DESPITE Gareth Southgate and his team’s success – and, let’s face it, his own place of birth – Derek Adams is full of respect for England’s World Cup performance thus far.
On Wednesday night, Home Park will open the doors to more than 2,000 England fans watching on big screens in the Lyndhurst side of the ground, as England meet Croatia in the World Cup semi-final.
In the Argyle pre-season schedule, Derek and the boys were meant to be in Callington, playing the latest in a series of local friendlies as the 2018-19 Sky Bet League One season draws closer. However, with much of England’s eyes on the Three Lions’ particular prize, sense prevailed, and that game was rearranged.
Derek, a man known for meticulous planning, would rather the game had remained, but he admits that the greater interest is in Moscow, not east Cornwall, on Wednesday.
“I spoke to Callington and gave them the option of cancelling the game or playing the game and we decided to cancel the match,” said Derek. “For Callington as a football club it generated revenue, there wasn’t going to be many people there, so it was the correct decision.
“I was not too happy that we cancelled the game, but you don’t get your country playing in too many World Cup semi-finals and I think that game was going to be more important for the vast majority of the people coming to watch Callington against Plymouth Argyle.
“That said, I am sure that there was a good percentage of Argyle supporters that would have made it to Callington.”
Derek went into detail about his admiration for England’s performances so far, although would not be drawn on who he fancied to make the final.
“[England] have performed exceptionally well; to get to this stage of the competition is terrific,” said Derek. “They have not had many problems throughout the tournament. They have had a settled squad and [Gareth Southgate] has been able to play with a team that he thinks is best and got through to the semi-finals. Now they have the biggest game in many years. It is possible to go on and get to the final - and you never know after that.
“I think that the way they have set the team out has been very beneficial to them and they have not come up against a team who has out-thought them or has been able to beat their system. Can Croatia do that? I am not sure but they have scored a lot of goals from set plays; they have scored penalty kicks. They have been fairly creative throughout the tournament so it is going to be a big test for them; they cannot rely on set plays and penalty kicks all the time that is for sure.
“They need a style and to perform well and show the brilliance that they can achieve. I think that the midfield three: Lingard, Alli and, getting forward, Henderson, has been beneficial for them. They have very good legs throughout.
“I do think that Croatia are a very good side and individually have some very good players. Iit depends who Croatia play against because if they allow the back three to get on the ball and start attacks from that then they are in for a difficult game.
“[Southgate] has the least pressure of any of the English managers because he took in a young squad and nobody thought he would get to this level. Whatever he does now is going to be hugely beneficial to him and to the nation. There are a lot of good English players coming through, and he has still got a bench full of them which is good to see for the English game.”
But would he say it? Would our manager, on the eve of the biggest game for our country in over two decades, say the words on everybody’s lips.
Just about, but he did make sure a mention of the Motherland was included too.
“I think that there is something to say that football is coming home. The first ever game was England against Scotland I believe, so it is good that football is coming back to these shores and England have put on a fabulous performance in the World Cup.”