Jon Dunham – What was the point of these two friendlies?

Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.
Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.
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Fear not, I am not about to go through a load of excuses for England’s disappointing showings in the friendly defeats to Chile and Germany in the last week.

Experimental line-ups or not, the matches only enforced what we already know – getting beyond the group stages or even the last 16 in Brazil next year will be a big achievement.

But at least we are there, it is certainly better to be there than not.

However, what I would question is the ridiculous timing of these friendlies that have just taken place.

Barely a month on from achieving qualification, England have to play again in what are built up as the opening preparations for next year’s World Cup.

Simply put, the games were completely pointless – a big waste of everyone’s time.

Listening to a radio station during the week, I heard someone (who it was escapes me now) make the excellent point that if international friendlies were taken out of the football calendar during a World Cup season, it would create an extra six weeks of preparation time once the domestic campaign is completed.

Surely, with a big tournament to prepare for, this should be considered.

It would allow the players to focus on their jobs with the clubs, allow Roy Hodgson the chance to watch key players week-in, week-out and then also give him more time to be with the squad when it matters the most – in the weeks leading up to the tournament itself. This makes so much more sense to me.

But a further consideration would also be the fans, not that they really matter to the Football Association or anyone else these days.

England v Chile at 8pm in an international friendly on a Friday night at Wembley? Ludicrous.

As someone who has made midweek jaunts down to London to watch the Three Lions, I know as well as anyone that the logistics of getting to and from Wembley are, at best, tricky. And that is coming from someone who lives in Kettering – as well connected to London by the train lines as anywhere else.

All a fixture like that does is effectively cut off the fans from the north. Again, nothing new about that. The FA have a track record of forgetting there is actually life north of Watford.

The best time we had with international friendlies in this country was, arguably, while the new Wembley was being built.

The England team went on something of a tour of the country, giving every fan the chance to see their national side in action.

The atmospheres were better and the stadia around the country are all of a very high standard – everyone is happy.

Sadly, and we are back to the FA again, when the monstrosity of the new Wembley was constructed at a most ridiculous price, it gave them little choice but to ensure that every match that has any sort of meaning to it must be played there.

Yes, it is all about numbers (why wouldn’t it be? Everything else is).

Of course, people have a choice. It is up to them whether they want to make the huge effort of getting to north London on Friday. But, sadly, that is the only choice they do have.

So, here is my solution.

In a season that ends with a European Championship or World Cup, wipe all international friendlies from the calendar. Qualifiers, of course, should be at Wembley as and when.

Then, once the domestic season has ended, send the England team on a three or four-game tour of the country, culminating in a final friendly at Wembley to see them off to the tournament.

Preparations wouldn’t be affected, indeed I believe they could be enhanced. Fans from all parts of the country would be able to see the players before they head off to represent us, leaving everyone in high spirits.

Unfortunately, it is all pie in the sky. That sort of system would go against ‘tradition’ and would do nothing to help the FA’s impossible task of making Wembley Stadium pay.

Instead, we can look forward to another friendly against Denmark in March – right at the point when the Premier League managers will be plotting their run-ins – and a quick-fire preparation period once the season is over.

Indeed, I can hear you all saying it would probably not change a thing as far as our performance in Brazil is concerned. It probably wouldn’t.

It is just an idea...