Before we get moving on this let me first point out that I’m not one of those people who are anti-England. There’s enough English people who are anti-England for me to go getting involved so if you think that this is just some baseless attack on the English national team then you’re wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
For those of you that aren’t aware Fabio Capello named his England squad for the friendly against Hungary and was widely expected to make scything changes to the group that plopped (yes, plopped is the only adequate adjective) out of the World Cup at the hands of my beloved Germany. With Jack Wilshere, Jack Rodwell, Lee Cattermole et al left out of the Under 21 squad it was widely expected that these players would make the step up to the full squads against the mighty Hungarians.
This was going to be Capello’s opportunity to jettison the the dead wood from the squad and build for the next competitive tournament in 2012. As such only 10 players from the World Cup squad remain but somewhat unsurprisingly he has taken the opportunity to keep the backbone of the England team in place and throw in a smattering of young players who are highly thought of by people who play Football Manager.
That squad in full:
Goalkeepers: Ben Foster (Birmingham), Joe Hart (Manchester City), Paul Robinson (Blackburn)
Defenders: Wes Brown (Manchester United), Gary Cahill (Bolton), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), Michael Dawson (Tottenham Hotspur), Kieran Gibbs (Arsenal), Phil Jagielka (Everton), Glen Johnson (Liverpool), John Terry (Chelsea)
Midfielders: Gareth Barry (Manchester City), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Adam Johnson (Manchester City), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), James Milner (Aston Villa), Ashley Young (Aston Villa), Theo Walcott (Arsenal), Jack Wilshere (Arsenal)
Forwards: Darren Bent (Sunderland), Carlton Cole (West Ham United), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Bobby Zamora (Fulham)
So the lesson we can learn from this is that you can lead a horse to water but he’ll still be too shit-scared to change anything fundamental. Sure, he’s named a lot of the players that people wanted to earn a call-up before the World Cup (with a notable exception of Jack Rodwell) but has missed the chance to really revolutionise the England team and cut out the old guard. A lot has been made of Jack Wilshere’s call-up but the chances of him seeing any playing time are so slim that even Nicole Ritchie would think it had gone too far.
Here’s the England team which faced the USA in the first World Cup group match:
- GK – Green
- RB – G Johnson
- LB – A Cole
- CB – Terry
- CB – King
- CM – Gerrard
- RM – Lennon
- CM – Lampard
- LM – Milner
- ST – Rooney
- ST – Heskey
And here’s my predicted starting line-up for the Hungary match:
- GK – Hart
- RB – Johnson
- LB – A. Cole
- CB – Terry
- CB – Brown
- RM – Walcott
- LM – Johnson
- CM – Gerrard
- CM – Barry
- ST – Rooney
- ST – C. Cole
If I’m right, then this is far from the wholesale change that the naming of a few youth players would have us believe. Of the eleven players I’ve named three were not in the squad for the World Cup. Of them, Wes Brown, a man whose England career seemed to be all but over is probably the most unlikely addition. Brown has a pedigree with England and will no doubt get the nod ahead of Michael Dawson who looked shaky at best during the World Cup.
Walcott is the future of the English right (not David Cameron after all) but playing him alongside the marauding Glen Johnson will leave them open to losing goals down that flank. Carlton Cole, another new(ish) name will be expected to do much the same job as Emile Heskey but with the added bonus of being a genuine goal threat while the lack of Frank Lampard’s name on my pick sheet is because I believe Capello will go to route one with the problem. He won’t admit that the aging, cash-inflated World Cup squad were the problem not the solution and will instead return to the “Lampard & Gerrard can’t play together” statement and separate them for this match.
Of course, doing that means that Gareth Barry will be thrown into the holding role and, despite being one of England’s poorest players in South Africa will patrol the area in front of the back four which still includes John Terry.
So the question stands. Does Fabio Capello know better than me, a crabbit writer from Scotland? No. I don’t think he does. The fact that he continues to name squads based around the inflated-egos of the Steve McClaren era suggest that either he bases his squad selection entirely on their rating in FIFA 2010 or Barry, Gerrard, Lampard et al. have something on him. Some kind of blackmailing must be going on. It’s time to own up Fabio so that we can finally have a threatening England team with an incisive edge and the most prodigious young talent that the country has to offer. Whatever they have on you, surely it can’t be as bad as Sven & Ulrika?
Although… maybe it’s this: