Robbo’s Column: ‘England play better when the core of the team is from 1 club’

Oxford manager Karl Robinson, who lives in MK, talks about England’s chances ahead of the World Cup in Russia

I’m looking forward to the World Cup but England will have to overcome lots of barriers if they are to do well in Russia.

The players only needed to be at 70% to win most of their qualifying matches and I see England players in friendlies whose main aim is to avoid getting hurt, and I understand that.

But then all of a sudden they go banging into a World Cup game and they are asked to play at their best and find their fluidity, which is impossible.

I know Gareth Southgate quite well and I think he has done a good job as manager so far. But one hurdle he will have to overcome is ensuring he puts a unified, compatible team on the pitch in Russia.

It was interesting to hear the comments from Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard about how they used to sit at different tables when they played for England because of their club rivalries.

That’s hard for a coach to resolve. But when you look at England at the moment, their best performances have come when the team is densely populated with players from one club.

Why? It’s about training the neurological, psychological and physiological parts of the human body.

When you see a team do things without thinking, it’s a joy to watch. But the problem is that England’s players don’t train together day in, day out, so it’s extremely tough to find fluidity in the international set-up.

I’m hoping that Gareth will build the team around the core of Tottenham’s England players, because they are so used to playing well together.

When you look at England’s most successful team in recent years it was when they had a core of Manchester United players, including David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Gary Neville and Rio Ferdinand, and Liverpool’s Michael Owen and Steven Gerrard linking up well at the top end of the pitch.

Applying that thinking to the current England team, I would put Dele Alli behind Harry Kane up front, Eric Dier at centre-back, with Danny Rose and Kyle Walker as fullbacks, then only one player needs to learn the back-four.

It’s about connections all over the pitch and working out a compatible formula.

This feature was published in the June 2018 issue of Celebrate:MK lifestyle magazine. Read the full magazine above or by clicking on this link.

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