EURO VIEW: Marc Iles

I HEARD someone say it the other day in a queue at the supermarket and it was all I could do to stop myself picking up a packet of custard creams and hurling it in his direction.

“Don’t worry, it’s coming home,” assured a dad to (presumably) his son, who I noticed was clutching the official Topps album and a handful of stickers. Someone’s earning.

The young fella must have been all of 10, about the same age I was when Italia 90 happened. And speaking from experience that sort of bravado where England is concerned can mess with your mind for decades to come.

I hadn’t fully grasped how tough life can be as an England fan four years earlier when Diego Maradona did what he did, or when I watched Bobby Robson’s men disappear without trace in the odd eight-team West German Euros held a couple of years later. I was on holiday in Prestatyn, anyway, and had better things to do.

But by the time of Gazza’s tears, Roger Milla’s jigs and Carlos Valderama’s hair I was old enough to appreciate England’s place in the world as underachievers. And although there have been times during the intervening 34 years that I have allowed myself to dream – Euro 96 and World Cup 98 I’m looking at you – I have now developed a virtually impenetrable forcefield for failure at major tournaments. Cynicism par excellence.

That is not to say I don’t want England to lift a trophy, I simply won’t let their inability to do so wreck my summer as it has in the past.

On paper, Gareth Southgate’s attacking options are as good as any other team in the tournament. In Phil Foden and Jude Bellingham we have generational talents, Harry Kane is mechanically dependable and Declan Rice could walk into any other midfield in Europe. It is just what happens behind them that worries me.

There is no combination of the centre-halves England have taken to this tournament that reassures me and even had Harry Maguire made the cut, I’d still be unsure. Going into the Euros with makeshift left-backs fills me with dread for whichever poor soul gets the nod, because any opponents worth its salt will try and exploit the issue.

And to pin our hopes on the return of Luke Shaw, who hasn’t kicked a ball in anger for months? I’ve seen this film before, and I didn’t like the ending.

Call it a defence mechanism – which is a lovely play on words, even if I do say so myself – but I cannot convince myself that England are beating France or Germany on their own doorstep with that kind of problem hanging over their heads.

So, who will win, I hear you ask? Well, I’m going for the obvious answer in France but also liking the look of Portugal, provided they can limit how much limelight ‘you know who’ steals and keep things focussed on the younger, talented squad behind him.

Give England boss Gareth Southgate a break, says Dan BarnesGive England boss Gareth Southgate a break, says Dan Barnes (Image: PA)


THE Euros is about to get underway and my message for England fans is simple: Be careful what you wish for.

There has been the usual negativity directed towards Gareth Southgate and his squad ahead of their opening game against Serbia on Sunday.

Sure, the Iceland performance was dreadful but who really cares about those drab friendlies before the proper action kicks off?

Strangely, the result at Wembley might actually have been a good thing, serving as a reminder that standards cannot afford to drop despite a favourable group on paper.

I regularly hear the same complaint about Southgate – he’s apparently ‘holding back the Golden Generation of English talent’.

That assertion has never sat well with me. For starters, he is the only England manager who has delivered anything other than total embarrassment in my lifetime (at only 23 years of age, I annoyingly missed the thrills of Euro 96).

I also think back to the 2010 World Cup squad in South Africa which featured the likes of Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, John Terry and Ashley Cole but was still thrashed by the Germans (don’t get me started on the ghost goal).

There is undoubtedly a wealth of talent in the current group and the depth in certain positions is scary. However, we have seen England squads suffer time and time again due to big egos and personal feuds.

Southgate might not be an elite tactician compared to your Guardiolas and Ancelottis, but he deserves credit for building a positive environment within the national set-up – something much bigger names have failed to achieve over the years.

That is probably why Manchester United have reportedly considered the former Middlesbrough boss as a future managerial candidate - given the chaotic scenes and power imbalance at Old Trafford in recent times.

If the lottery of penalties had gone England’s way against Italy three years ago, I wonder how differently Southgate’s time in the hot seat would be viewed.

One way or another, it seems likely this will be his last tournament in charge so fans might as well get fully behind the team.

Flashbacks on Zinedine Zidane in the opening credits are a must, says Marc IlesFlashbacks on Zinedine Zidane in the opening credits are a must, says Marc Iles (Image: PA)

TV VIEW: Marc Iles

WOULD it reveal too much about my fascination with insignificant minutiae at major tournament to say I am more excited about the theme tune used by the BBC and ITV than I am the football itself?

At the last Euros – you know, the one spread across the whole continent and delayed for a pandemic – the BBC’s effort looked slick but tried to sum up too much, too fast. It was still miles better than ITV’s one, which sounded like the Lighthouse Family crossed with the theme tune from Eurotrash. Contemporary references only in this column folks.

Nothing will beat Euro 96. Action clips beamed on to the pitch of each host ground while Beethoven’s Ode to Joy blasts out in the background, a snake-like stream of flags sliding in to make the numbers nine and six. And then Des Lynam’s silky tones would follow. Magic.

I did get a buzz when ITV’s Euro 88 opening titles popped up on Twitter the other day too but then realised they had used exactly the same tune for Mexico 86 and Saint and Greavsie, which is just plain lazy.

Seeing as the whole tournament will be set in Germany, I want a catchy and distinctive tune – something that makes me run into the front room knowing that the football is about to start. Kraftwerk would be ideal.

I also want a good scattering of national stereotypes, steins being passed to gents with ridiculous moustaches and lederhosen, and at least three retro flashbacks which must include Marco Van Basten’s volley against USSR, Gazza’s dentist chair celebration and basically anything that Zinedine Zidane did at Euro 2000.

Is that too much to ask?