How to redeem your points in the Directors Box app

The more you participate on the Directors’ platform, the more points you earn, and these points could get you some amazing football rewards including:

  • Tickets
  • Signed Shirts
  • VIP experiences
  • Season tickets
  • Football trips

Once you download the app, you also have access to the full features available, each of which earn you points, these include:

  • Polls
  • Petitions
  • Football quizzes
  • Football auctions
  • Leader board with promotion and relegation
  • Predictions
  • Podcasts
  • Fixtures, results and vidi-printer.



4 Football Corruption Controversies in Modern Football

Football is globally popular for its simplicity. Almost anywhere in the world, transcending social and economic factors, football in some shape or form is accessible to anyone. Whether it’s “jumper for goalposts” in a British park, playing barefoot on the sandy floors of Kenya, or street football in Brazil, anyone with a ball, a few friends, and a small open space can make adaption or interpretation of the beautiful game.


But when a game becomes so globally popular, it leaves itself vulnerable to being utilised for greed, profit, and power. The modern game, at times, drifts away from the simplicity of playing in the park as its integrity has become threatened by the corruption and greed of governing bodies, multi-national companies, nation-states.


Here are the four biggest modern occurrences and accusations of corruption in our globally loved sport.


1.  The FIFA Corruption Scandal (2015)


When it was exposed that many senior members of the historic gatekeepers of football, FIFA, had been involved in a large corruption scandal, shockwaves reverberated across news media across the world.


Officials, including the establishment’s President, Sepp Blatter, were accused of accepting bribes from the Russian and Qatari governments in return for votes for their respective successful 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids.


Furthermore, FIFA were accused of mismanaging their finances; serious concerns raised by Swiss and American authorities resulted in arrests due to several cases of wire fraud, money laundering, racketeering.


This was the corruption that was supposed to prevent wrongdoing across the sport, so when it became apparent that FIFA had been contributing towards the corruption, it fuelled a whole culture of mistrust and suspicions towards the game’s various governing bodies and elite interests.


2.  Manchester City’s 115 Charges (2023)


Manchester City have dominated English football for large parts of the last decade, but their success hasn’t come without its controversies.


While the allegations and charges against Manchester City do not relate to corruption in the traditional sense, such as bribery or match-fixing, the English Champions have been accused of breaking 115 financial rules between 2009 and 2018, including failing to provide the correct information to support the Premier League’s investigation. If found guilty, Manchester City could receive fines, healthy point deductions, or transfer embargos.


However, supporters have questioned why the Premier League have been unable to show any kind of punishment towards Manchester City despite longstanding allegations, when Everton, Nottingham Forrest and Leicester have already received punishment for significantly fewer breaches of financial rules in the same period. It has led some to question the prevalence of corruption within the Premier League governing body, but so far, there is no evidence to suggest this is the case.


3.   “Mes Que Un Club” (2023)


Barcelona, the artists of football with fingerprints of Johan Cruyff and Pep Guardiola all over the club’s philosophy, sanded purists all over the world when they were charged with referee bribery in 2023.


The Catalonian giants were charged with suspected referee bribery payments of over £7m to former vice president of the refereeing committee, José María Enríquez Negreira.


Barcelona denies any wrongdoing among a sea of other ongoing financial concerns.


4.  Juventus (2023)


Juventus, no strangers to accusations of financial irregularities and corruption, were handed a 15-point deduction in January 2023 after being found guilty of inflating transfer fees by Italian authorities.


In a case brought by the Italian Football Federation (FIGC), Juventus were found to have manipulated fees in their financial records for capital gains benefits, with the swap deal of Miralem Pjanic and Arthur Melo involving FC Barcelona as an example.


How far can Wrexham go with their Hollywood owners?

Wrexham have been the talk of football since Hollywood took control of the club.  The pair have invested millions into the club and the city and they talk about taking Wrexham to the Premier League.


Many clubs have owners that predict the same successes, but very few achieve, but is this different and can they really reach that level of success and overtake Swansea and Cardiff as the most successful club in Wales.


Listen to Craig and Kevin and their thoughts on the future. 


