TALKING SPORT - Under-achievement, or fair reflection?

Phil Wilkinson

Phil Wilkinson

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THE problem with the England football debate is we’ve heard it all before.

Plenty of times.

So far all the merits in the argument that there are too many foreign stars in the Premier League, and for all the minutes of airtime and column inches dedicated to calls to create a larger talent pool, it won’t change.

We know it won’t.

Because the Premier League is too big and too lucrative.

It’s a cash-making beast, massive around the world – for all the call for action, no-one is going to cut the number of the Premier League’s best overseas players, for the good of the national team. Would sacking Roy Hodgson make a difference? Maybe.

But both Italy and Uruguay are above England in the world rankings, so losing 2-1 to both of them wasn’t as much an under-achievement, as a reflection of where they are – and how far they need to go.

Is it the players’ fault if they’re just not good enough?

The biggest frustration about their exit from the World Cup, at the earliest chance, is that there was no-one out there to really fear.

Spain tumbled out at the earliest possible opportunity, Brazil look like a team burdened by the hopes of a nation, and most of the other pre-tournament favourites have been far from convincing.

IAN Wright says, in The Sun today, that players who don’t want to represent England should be made to call grieving parents of dead soldiers to outline their reasons. My best mate is in the forces. I have immense respect for what they do.

But ignoring the obvious – that a grieving parent probably doesn’t give two hoots about a footballer’s lack of ambition – I find the whole idea of comparing sport with real, life and death situations really uncomfortable, and in bad taste.

MY Twitter feedback went into overdrive on Sunday after Wigan’s loss at Wakefield. Forget it was an entertaining game, forget it came after back-to-back thrashings... it seemed Wigan had no right to lose at Wakefield.

The early suggestions that Shaun Wane had rested too many stars proved false, with the coach explaining that Sean O’Loughlin and Mike McIlorum had joined a mounting injury-list.

But what if he had rotated the squad? It was their third game in 10 days! Only a fool would ask the same 17 to play in all three games.

Wane has plenty of injury concerns ahead of Friday’s visit of St Helens.

But when they’re doubted the most, Wigan usually perform the best.

JOEL Tomkins has long been one of those players who is rated by fans, really rated by players.

Fans hold him in high regard; his team-mates hold him even higher.

And his return has provided the club with a real shot in the arm, given the recent trend of established players leaving for pastures new.

Not long ago, Joel was being serenaded to Swing Low, Sweet Chariots after beating the Wallabies at Twickers. But, he says, it just wasn’t the same. It’s great to have him back.

Interestingly, Wigan have done little to hose down speculation that brother Sam may be returning too – and earlier than expected.