TALLINN is calling for just the second time in England’s footballing history on Sunday, with it fair to say the knives of the scribes who head to the Baltic are considerably blunter than they were in June, 2007.
England jet off east with a decent amount of legroom after a turbulence-free 2-0 win against the Swiss in their opening Euro 2016 Group E qualifier in Basel last month, widely regarded as their most bothersome qualification encounter. It was different back in ’07.
England’s Euro 2008 qualifying programme proved tortuous in the extreme, with the one left slain at the end of it being a Yorkshireman in Steve McClaren, whose reign disintegrated in the teeming Wembley rain after defeat to Croatia in November, 2007.
The deluge was not quite as incessant in Tallinn five months earlier, although there were a few dark clouds looming with England having failed to take maximum points in three of their previous six qualifiers, which included a 2-0 defeat to Croatia in Zagreb, a goalless draw against Israel in Tel Aviv and another scoreless stalemate against Macedonia at Old Trafford.
It was the latter result, in the final analysis, which proved the most lamentable and glaring amid the post-mortem following England’s failure to qualify for the championships in Austria and Switzerland.
Respite, however temporary, was provided by a Chelsea-led 3-0 verdict in the Estonian capital on June 6, 2007, which lifted the pressure on McClaren, just over a year after being appointed England manager on the back of his exploits at Middlesbrough.
It proved a noteworthy occasion for one Michael Owen, with the Newcastle United striker back on target after a lengthy absence due to a knee injury with his 23rd competitive goal for the Three Lions.
Owen’s strike just after the hour mark to seal a 3-0 triumph in his 82nd international, following an exemplary cross from David Beckham, broke Gary Lineker’s record for most goals for England in competitive matches.
All told, it was his 37th for his country and the last he would score away from English shores; he went on to score a further three at Wembley.
England took the lead on 36 minutes in sublime fashion when Chelsea’s Joe Cole fired home an exquisite volley after latching onto Peter Crouch’s flick-on following Wayne Bridge’s cross.
Beanpole striker Crouch went on to make it 2-0 eight minutes after the break when he headed home following a super free-kick from Beckham.
Victory was rubber-stamped at the Le Coq Arena when Beckham, given a standing ovation when he went off late on, crossed for Owen to convert.
Yorkshire representation came via Paul Robinson’s presence in goal, with Stewart Downing appearing late on. Jamie Carragher was an unused substitute with Chelsea’s Cole, John Terry, Frank Lampard and Bridge starting for England.