Former Burnley boss Chris Waddle: England "not going to get a better chance" to win a major tournament

Former Burnley boss Chris Waddle England are "not going to get a better chance" to win a major trophy.

Saturday, 3rd July 2021, 8:45 am
Updated Monday, 5th July 2021, 2:55 pm
Chris Waddle

Waddle, who managed Burnley for a season in 1997/98, with the Clarets avoiding relegation to the fourth tier on the last day of the season, won 62 caps for his country - playing at the Mexico 86 and Italia 90 World Cups, and Euro 88 in West Germany.

The closest he came with the Three Lions to glory was reaching the semi-final in Italy, but, speaking to , Waddle feels the stars are aligning for England who are the highest FIFA-ranked nation left in the competition.

Ahead of Saturday night's quarter-final with Ukraine in Rome, he said: "I hope football’s going to come home.

"It’s about time we lifted a trophy with the amount of investment we’ve had in the academy system.

"We’ve tried for a long, long time. There’s still some talented teams in the tournament but you’re not going to get a better chance.

"All the games at Wembley - except Ukraine in Rome and they’re not a strong side, let’s be honest. I said at the start of the tournament if England didn’t get to the semis minimum you’d be disappointed.

"I thought we just edged it [against Germany]. It’s about taking chances at that level of football.

"Timo Werner had a great chance to make it 1-0 for Germany, which changes the pattern of the game, but he missed.

"And then England gradually ground them down and got the first goal.

"You can’t ask for a better chance than Thomas Muller had and he misses. England go up the other end and Harry Kane scores.

"It was a tight affair: I think Germany controlled the opening 15 minutes and then England came into the game, won a lot of second balls, had a higher pressure.

"They did edge it but I didn’t think they were far better than Germany. They just shaded it.

"Beating Germany is a massive confidence boost.

"Obviously because of ‘66 and the history it was a game that was built up.

"I’ve spoken to Franz Beckenbauer when he was manager at Marseille and to them England is not a game that they’re concerned or worried about.

"A big game for Germany is Holland or Italy. They respect England enormously but it’s not a game they come into like we do.

"To us, it’s the equivalent of playing Scotland in a way. In their eyes, it’s England: difficult, but not the be all and end all if we lose.

"I think Gareth’s got to settle them down - a lot of them will be on a high after beating Germany in front of 42,000.

"The atmosphere was electric and that helped the players enormously.

"But Gareth’s very level-headed, and he’ll say ‘we haven’t won anything’.

"Beating Germany is a great result but it was a last 16 game, you get nothing for it.

"You get nothing for the quarter-final or the semi-final. You’ve got to get into that final and win it.

"There’s still some very good sides left in the tournament and even the so-called lesser nations can, as they’ve proved, upset you."

But Waddle wonders how many of the current crop would get in the World Cup squads he played in: "We always have comparisons, it’s a big talking point in football.

"I look at this squad and then the ‘90 squad and the ‘86 squad I was in. They were very talented squads.

"How many of this squad would get into the ‘90 and ‘86 squads? It’s up for debate.

"In my mind, not many would get in.

"As for getting in a starting team, would you have Gary Lineker or Harry Kane? Would you have Paul Gascoigne or Jack Grealish?

"To me, I’ve got two winners already. You can go through the squad and maybe argue a case for certain players to get in, but out of the 23 we had, I don’t know how many of this 26 would get in."

One man he has been impressed with is Everton keeper Jordan Pickford, who was under great pressure from Burnley's Nick Pope, before Pope was forced out of the tournament due to a knee operation shortly after the end of the Premier League season.

Waddle said: "The person I’ve been most impressed with is Jordan Pickford.

"The jury’s been out on him for a long time: his kicking, his distribution, his decision making, his saves, have all been excellent.

"When called upon he’s made saves at vital times and he looks really pumped up. His concentration levels are there, which people could argue about at times. So far in this tournament he’s been excellent."

One area of concern is getting the right blend in the forward areas, with England yet to get the best out of Phil Foden, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford: "Kyle Walker always does a job, Maguire’s back in and looks strong, and John Stones is reborn from the player of the first half of the season for Manchester City.

"The problem we’ve had is going forward. The front three haven’t really set the tournament alight yet.

"Sterling’s scored three goals but in general play, he’s given the ball away a lot and at times has made some poor decisions.

"He’s scored three goals, which is a massive bonus.

"Harry Kane scored but he’s looked a bit leggy and not really played as well as we’ve seen him play in the past.

"Saka came in and did well but made less of an impact against Germany. Grealish came on and did well. Rashford hasn’t shown anything and Sancho hasn’t had a chance.

"The attacking side of the game is where we’ve been a bit weak, which I’ve been surprised about.

"It’s who you start. I was at the Germany game and I was saying after an hour that you could maybe take the front three off and put another three on, because I just could not see them scoring or even making anything happen.

"Saka came off first and Grealish came on. He did well and had a hand in two goals. But now do you start Grealish?

"When he started last time he didn’t really show a lot. It’s a hard decision to make for Gareth.

"You’d have probably thought the front three would be the easiest decision with all the talent we’ve got, the Fodens and Sanchos and Rashfords.

"You’re going through this list and you thought the easiest part would be getting a front four or front three. But it’s not. It’s how you get the balance right.

"Harry Kane will play, he’s captain and the main man. It’s who you put either side of him. If you go back to 4-3-3, which I think they will against Ukraine, who plays in the hole? Is it Mason Mount or Jack Grealish? I’d probably go with Grealish on the left, Sterling on the right and Mount as a No.10."

Waddle expects England to dispose of Ukraine, but admits Denmark - who face the Czech Republic in Baku before England's tie - would be a sterner test: "Southgate played the system to counteract Germany and matched them up which is a good thing to do. It worked.

"Now they’re playing Ukraine, who defensively are not the best. The midfield are tidy, some good technical players. Yarmolenko we know is very dangerous on the right.

"Going forward, they’ve got some good players, but if you go player for player there’s only one winner.

"I can’t see Ukraine - unless they play unbelievably well and England play unbelievably badly - getting through this game.

"I think England are favourites because of their side of the draw. But the big concern for me is Denmark.

"I know it would be at Wembley, but they’re on a mission after what happened with Eriksen, which was obviously horrific.

"The fans of Denmark now, the players, they’re on a mission. They’re super fit at the minute, working really hard when they pull the shirt on.

"They would give England a very, very hard game if they get them in the semis.

"Czech Republic we’ve beaten a few times, so if they get them in the semis you’d definitely be confident.

"But I think it will be Denmark and that’s a hard game to call. They’re really pumped up and look dangerous."