Scotland’s Chances in the EUROS

Scotland, a country that claims to have invented the ‘passing game’, inspiring South America and the rest of Europe to play the game in the way we’re familiar with today, has endured a miserable time on the international scene for as long as many can remember.


While the nation is an absolute hotbed of footballing culture and passion, boasting some of the greatest ever managers in the game’s history, such as Bill Shankly and Alex Ferguson, the largest per-capita average crowd attendances in the world, and two of the most globally recognised football clubs in Celtic and Rangers, the national team has struggled to ever experience much success.


Football is intertwined into the nation’s culture to a greater extent than perhaps anywhere else in the world. While those in Brazil will argue that their samba, beach style and passion for the game have had more influence on the global game, the significance of football to the people might be rivalled by what we see in Scotland.


With the absence of the sunny weather of Brazil, the rest of South America, and warmer climates within Europe, it can feel, for some, like there is nothing else to do in Scotland than attend or play football at the weekend.


So, why have the Tartan army been so deprived of any international footballing success? Despite its relatively small population, you’d imagine this football worshipping nation would be regularly present in EUROS and World Cup tournaments, and even reaching the final rounds on occasion.


Scotland’s Historic Qualification Horrors


To understand the desperation of the Scottish people to qualify and perform at this summer’s EUROS, you must recognise the agonising near misses and crushing failures of their past 30 years of international football.


Until the turn of the Century, Scottish supporters were used to seeing their nation compete at major tournaments – while they failed to win any silverware, the small country usually had a team they could be proud of, with some of their best talents playing prominent roles for English giants Manchester United and Liverpool. Qualifying for five consecutive World Cup tournaments between 1974 and 1990, Scotland was considered one of the world’s strongest footballing nations.


Scotland would experience limited success during the 90s. Still, they successfully qualified for two EUROS tournaments, as well as the France 1998 World Cup. However, the national team would then embark on a journey of failure and absence from major competitions that nobody could have envisaged.


In 2008 Scotland looked set to play in their first EURO’S tournament in well over a decade, before falling to a shock 2-0 defeat against minnows Georgia, who had a 16-year-old and a 17-year-old starting for them, and conversely missing out on that summer’s tournament in Austria and Switzerland.


It was a horror that stayed with the Scottish for another 12 years of disappointment until 2020, as the Tartan Army qualified for the EUROS and ended their 23-year absence from major tournaments.


Scottish supporters may have had limited expectations heading into their first major tournament of the 21st century, but registering just one goal and picking up a single point may have surpassed the dreads of even the most pessimistic Scottish fans.


Euro 2024


Nonetheless, Scotland, after finishing above Erling Haaland’s Norway in qualification, are heading off to this summer’s EUROS in Germany. There’s a rejuvenated sense of pride and expectation in a national team that’s been performing better over the past couple of seasons.


Defender Ryan Porteous suggested Scotland are “not far off” the best teams going to Germany this summer, and supporters will share some optimism. However, negotiating a tricky group with Germany, Switzerland, and Hungary, making up their fellow competitors in Group A, will be the first challenge for the Scots.


Bookies have Scotland at 80/1 to win the whole tournament, but progression out of the group stages and a new injection of Scottish pride will surely be enough for supporters who’ve endured such a torrid time since across much of the 21st century.



Have Academy Teams in the Football League Trophy Worked?

The Bristol Street Motors Trophy, the JPT, the Pizza Cup, whatever you want to call it, the Football League Trophy is a staple of the football calendar in League One and League Two, but for the best part of a decade now, attendances have taken a pummeling, and fans appear to care about it less each year.


The big turning point for the competition was the inclusion of Premier League and Championship U21 and U23 sides in 2016. The addition of 16 teams to the trophy changed the format of the cup, with a group stage being added, with 16 groups, each consisting of three league teams and an academy side battling it out for a place in the knockout stages.


This Sunday, Wycombe and Peterborough will line up under the iconic Wembley arch in what will be the eighth final since the introduction of academy teams. With that in mind, let’s take a look at whether this has been a success and whether or not the competition is ever likely to become popular again.




The initial announcement of U23 teams joining the competition was met with backlash from fans, with many calling for boycotts. The bulk of fans stuck to their words, with the average attendance of games in the trophy taking a serious hit.


