Somebody once told me fortune favours the brave. And, God, our lads were brave this afternoon,”

England 3 Republic of Ireland 0

It was a night at Wembley which began with emotional memories of Big Jack and the good old days but ended with a nagging fear that it may be a long and torturous journey to return to those heights following a 3-0 defeat against dominant England.

The chastening result, thanks to goals from Harry Maguire, Jadon Sancho and Dominic Calvert-Lewin in a hastily arranged friendly after England’s original opponents New Zealand pulled out, means Stephen Kenny is still waiting for his first victory as manager and faces a challenge to restore morale ahead of a crucial Nations League tie in Wales on Sunday.

It is never easy to watch this particular fixture, of course, without at least daydreaming about Ray Houghton’s goal which beat Sir Bobby Robson’s side in Stuttgart in Euro 88. But it was almost impossible not to do so on a night when Charlton, who passed away in July, was so fondly remembered.

Charlton’s quote after leading the Boys in Green to victory all those years ago was on many people’s minds, and you wouldn’t be surprised if Kenny reminded his players of it before kick-off.

“Somebody once told me fortune favours the brave. And, God, our lads were brave this afternoon,” he famously said.

It was a rallying cry which has gone down in Irish football history, so although England players were looking up in awe at a commemorative banner of Charlton behind the goal at Wembley – with the message ‘nothing is given to you, you have to work for it’ – they weren’t the only ones.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to inspire the Republic to a performance which could close the obvious gap in quality between themselves and England’s Premier League superstars, and you wonder if any amount of hard work would have done the job.

As usual there was no lack of effort but the goals conceded were poor and the attack, which hasn’t scored in almost 500 minutes, was once again blunt as England strolled through the game without breaking sweat.

The obvious conclusion is that it would be foolish to suggest the road back international glory is anything but a long one. The main target on the mind of Kenny’s players right now is facing Wales in Cardiff on Sunday and Bulgaria in Dublin on 18 November in a bid to avoid relegation from Group B4 in the Nations League – a prospect which would make it even more difficult to qualify for a major tournament in future.

Pre-match they were buoyed by a welcome statistic that England had failed to win this fixture since1985, when Gary Lineker scored his first international goal; but that piece of history is now gone and Kenny knows that transforming the team’s style and attacking threat is going to be a long job and not a quick fix.

The fact that captain Seamus Coleman had to pull out before kick-off with a hamstring injury picked up in training made the task here even tougher; as did the fact that new captain Shane Duffy lost his partner John Egan when the Sheffield United man picked up a head injury after only 13 minutes and was replaced by Dara O’Shea.

That injury came at a point when Ireland were looking promising, but the disappointment was doubled when Maguire, the world’s most expensive defender who has been through the mill this season for Manchester United and England, headed home to celebrate his first ever match as captain of his country.

Sancho, who has also struggled for form with Borussia Dortmund in Germany after missing out on a move to Old Trafford in the transfer window, then cut inside to fire home an unerring finish for 2-0 after 31 minutes to underline the home team’s superiority.

The fact that it was Jack Grealish, who five years ago was named the Republic’s Under 21 player of the year, running the show for England made it all the more galling; and suddenly the decision to accept this friendly fixture, in the hope it could boost morale, was beginning to look questionable.

England made it 3-0 when Cyrus Christie brought down Saka for a clear penalty, the spot-kick despatched with no fuss by Everton’s Calvert-Lewin, and there was never going to be any comeback after that.

Christie didn’t last much longer as Kenny brought on Robbie Brady, Shane Long and James McClean in one go. But with England’s subs including Dortmund’s 17-year-old wonderkid Jude Bellingham and Manchester City’s Phil Foden the gap between the sides remained significant.

Alan Browne and Ronan Curtis did eventually register shots on target but it is now six games, no wins and only one goal for Kenny so far, statistics which make uncomfortable reading no matter which way you look at them.

Memories of the past may have briefly warmed the heart at Wembley but a present day reality check left a nation cold.

England: Pope 6 (D Henderson 45; 6), James 6, Keane 6, Maguire 8, Mings 7 (Maitland-Niles 61; 6), Saka 7, Mount 7, Winks 6, Grealish 8 (Foden 61; 6), Sancho 6, Calvert-Lewin 7 (Abraham 63; 6) Unused subs: Rice, Kane, Dier, Chilwell, Jordan Henderson, Pickford.

Republic: Randolph 7, Doherty 6, Duffy 8, Egan 6 (O’Shea 14; 6), O’Dowda 6 (McClean 60; 6), Christie 6 (Long 60; 6), Hourihane 6 (Mollumby 71; 6), Hendrick 6, Horgan 6 (Brady 60; 6), Idah 5 (Curtis 71; 6), Browne 5.

Unused subs: Travers, Collins, Maguire, Kelleher.

Referee: Carlos Del Cerro (Spain)


Northern Ireland v Slovakia – UEFA Euro 2020 – Play-offs – Final – Windsor Park
Northern Ireland denied by Slovakia in Euro 2020 play-off
England v Republic of Ireland – International Friendly – Wembley Stadium
Ireland’s lack of fight a big red flag for Roy Keane
England v Republic of Ireland – International Friendly – Wembley Stadium
Jack Grealish shows just what might have been

Published by technofiend1

Kazan- Kazan National Research Technical University Казанский национальный исследовательский технический университет имени А. Н. Туполева he graduated in Economics in 1982

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