I thought I’d look ahead to the European Championship. If I was picking the team I’d go for a 4-3-3 formation. Obviously Joe Hart would be in goal, that goes without saying. Danny Rose would be my left-back as he’s had a good season, and then Kyle Walker on the right, as in my team he’d be providing a lot of the width. Chris Smalling would be my first centre-back. Fair play to him for getting where he is now – it seems like only yesterday he was a young lad breaking through at Fulham. I would have gone for John Stones alongside him, but his form hasn’t been too good lately so his Everton teammate Phil Jagielka gets the nod.

In the holding roles in midfield it would be Eric Dier and Jack Wilshere. I would start Wilshere because on his day he can be our best player. We need someone who can get on the ball and dictate the game, and he’s still got plenty of time to reach peak fitness. I’d want one in front of those two, and that would probably be Dele Alli.

Harry Kane would definitely start up top, his record over the last two seasons speaks for itself. Jamie Vardy would come off the right, and you can’t leave Wayne Rooney out so he’d be on the left. And what would happen is that front three would rotate. Every one of them can score a goal, which is what we need. They won’t play as wide players, they’ll be coming into central positions looking to cause problems, with the width coming from the full-backs.

How do I rate England’s chances this summer? As good as anyone. I wouldn’t underestimate us at all. Nobody likes to go overboard because we’ve been disappointed by England in the past, but we’ve got as good a chance as anyone because I don’t think the calibre of teams is as strong as it’s been in the past. The Germans aren’t at their best, the Dutch didn’t even qualify, France are maybe outsiders, but I think we’re as good as anyone when you look at all the sides. If we can press the ball and play like we did in the recent friendly win over Germany, then who knows how far we can go.

It would be lovely for Roy Hodgson and Ray Lewington to have some success on the international stage. You can’t meet two nicer guys. Claudio Ranieri has proved this season that nice guys can win, and Roy and Ray are just that. But don’t mistake nice guys for people who don’t know what they’re doing in the job. They know exactly what they’re doing, they’re top class.

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