Alas, Jimmy Bullard didn’t make it onto the hallowed turf in Berlin for England last night. The television pictures did show him having a laugh and joke with his fellow England substitutes (cue Clive Tyldsley making a glib comment about Bullard being good in the dressing room) but the performances on the pitch showed why Jimmy might never actually manage to get that elusive England cap.
If this sounds harsh about our cheeky chappie midfielder, it’s only because I’m being objective. Just like back in September, Jimmy only got his chance because the more established English midfielders had pulled out or got injured. With no Lampard, Gerrard or Hargreaves, Fabio Capello was forced to cast his eyes upon some of the lesser lights if you will (hence late call-ups for Bullard and Scott Parker). It was entirely sensible for him to start the game against the Germans with Carrick, a great player who was he not surrounded by superstars at Manchester United would generate far more headlines than he does, and Gareth Barry, who was quietly efficient at the heart of the England midfield and dictated the pace of the game.
Bullard’s only serious hope of getting on was an injury to one of those two or for England to have put the game away early – allowing Capello the luxury of throwing on some untried players in the second half without the pressure of having to cling onto or manufacture a lead. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen, so Jimmy’s England memories consist of training and watching some pretty good performances.
This was no exception. I felt England were outstanding last night and proved John Terry’s point that a young side could go to Germany and win – even if Terry and Scott Carson did their best to gift the Germans an equaliser (the goal Helmes scored was the footballing equivalent of an early Christmas present). Special praise should go to Gabby Agbonlahor, who was full of running in his surprise start up front and was unlucky to see his ‘goal’ wrongly disallowed for offside. Matthew Upson was increasingly assured at the back and this was another display that suggested that Capello is moving England in the right direction. The fact that you don’t win anything on cold nights in November should assauge the hype that usually follows results like this, e.g. that England are hot favourites to bring the trophy home from South Africa.
I caught a little bit of the Northern Ireland game last night too, hoping to see Chris Baird, but flicked over at just the right time to watch Zoltan Gera lash a long-range shot home for Hungary’s second goal. It was good technique and an impressive finish – even if Gera had plenty of room to take down a long clearance from his goalkeeper. I may be a bit of a boo boy here, but being extra critical, had Baird not missed his header Gera might not have had the opportunity.
Elsewhere, apparently Leon Andreasen missed an absolute sitter as Denmark lost at home to an exceptionally young Welsh side. That may well qualify as the result of the night given how inexperienced John Toshack’s charges were. I can’t have been the only one to laugh at poor Darren Fletcher’s attempts to pronounce Andreasen on Radio 5 Live last night: it sound more like Andreeeeeesen by the time he had finished. Anyway, it sounded like a wretched miss.
By the sounds it, Australia were awfully lucky to scrape a 1-0 win against Bahrain in their World Cup qualifier. One-time Fulham transfer target Mark Bresciano scored an injury time winner but the Aussies had our very own Mark Schwarzer to thank for preserving their 100 per cent record in qualifying with some fine first-half saves. He’ll need to be in just that kind of good form to keep Liverpool out on Saturday.
There’s plenty of Fulham gossip to catch up on in the papers. Erik Nevland seems to be quite sensible in cautioning us against thinking we’ll float to safety on the back of a couple of home wins:
I think there are about 10, 11 or 12 teams that are going to be worried about relegation and we are one of them. We just have to work hard every week and try to get results.
Hopefully we can start winning away as well and then we will be okay. But you are not safe until the last day I think.”
Aaron Hughes, who missed the Northern Ireland defeat last night, thinks he’ll be able to start the game against Liverpool after picking up what sounds like a nasty eye injury against Spurs last weekend. And, the form he’s been in this season, his absence would be a big loss.
It happened ten minutes from the end and it was stapled up on the side of the pitch. It’s a hard place to cover. If I put anything on it will obstruct my vision. After the game it was swollen and sore. I couldn’t really see out of it because of the swelling.
It should be fine for Saturday but I need look after it and make sure I don’t open it up again. Hopefully it’ll be okay for the game at the weekend.
Apparently we after the Swindon striker Simon Cox, who has also attracted the attention of Spurs, but sensibly the young lad is keeping his focus firmly on Swindon for the moment.
“I’d have to consider all the options available to me really, but it wouldn’t just be my decision, as obviously the two clubs have to come to a decision first and then it’s down to me and my family to consider it.
“If it gives me the chance to better myself then I’d be mad not to take it.”
According to several sources, we are in a battle with West Brom to sign the Bosnian playmaker Semir Stilic from the Polish side Lech Poznan. But the 21-year-old has also been watched by scouts from Hertha Berlin, Hamburg and Arsenal so our chances of getting him would have to be rated as pretty slim.