Pre-2016, the competition would average around 4,000-5,000 for games, hitting a high of 6,292 in 2010. While the later stages definitely inflate these figures a bit, for many fans, the competition was taken seriously, and it also provided a chance to maybe snatch a victory over a rival from the other league that you hadn’t played in some time.


Let’s examine this on a more individual level. I’ve chosen a team at random, Port Vale, and have looked at their home attendance in the competition. They break down as follows:

  • 2012/13: 2,744

  • 2013/14: 2,581

  • 2014/15: N/A (Knocked out away to Preston – 3,836)

  • 2015/16: 2,645

  • 2016/17: 1,111

  • 2017/18:1,037

  • 2018/19: 2,512 (7,940)

  • 2019/20: 914

As you can see, there is a clear drop-off after 2016/17. The anomaly in the mix is the 2017/18 season, where they drew a crowd of nearly 8,000 for a game with Stoke U23, a rare example of this competition serving up a fixture fans wanted.


What’s more depressing when looking at these numbers is that in the seasons prior to 2016, Vale had played the likes of Carlisle and Blackpool, teams with which they have no real connection, and they still drew respectable crowds. In the 2017/18 season, they had two local derbies with Crewe and Shrewsbury, games which should draw big numbers, even on a Tuesday night. The Shrewsbury game drew less than 1,000 fans, with just 965 turning out for it.


This was not an isolated incident, with fans regularly sharing posts of incredibly low attendances across the country. The record low is 202, which was in a game between Middlesborough U23 vs Burton in 2018. A shocking number that you would expect to find around the seventh-eighth tier of English football.


Has it been a success for the Academies?


This one is harder to quantify. Each year, 16 academies participate in the tournament, and there is no data available on how many of them have gone on to succeed.


One thing we can do, is look at how far they have advanced in the tournament and look at players that have helped teams progress. Chelsea U21s are the team that have gone the furthest. They were beaten by Lincoln City in 2017/18 on penalties, and their team from that day has some very notable names on it.


Trevor Chalobah, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Ethan Empadu, and Reece James all lined up at Sincil Bank that evening, and each has gone on to have a great career. However, how much the experience of playing in this tournament helped them remains to be seen.


There is just as strong an argument to be made that academy players benefit more from going on loan to teams instead. Of the four players mentioned above, three spent time out on loan, with two of them, Chalobah and James, playing in the Football League at Ipswich and Wigan, respectively.


Do Fans Want It?


While I can’t speak for all fans, the numbers tell a sorry story for the competition. The final will often pull a half-decent crowd, but ultimately, if you are a small club, you are not going to want to miss your club playing at Wembley.


We have also never witnessed an academy side reaching for the final. Would Everton fans really bother going down to London to watch their academy side take on Leyton Orient in the Bristol Street Motors final? I highly doubt it. The numbers would be alarmingly low and could really punish the other club, which would benefit from a bigger crowd and increased attention.


Ultimately, the change in format does not benefit the Football League teams at all. Fans do not want to attend games; it adds extra fixtures to the list (something Premier League managers regularly complain about), and it’s not really producing the big stars we were promised it would.


A return to the older days of bigger crowds feels highly unlikely, with many fans now seeing the tournament as an inconvenience until they reach the quarter-finals when the temptation of a trip to Wembley might pull a slightly bigger crowd.


Wycombe and Peterborough will no doubt put on a showcase of everything the Football League has to offer this weekend, as the final so often does, but it is time to reconsider this situation and try to breathe some life back into the tournament before it is too late.



Premier League player of the season candidates

As last year’s Premier League season was coming to a close, one name was dominating ‘Player of the Year’ debates on football talk shows, social media, and schools alike: Erling Haaland.


In truth, the Premier League had probably never witnessed a season where the Player of the Year was so glaringly obvious – even Luis Suarez’s mostly spectacular 33 goals of the 2013/2014 season, or Thierry Henry’s 30 goals of Arsenal’s invisible season struggled to match up to Haaland’s iconic demolition of the Premier League last season.


The Norwegian was unstoppable in his debut Premier League season. Any discussions about who the Player of the Season would be were already over by the end of October, as Haaland notched 18 goals in his first 13 Premier League matches.


