Sun. Oct 24th, 2021

The England manager picked a brave starting XI against Hungary – their failure to win the game should not tempt him to revert to his more risk-averse nature

“Failure is a figment of your imagination.” Kobe Bryant had a pretty good line on the importance of trial and error, on failure as the father of success, on disaster on Monday as a signpost to triumph on Friday. To be fair this is perhaps a little easier to embrace as an approach to life when you happen, by an accident of fate, to be Kobe Bryant. Or indeed when failure doesn’t involve a migraine-inducing attempt to break down B-list international opponents at a lukewarm Wembley, while a group of budget fascists riot in the stands and people on social media call you a Waistcoat Fraud. Unfortunately for Gareth Southgate, this was the reality of Tuesday night’s 1-1 draw with Hungary.

Still, though, Kobe had a point. Failure in sport is never terminal. Southgate’s tactical gambit, a gameplan devised on the hoof during a two-week international break, was clearly unsuccessful. But one thing is certain. Real failure would be to ignore the impulse, the evidence of the last five years, that inspired it in the first place.

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