I figured I’d write about England this morning. We haven’t really had too much England discussion here at HammyEnd since the demise of Steve McClaren and with things looking a lot more positive for the national team since he was replaced by someone who could actually manage their way out of a paper bag, I thought it was about time we rectified that.
Fabio Capello’s been a busy man this week. He’s been laying down the law to all and sundry. Let’s hope the laughter that greeted his assertion that Wayne Rooney was ‘a crazy man’ didn’t make the players miss his serious point. Rooney, gifted though he is, is a hothead. Once he’s been fouled, wronged or thinks aren’t going his way, you sense he’s a powderkeg waiting to go off. Clever centre backs are going to try and press his buttons. He can’t cost England any more major championships. World class players must have world class temperments too.
I hear that Capello has also had a long chat with Ashley Cole. If trying to ensure that these playboys actually are good role models for the kids (which to be seems like a losing battle, unless you are talking to someone like Owen Hargreaves), then surely Steven Gerrard is next in line. The disciplinarian doesn’t take kindly to people flouting the rules or not working hard enough, which is reportedly why Ashley Young’s considerable talents aren’t gracing the international stage this weekend.
Given England’s fine record in qualifying, the inevitable talk has already turned to the finals in South Africa. To which I say, stop. We haven’t qualified yet. Yes, if we don’t make it from this group, it would be horribly embarassing. But Ukraine – our next competitive opponents – are unbeaten, possess some fine players and, more importantly, are a hardworking side. They’ll be difficult to break down. The Wembley daytrippers will need to be patient.
Should we get to the finals, I do hope Fabio won’t be taking any advice from Paddy Barclay (I should add, it’s highly unlikely that Capello reads the papers). I like Barclay – he’s a perceptive journalist and not afraid to voice his opinion. But his team selection is just bizarre.
There’s no doubt that Ben Foster’s a highly talented goalkeeper, otherwise Capello wouldn’t have selected him and bypassed his strict rule that his players should be regular first-teamers. But, barring a horrific injury to Edwin van der Sar, he’s not likely to be a regular fixture in the Manchester United goal anytime soon. David James might not be the long-term answer but until he makes a horrible ricket, he’s the man in possession. And if Capello even thinks about replacing him with Manuel Almunia, then they’ll be uproar.
I rate Owen Hargreaves very highly, as I’ve side many times before. Just being a regular in the Bayern Munich midfield as a teenager should remove any doubts about your quality. He’s been hampered by his versatility, but there’s no way he’s an international right-back. The best place for him – should he regain full fitness – would be to break up the Gerrard/Lampard axis in central midfield that Barclay appears to have gone back to. Has he been asleep for the past four years?
Some of the comments on Barclay’s piece have a problem with the inclusion of David Beckham. I wouldn’t have a massive problem if he’s still performing at the highest level. But, surely Theo Walcott deserves a place in the side for the way in which scares full-backs alone? Think back to that mazy run at Anfield that should have carried Arsenal past Liverpool in the Champions’ League? Or those goals that saw off Croatia so emphatically? He’s more likely to be ready than Hargreaves.
Having spoken about Wayne Rooney’s frustrations, is it really the best idea to ask him to potter about on the left side? He’d be irritated, come inside searching for the ball and more than likely not be in front of goal when the chances arrives. Capello’s obviously still working out the best way for his England side to play, but putting Rooney on the left is just madness. He might not be lone striker material, but at least put him alongside Emile Heskey and give the partnership a chance to work.
I’d be willing to put anyone that Capello never names that line-up in any international, let alone at the World Cup. If he did, we’d be in serious danger of another early flight home.