The Premier League has been more competitive than we’ve been accustomed to in recent years. Manchester City, while still just a point off the top, haven’t quite blown the league away in the manner they so often do under Pep Guardiola.


Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool are often causing Guardiola headaches at the top of the table, and this season, Arsenal have emerged as genuine title contenders, too. With no clear standout team or player term, let’s have a look at those who can justifiably throw their hat into the ring.


Virgil Van Dijk


“They thought I was finished”, the towering Dutchman emotionally told an interviewee after his man-of-the-match performance in Liverpool’s Carabao Cup final win last month.


It was a moment of self-recognition that, despite the criticisms of his consistency and remarks he was past his best last season, he’d been in the shape of his life over the past six months.


Leading a Liverpool side expected to be in a transitional season to a very competitive title charge and looking so elegant, Van Dijk will surely be among this year’s Player of the Season candidates.


His significance to Liverpool was epitomised in their clash against rivals Manchester City last week, when Haaland went one-on-one to score against Van Dijk, only to be expertly marshalled wide, forcing a poor shot from the deadly Norwegian striker.

Even if Van Dijk doesn’t win the Player of the Season award or Liverpool misses out on the title in May, he’ll have solidified himself as one of the very best Premier League defenders of all time.


Phil Foden


We’ve heard about Phil Foden’s ability for years – in 2019,  Pep Guardiola, despite having previously coached Lionel Messi, Andrea Iniesta, and Xavi, labelled the silky Stockport-born forward as “the most talented player I’ve ever seen.”


While Foden had been an almost ever-present vessel in Manchester City’s several league titles and 2023 treble-winning season since it never quite felt like the Manchester City academy starlet had completely realised his potential and justified the early gushing reviews of Pep Guardiola.


That was until this season. For the first time, Foden has been the man Manchester City have relied on in big moments and driven the team forwards, rather than being just another cog in Guardiola’s winning machine.


The forward has 11 goals and 7 assists in his 28 Premier League matches, which probably isn’t a fair reflection of how consistently and skilfully he’s driven a Manchester City team that’s been slightly below par at times this season.


Declan Rice


Arsenal may have raised the eyebrows of sceptics after completing the £100M transfer of Declan Rice from West Ham United last summer, but the Englishman has added serious steel and physicality to an Arsenal team looking to go a couple of steps further than they managed last season.


Arsenal played glistening football at times during the 2022/2023 season, but in a way we sometimes expect of the North London club, they didn’t quite have the prowess and physicality to maintain a title charge to the final weeks of the season.


Despite promising young defenders such as William Saliba and Gabriel, Arsenal felt weak over the pitch at times. That won’t be a problem this time around; the English defensive midfielder has revolutionised the Arsenal midfield, adding strength but also admirations for his passing and ball-carrying ability.


If Arsenal are to lift the Premier League trophy in May, last summer’s acquisition of Declan Rice would have had played a big part to in the Gunner’s success.


Other Candidates


In addition to the three leading candidates above, the current Directors’ Box poll has suggested Haaland, Watkins, Salah, Odegaard, De Bruyne and Saka as other strong options.

Vote now on Directors’ Box. 



Non League Day – a day for the calendar

Why it is important to support non-league day


This weekend, the Premier League, Championship, and several clubs in League One will participate in the Spring international break. It also marks another important day in the football calendar – Non-League Day.


Non-League Day was originally launched in 2010 by James Doe, a QPR fan who felt inspired after visiting a non-league side during a pre-season trip to Devon. Since then, the movement has snowballed, and in the 14 years that have followed, it has been backed by Premier League clubs, EFL Clubs, celebrities, and even some politicians.


The idea of Non-League Day is simple: with no Premier League football on to distract you, head down to your local non-league team and support them for the day. Buy a beer and a programme and give a little back to grassroots football.


At Directors’ Box, we are huge supporters of Non-League Day, and here are just some of the reasons why.


Supporting volunteers


Most non-league football clubs rely on volunteers to get through the season, whether this be match-day stewards, the ticket office, the media team, and sometimes even the backroom staff. These people live and breathe those clubs, and the non-league day is often a chance for them to showcase their hard work.

A little bit of appreciation goes a long way in football, and an increased crowd, with new friendly faces and vocal backing, can really help those people feel as though their hard work is all worth it.


