THE Germans had Franz Beckenbauer while Holland had Ronald Koeman and Frank Rijkaard. England have John Stones.
From now on he will play sweeper, the spare man in England’s defence after Gareth Southgate confirmed a permanent switch to 3-4-3.
The system is unconventional and unorthodox, alien to English players brought up on a diet of 4-4-2.
But Southgate is set on it. He saw enough reasons in the dreadful 1-0 win over Slovenia on Thursday to ditch his four-man defence for the Lithuania trip.
The Three Lions head coach said: “Three at the back is what we ought to do. We have so little time to work with the players that the more clarity they have under pressure then they will know what to fall back on.
“In qualifying, when we played 4-2-3-1, we wanted wide players who were able to exploit the width and try to break down packed defences.
“In terms of the way we want to play from the back now it is the better option. At the moment we turn the ball over too much. It gives us good stability and easier options for our midfielders.
“It means we might be able to get two strikers on the pitch in certain games.
“We need some consistency in the formation, some consistency in what we are asking the players to do.”
Sadly it will be an easy system for opponents, especially top class opposition such as Germany or Brazil, to overcome.
They are England’s next opponents, heading to London next month for two prestige friendlies at Wembley.
Once Thomas Muller or Gabriel Jesus are treading on Stones’ toes, Gary Cahill, Harry Maguire or Phil Jones will have to play with their feet. Good luck with that.
The elite players will cut off the supply line to Stones, stopping him moving into midfield or spraying passes.
With players as limited as this, it is inviting trouble.
Southgate said: “We have young players who can use the ball, such as all three centre-backs who played today. Jones is another one. Cahill is playing at Chelsea in a back three.
“I didn’t get into the team in Euro 96 until I was 25, but all three of our centre-backs are even younger than that.
“It is important to invest our time in the people we think can get to the level needed.”
Southgate is fixated on this system, his vision blurred by England’s success under Terry Venables at Euro 96.
But Venables played four at the back in the one match that defined an era — the thumping 4-1 victory over Holland.
For whatever reason, Southgate has suddenly settled on this system for next summer. It will take some bedding in.
He added: “We have to focus on a system and try to hone it, work on it and improve it.
“That means we might have to leave some good players out.”
Maguire, 24, is among those vying for one of the three places at the back.
He said: “In a back three you can control possession more. It is something we can work on and get better at.
“Hopefully when we do it’s going to be an asset to us.”
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