The world cup. We ought to mention it.
With the notorious aversion to the round ball game that our readers show. Their contempt for the overpaid divers and wrestlers of the soccer match, we have not yet mentioned the largest global event occurring. The 2018 World Cup.
Partly, because like everyone else, we didn't expect to do very well.
Gareth Southgate was not a choice for the many. A bit of a Theresa May. A competent, safe, if dull option. As the more dynamic were far more of risk.
But we'd just had two safe option managers. Steady Eddies. And both ultimately failed, spectacularly, when the test came.
I do believe that this time, the England manager does actually know what he is doing. Does understand that he needs to ensure his team also understand what they need to do. This isn't simply a Sven 'Pass to the good players and they will score.' sort of team. For one thing, Mr Southgate only has one really good player. A clutch of competent ones, but the Beckham/Lampard/Gerrard/Terry/Rooney/Cole/Owen era is over. Which may be a blessing in disguise.
By having a younger, fresher, less historic side, he has been able to get them to believe what he believes. To play how he wants them to play.
This is no mean feat. Better managers, with higher pedigrees, with better players, have not managed this. The 'no plan B' has been as evident in England football as it has been in Mayite politics, Hoof and hope. And if the ball doesn't go in with that tactic..then do it again. And again. And again.
Those who actively follow will be aware that under the usual and deserved media hype, the actual stats haven't been that impressive. Total number of shots on target, against Columbia, was two. Out of sixteen attempted. Possession was 52-48%. Not overwhelming at all.
But what was different, was the evidence of an actual plan. An actual doctrine. A passing structure. That didn't always work, but at least was in place. So many times before when watching England at a major tournament, could be seen the unbelievable, unnecessary giving away of the ball. Giving away and not seriously trying to come back and defend. Instead waiting for the ball to come back.
The giving away still went on. But the defensive shape, so beloved of pundits, was obvious even to ordinary fans. The alternative routes available to play the ball was also obvious. This, finally, looked like a manager's plan. Where the players play in their best positions. To a system that suits the entire team, rather than the superstars in that team.
And in the extra time, and the shootout vs the Colombians, the pre planning really showed. Not a panicky..what now? Who takes? So and so the winger is really tired so i will put a defender in the same place because he once played as a winger in a friendly twenty years ago.
For once, it actually looked ORGANISED. Not organised for the media. Or the FA. Or the players. Or the wives and tabloids.
But the team.
So, whatever occurs next, full marks for that.