It’s cheap


It’s no big secret that the Premier League is extortionate. A matchday, when everything like food and travel is factored in, can easily cost in excess of £100, and that’s just for a home game.

Non-league football is still very much a place where fans are the priority. As such, ticket prices and prices within the ground for things like programmes and beer are still very affordable. In most cases, ticket prices are at least half of what you would pay in the Premier League.

If we were to choose one example at random, in Hertfordshire, Watford’s Championship home clash with Leeds next week is priced at £35 for the cheapest home ticket. On Saturday, a ticket to watch Hitchin Town vs Telford United will cost £13. Even better, teenagers will be able to attend the game for just £4 if they buy their ticket in advance or £5 on the day.


Entertaining football


One of the biggest myths surrounding non-league football is that the quality of games is poor. While you are not going to be watching the tippy-tappy football of Manchester City, you will still find some quality players plying their trades in the lower reaches of the English pyramid.


For many fans, Non-League Day will also provide a welcome break from issues that plague the modern game, like VAR and a sanitised match-day experience. Football purists can enjoy good-fashioned scrappy games between two teams determined to put on a show for a big crowd.

In many cases, these teams will be comprised of local players who take a great sense of pride in playing for their home teams, and that sense of community can be incredibly infectious.


Coming back for more


Many football fans feel as though football is becoming inaccessible for the average working person. Prices are hugely inflated, waiting lists for tickets are huge, and the general matchday experience has become increasingly sanitised.


Non-League Day offers an alternative to this, and many fans over the years have actually found that they prefer the matchday experience and the idea of showing support to a local team. Even if it doesn’t become a weekly habit, a lot of fans will develop a soft spot for a local team that they may not have shown any attention to in the past.


Fans returning to these clubs is essential to the future of non-league and grassroots football in the UK. Likewise, introducing the next generation to football and showing them that football is not just something they can watch on TV ensures that the future of the game in the UK is strong.


So, if you have some free time on Saturday afternoon, head down to your local non-league team and show them some support. We also implore fans to make a habit of this when possible. Non-league games nearly always kick-off at 3 in England, with different times in Wales, and with altered Premier League fixtures, clashes are not as common as they were. After all, non-league football is for life, not just for the international break.



Britain’s most boring football teams

Football is a sport about emotion – it’s an opportunity to feel something. Whether it’s the hope, despair, ecstasy, or agony stomached during the latter stages of a campaign avoiding relegation, or chasing the play-offs, football, at its best, makes us feel.


In many instances, the emotion experienced holds greater significance than any point tally or league position could ever reflect. The greatest possible example of this could be when Everton, a club that for years following their last title-winning season in 1987 had just apathetically been making up the numbers in the Premier League, were faced with the genuine prospect of relegation.


After dramatically surviving relegation to the Championship on the final day of the 21/22 Premier League season, Goodson Park shivered with joy (and indeed relief) in a way the historic ground hadn’t since its 20th-century league title and FA Cup wins.


While the team were less successful than a typical modern mid-table Everton side, it finally gave the toffee faithful something to feel and experience, something to be part of.


So, who are the other British football clubs who largely avoid the despair and ecstasy the beautiful game relentlessly brings us?

Bristol City


Bristol City, a club that publicly announced their ambitions to bring European football to the recently re-developed Ashton Gate, have only finished in the top half of the Championship once in the last 10 years, while simultaneously rarely coming in any danger of relegation.


Furthermore, Bristol City haven’t faced their city rivals, Bristol Rovers, who’ve largely been stuck in the lower reaches of English football, in the league for 21 years. The Robins fans must have forgotten what it feels like to win or fall short in a truly big game.

For one of Britain’s biggest and most prevalent cities, it’s amazing that neither Bristol side has experienced Premier League football or a major trophy win.

Preston North End


Preston North End were one of the founding members of the Football League, play in the oldest professional stadium in England, and was once one of the country’s most successful clubs, winning the First Division and FA Cup twice each.


Having been relegated from the top-flight in 1961, the Lancashire side has never returned or come close to replicating their former FA Cup glories.


