So Fabio finally made up his mind this evening and waved goodbye to Theo Walcott, Scott Parker, Tom Huddlestone, Michael Dawson, Darren Bent, Leighton Baines and Adam Johnson. Umm. Which means that Shaun Wright-Phillips, Emile Heskey, Matthew Upson, Joe Cole, Gareth Barry, Michael Carrick and Stephen Warnock do make the World Cup squad. Umm again. I don’t know about you but it’s slightly disappointing don’t you think? He’s clearly gone for the guys who have proved themselves to him in the past over current form – something he said wouldn’t happen. I suppose when it comes to the crunch moments managers always tend to play the percentages. It’s easy to be an armchair manager without the expectations of a nation on our shoulders but one or two of his decisions today have left me bemused.
Firstly I think Upson is very very lucky to be on the plane. His had a poor season in a poor team and has never looked like he can step up to international class. Why he needs a 5th centre back I don’t really know but given the choice I might have preferred Dawson especially since his team mate and fellow centre-back King is in the squad. Surely that would have been a more natural replacement pairing in the unlikely event that both Ferdinand and Terry cannot play. However Capello already has his first choice replacement centre-back in Carragher doesn’t he, with whom he pleaded to come out of retirement for this tournament?
I’m also surprised but not totally shocked that Carrick’s in the squad, especially now that Barry’s been deemed to be sufficiently recovered from his injury and just about OK to go. Carrick looks to be lousily out of form (compared with Parker who is said to have been flying in training out in Austria and on a form roll) and Parker can consider himself unlucky not to be there as cover. Was he right to choose Wright-Phillips over Walcott? It’s a 50/50 call to me. But what’s the point in Capello taking Beckham out to SA as a member of the backroom staff if he wasn’t going to use him to focus his talents on specialist coaching on the very pacey but often unproductive Walcott?
Joe Cole’s inclusion I can understand as an impact substitute. But couldn’t a place have been found for Adam Johnson who’s naturally left-footed, offering balance and surprising good delivery from a position that’s been achingly unfilled for years (if only Ryan Giggs had been born an Englishman) plus he’s been as keen as mustard too in training by all accounts. Surely it might have been worth taking one fewer centre-back or even goalkeeper to squeeze Johnson into the squad? Is it likely that we’ll need 3 goalkeepers in the tournament? Surely Green and Hart are good enough and keen enough to do us proud. They’ve both been pretty damn good in the latest matches.
Warnock in as cover for Ashley Cole instead of Leighton Baines is OK by me. Baines is a poor tourer apparently and he had a lousy game against the Mexicans. And we’re back with Heskey up front despite hardly playing for his club this season (and Martin O’Neill isn’t a bad judge of player) and being in poor nick as his open-goal miss against the Japanese proved. I guess he’s there because Rooney likes him upfront to create the space for him. Despite scoring 25 goals this year, Bent hasn’t taken his chances and doesn’t look like he’s got the class at this level to force his way into Capello’s thinking.
And so we go to South Africa with a novice captain in Ferdinand who’s not 100% fit playing alongside another old stalwart in John Terry who’s slowing down and probably past his best now. We have a lovely attacking right fullback in Glen Johnson who is pretty hopeless at defending and likely to be supported by Wright-Phillips who isn’t exactly known as a winger who’s tenacious at tackling back. On the other flank we’ve at least got probably the best left back in the world – well he was till he broke his ankle a few weeks ago and is still getting back to full fitness. Oh and he’s just received the divorce papers from his missus which he might find a little distracting. Our holding midfielder is crocked at least for the first match and he’s been living in an oxygen tent for the last few weeks which seems like unusual preparation given that we’ll be playing at altitude. His stand-in had a dreadful game against the mighty Mexicans just a few days ago. Additionally, we’ve lost all the pace in midfield and the only left-footer and it looks like the manager’s going to go against all his better judgements by playing Gerrard and Lampard alongside each other in the middle of the park (which has never worked). Up front Rooney looks to be in a bad mood and out of sorts. He hasn’t scored for England in several games now whilst his likely strike partner Heskey hasn’t scored since the Falklands War. We have the second oldest squad in the tournament with an average age of nearly 29.
All of which means we shall probably have a brilliant tournament with Heskey scoring the winning goal in a 4-3 thriller against Spain in the final. We can dream.
If you’ve different views and think Capello’s got it spot on, please shout. But Upson? Surely you can’t agree with that…