Better off out of it

By Lyndon Lloyd 28/06/2016  0 Comments  [Jump to last]

In the end, it was a tenure that went into a death spiral, hastened by perplexing tactics, stubborn persistence with certain personnel, worsening results and, though denied by many involved, a visible loss of respect on the part of the players in their manager.

It sounds an awful lot like the last days of Roberto Martinez at Everton but in this instance it was Roy Hodgson's lamentable time at the helm of the circus that is the England team, one that ended as any fan on Merseyside who witnessed his awful spell at Liverpool would have predicted.

So much the better, then, that neither John Stones nor Ross Barkley played a single minute of the disaster that unfolded for England in France this summer. Neither Everton player will be the subject of the scrutiny, the hand-wringing and post-mortems already underway in the national press (well, Barkley is but he shouldn't be) and that will surely come as a relief given the examination that both players have already undergone from Evertonian supporters and commentators following a Premier League season of similarly awful under-performance by the Toffees.

Neither player has had an easy year of it, although both had their fine moments in an Everton jersey in 2015-16. Barkley was enjoying his best season for the Blues since breaking into the senior side under Martinez three years ago until the wheels fell off the Catalan's tenure for good. And, while he struggled as much as any player in the second half of the campaign, he still travelled to Euro2016 as the midfielder with the most goals and most assists of any that did see action in the tournament.

Stones, meanwhile, had largely recovered from a mid-season crisis of form and, Anfield aside, was looking to be getting back to something resembling himself by the closing weeks... that despite the team as a collective having gone into meltdown. How much he would have been able to prevent England's collapse in France is debatable – his path to the team was blocked by two Hodgson favourites and it was going forward where the Three Lions team was found most wanting – but the last thing he would have needed (after last August's transfer-request-related tribulations) was another trial by fire in the press.

Of course, unless he is convinced by the promise of the Farhad Moshiri era and Ronald Koeman's reputation as one of the finest ball-playing centre-halves of his generation, by escaping Euro2016 with his reputation intact, Stones may still have a smooth passage out of Goodison Park to somewhere like The Etihad Stadium this summer.

If not, he will at least benefit from being untouched by England's calamity and an early return from France, whereby he can join up with the Everton squad for pre-season in more timely fashion. Barkley, too, will benefit from settling back into club life sooner than would have been the case had England progressed further, where he can prepare for what could be his most important campaign since 2013-14.

As has been written before on these pages, the relationship between Everton and England has always been a complicated one... and that doesn't look likely to change any time soon. While it would have been nice to see either or both of the Blues' young Englishmen excel on the world stage and add another badge of experience to their still-young careers, t'was ever thus that they're better off having played no part in England's dismal implosion.

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