It will feel like Groundhog Day for most living Preston North End fans; 64% of their seasons since relegation from the First Division has been in the Championship, while in the last 10 years, they’ve finished between 14th and 7th in the Championship every single time.


Preston fans largely avoid the misery of relegation or heartbreakingly falling short in the play-offs but haven’t had too many recent moments to tell their future grandchildren about either.

Crystal Palace


We all want success for our football teams, but what happens when your club reaches its ceiling and seems just to stagnate?


That’s exactly what’s happened for Crystal Palace. Historically not one of the country’s biggest, Palace have stabilised as a solid Premier League club. Finishing between 10th and 15th in the Premier League every season since promotion from the Championship in 2013, Palace fans must be a little bored of treading water.


While it would take something spectacular to ever challenge the European places, they’ve watched arch-enemies Brighton find a way into the top six in just their sixth Premier League season.


Palace might get the odd victory against a top-six club, but that’s about as far as their excitement has gone in recent years.


Honourable Mention


Football is full of cycles, and while years of mid-table mediocrity might feel like an eternity, it won’t go on forever. Take Coventry City for example; the sky blues had failed to finish in the top six of any division for 47 (forty-seven) years before promotion from League Two in 2018.


Since breaking their curse they’ve gone on to win promotion from League One, make the Championship play-off final, and their most recent successes has earned them an FA Cup semi-final date with Manchester United at Wembley.














Does the media depict fans in a negative Way?

Does the Media Generally Depict Football Fans in a Negative Way?


Such is the prevalence of football to culture in the United Kingdom, escaping media coverage of the beautiful game is near impossible. With journalists reporting on every game, TV broadcasters capturing footage, and fans recording clips to post on social media, even those with no association with the sport are likely to have a strong understanding and awareness of what football culture represents to the people of the United Kingdom.


It is rare, if not entirely unique, for a singular cultural or sporting entity to have such a profound impact on the way a country views themselves. The influence football has on the identity of an individual, a community, or a team in the United Kingdom cannot be understated. When a struggling lower-league team makes an unlikely promotion charge or goes on a giant-killing cup run, football can unite communities and create magical shared experiences of ecstasy among friends and families, building a sense of belonging for those with limited social opportunities or representation.


As we enter an increasingly secular society, with numbers of worshipers visiting religious establishments at the weekend dwindling, attending the local football stadium in the middle of a community represents perhaps it’s closest possible replacement. Rather than God’s in the sky, supporters worship their football heroes on the pitch, living in the hope that one day they can produce a miracle title-winning season and create memories with their peers that last a lifetime.


So why, given football’s clearly identifiable benefits and contributions to enriching local communities, are supporters sometimes demonised, scapegoated, and belittled by national media?


A History of Poor Media Representations


Football fans, as with many other working-class subcultures and subgroups, have battled unfair media representations for decades. ‘Hooligans’ was a term first used in the late 1960s to sensationally characterise football fans as dangerous to wider society and culture at large.


In the following years, hysterical headlines, emotive language and evocative imagery all contributed towards framing football fans as ‘drunken, tattooed, crop-headed oafs’, as the Sunday Mirror described them.


Undeniably, violence on the terraces of United Kingdom football grounds in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s had some prominence. A cultural phenomenon labelled by those in Europe as ‘the English disease’ saw years of violence, criminal damage, and threatening behaviour on our terraces, eventually resulting in a ban from European competitions for English clubs.


However, as bad as this was, the media utilised it to create moral panics around football fans and scapegoat groups for tragedies they played no part in producing. Most notably, the Hillsborough disaster in 1989 saw The Sun newspaper untruthfully claim Liverpool supporters contributed towards the death of 97 of their own fans. It took until 2016 for Liverpool fans to receive justice and acknowledgement that they played no part in the tragedies that occurred that day.


Today’s Suspicion of Football Supporters


In the years since Hillsborough, the landscape of supporter culture in the United Kingdom has changed dramatically. The introduction of the Premier League, all-seater stadiums, and changes in wider social attitudes have seen a great decline in the prevalence of violence in and around football stadiums.


While instances of violence do still occur, it can often be attributed to the large congregation of people rather than a football-specific problem. Yet, bizarrely, the media still often describes football fans with the same limited representations attributed to them in the 1980s.


As a result of the constant moral panics, scaremongering, and government legislation, football fans are still treated with aggressive policing, and general mistrust today. For example, in all other professional sports in the United Kingdom alcohol can be consumed in sight of the pitch, football fans aren’t granted with the same luxury.


It makes you question; are football fans more dangerous and likely to incite violence that followers of sports such as rugby and cricket or is the mistrust and beliefs around the behaviour of football fans as a result of limited media representations and general classist attitudes in the United Kingdom?





Why EURO 2024 Could Be England’s Time

Why EURO 2024 Could Be England’s Time


The English media has never shied away from outlandishly labelling its national team as the clear favourites going into major tournaments. In the 57 years since England’s single major tournament triumph, we’ve seen the hailing of countless ‘golden generations’ only for the group to be unheeded months later after failing to bring to football home.


It’s difficult to understand if the sentiment of England’s national team underachieving in major tournaments is reciprocated elsewhere. Prior to the 2006 World Cup many in England felt its star-studded squad, including the likes of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, and Wayne Rooney would be too much for anyone to handle and that it was surely England’s year, only to be defeated by Portugal on penalties in the quarterfinals.


However, when you analyse the squads of other nations going into the 2006 World Cup, it makes you wonder if, in England, we were a little naïve to mark ourselves as the favourites for the trophy. Brazil boasted previous Ballon D’Or winners Kaka, Ronaldo Nazario, and Ronaldinho in their squad; France had some of the greatest players of all time at their disposal in Zinedine Zidane, Thierry Henry, and Patrick Viera, while eventual winners Italy had footballing greats Gianluigi Buffon, Alessandro Nesta, and Andrea Pirlo.


It begs me to raise the question; have England ever been the true favourites going into a major tournament? The truth is, contrary to the beliefs of overly demanding supporters and sensationalist tabloid headlines, winning an international tournament is incredibly difficult. While England has had squads crammed full of world-class talent in years gone by, the same can be said for a handful of other nations, who all believe it could be their year.


The Steady Progression to Strong Candidates


But something genuinely does feel different this year, as if the expectation of the nation is justifiable rather than delusional. While manager Gareth Southgate very much split’s opinion among English supporters and press alike, the 53-year-old has undeniably redefined the national team.


When Southgate took over as England manager in 2016, the national team was in a dire state. After an embarrassing EUROS defeat to Scandinavian minnows Iceland, major cultural, developmental, and footballing changes were desperately required to see England competitive become a competitive force in tournaments once more.


Southgate managed to change attitudes around the national team, making watching and interacting with his young team fun for supporters, as an unfancied England side made an unlikely run to the semi-final of the 2018 World Cup.


As Southgate’s squads grown, matured, and been bolstered by emerging world-class talents, the expectation levels for the national team have risen dramatically. Largely, Southgate’s lions have responded, though they have struggled to quite get over the line in defining moments.


In EURO 2020, England once again captured the imagination of the nation, but ultimately failed to make home advantage count after being beaten by Italy on penalties during the Wembley final. Meanwhile, World Cup 2022 saw England perform strongly, but narrowly lost to eventual finalists France in the quarterfinals.


The Conclusion of Southgate’s England at EURO 2024


By the time England play their first EURO’s game this summer, it’ll be 18 months since Southgate’s team was narrowly edged by France in the World Cup, and, if they’re to be successful, you’d imagine they’ll have to get the better of our English Channel neighbours this time around.


But England will have reasons to believe they’ve evolved into Europe’s strongest team in the time that’s passed. Perhaps for the first time, England may now genuinely have the world’s greatest player in Real Madrid superstar Jude Bellingham – if the Birmingham-born midfielder is to prove he’s the world’s best, he may have to nudge England over the line in the biggest moments.


Meanwhile, other members of the England squad have also made significant career progress since the last major tournament. Phil Foden has transformed into the player his potential always threatened he’d become, while John Stones, Declan Rice, and Trent Alexander-Arnold will be in Premier League Player of the Season conversations.


Rumoured to be Southgate’s concluding tournament, with arguably the greatest squad in Europe this time, he may have to deliver the trophy to ensure his time as England manager isn’t reflected on with ‘what ifs.’