Archive for the ‘England’ Category

My thoughts on: England’s Euro 2012 squad part V

May 11, 2012 Leave a comment

The new England manager

England have a new manager or head coach or whatever title they have decided to give Roy Hodgson. Much debate has been had whether he is the best man for the job with the media-backed Harry Redknapp apparently being the ‘people’s choice’ not being interviewed; but for me, I am happy with the appointment and I desperately hope the players, supporters and media get behind Hodgson and at least give him a fighting chance of succeeding.

The FA have confirmed that Hodgson will name his preliminary Euro 2012 squad by May 16th which is then followed by two friendlies, against Norway and Belgium, before finalising the squad prior to the May 29th deadline. Who will be in that squad is so difficult to call, but as always, I’ve given it a go:

Polish/Ukraine phrase book bought and polishing the accent

1. Joe Hart, Manchester City (GK) No change

2. Scott Parker, Tottenham Hotspur (MF) No change

3. Wayne Rooney, Manchester Utd (FW) No change

4. Ashley Cole, Chelsea (DF) Up 1
Like many of Chelsea’s senior players, Ashley Cole’s form has returned since the temporary appointment of Roberto Di Matteo and Cole’s performances, particularly in the two legs against Barcelona, have been back to the quality we would expect from England’s first-choice left-back.

5. Glen Johnson, Liverpool (DF) Down 1

6. Leighton Baines, Everton (DF) No change

7. Ashley Young, Manchester Utd (MF/FW) No change
Although Ashley Young’s recent ‘falling-over’ antics for Manchester Utd have not been widely appreciated by the English football following public, he is one of our main attacking threats in terms of either creating opportunities for others (which we desperately need in the absence of Wayne Rooney), or being in the right place to add the finishing touch to a move. He may even win us a penalty.

8. Gary Cahill, Chelsea (DF) Up 11
I think there is huge debate over who England’s centre halves should be, which feels strange as it hasn’t really been an issue in recent years. Both John Terry and Rio Ferdinand are getting older, not playing as many games and are more susceptible to making mistakes now, but in addition, it would appear that both won’t be included in the squad because of Terry’s impending court case. Gary Cahill hasn’t fitted in smoothly at Stamford Bridge, but has begun to find form, unfortunately for him, that was curtailed by injury in the Nou Camp but hopefully he should be fit for Chelsea’s date in Munich.

9. Steven Gerrard, Liverpool (MF) No change

10. Theo Walcott, Arsenal (MF) Up 3

11. Gareth Barry, Manchester City (MF) Up 3
Barry’s form has been one of the key factors in Manchester City’s recent resurgent form which has seen them overhaul city rivals United and have one hand on the Premier League trophy. He shouldn’t be in the first XI in my opinion, but I think he may go as Scott Parker’s holding midfield understudy.

12. Kyle Walker, Tottenham Hotspur (DF) Up 3

13. Danny Welbeck, Manchester Utd (FW) Down 5

14. Frank Lampard, Chelsea (MF) Up 12
As per Ashley Cole, Lampard’s form and confidence has returned and equally, his performances against Barcelona in particular stand out. It feels odd to still talk about Gerrard, Ferdinand, Lampard and Terry in the build-up to Euro 2012 as I think we all expected England to have a very different look about them post South Africa. I doubt we will see the return of the Lampard/Gerrard debate in terms of how can we fit both players into the team, but for his experience and recent form I think this could be his international swansong.

15. Rio Ferdinand, Manchester Utd (DF) Down 5

16. Scott Carson, Bursaspor (GK) Up 1

One of England’s most consistent defenders this season for me

17. Joleon Lescott, Manchester City (DF) Up 12
I think that Joleon Lescott has had an excellent season, proven by his role in the Premier League’s meanest defence. He is naturally left-sided with pace and experience and I don’t think should be too far away from a starting position.

18. Adam Johnson, Manchester City (MF) Up 2
In my opinion, Adam Johnson is one of the true wingers England has got, and although I doubt he will start, I think he is truly an exciting and game-changing option from the substitutes bench.

19. Phil Jones, Manchester Utd (DF) Down 8
I’m not sure I would take him as on far too many occasions he just looks like a glorified headless chicken. He is quick, athletic, strong and clearly has ability, but at the minute I think he is suffering from his versatility and not being played consistently in one position. He should never be considered for right back for me and if he is going, it would be as fourth choice centre half or reserve for midfield.

20. Robert Green, West Ham Utd (GK) Up 3

21. Jermain Defoe, Tottenham Hotspur (FW) Up 1
England are really suffering with a lack of strikers I think, and unfortunately, I think Jermain Defoe is our most natural finisher but is not a preferred option at White Hart Lane. I think he might go, again because of his experience, plus he does seem to have that knack of scoring on the international scene.

22. Daniel Sturridge, Chelsea (FW) Down 4

23. Stewart Downing, Liverpool (MF) Down 2
For me, I think Stewart Downing’s international chances have gone. He has been given a fair few but I am yet to see him actually beat an international defender… I still think he might slip onto the plane though without anyone noticing.

Don’t book that holiday to the Caribbean just yet… you might get a nice week in Krakow!

Andy Carroll has proven to be a real handful at times… his first touch has improved also!

24. Andy Carroll, Liverpool (FW) Up 10
All of a sudden there has been a clamour for Liverpool’s once labelled £35million misfit to be on the plane since his near game changing appearance at Wembley in the FA Cup Final. He has a habit of scoring big goals, as he did in the semi-final also, and has proven to be a real menace when he is on his game as Chelsea certainly found out in that Cup Final cameo and the 1-4 reverse at Anfield in the league the following week.

25. John Terry, Chelsea (DF) No change
Putting aside his court case and the debate over the potential fall-out with Rio Ferdinand, John Terry’s form has been blighted by some major hiccups of late; most notably his performance at Anfield in the 4-1 defeat and also his lack of intelligence, maturity and responsibility with his needless sending off in the Nou Camp.

26. James Milner, Manchester City (MF) Down 14
Something of a forgotten man now I think. Not sure where he fits in at Manchester City let alone England.

27. Michael Carrick, Manchester Utd (MF) Up 8
Appears to be injury-free and back to his simple passing and possession maintaining self. Some doubt over whether he could be England’s holding midfielder as I don’t think his tackling ability is near Parker or Barry, but his form and passing range is good and he might just be a reasonable outside shout for the final 23.

28. Phil Jagielka, Everton (DF) Up 10

29. Aaron Lennon, Tottenham Hotspur (MF) Up 4

30. Peter Crouch, Stoke City (FW) Up 13
Crouch may just benefit from the change of manager to one who has previously tried to sign him and the lack of other options. He has got a good scoring record for England, but others will point out the quality of that opposition.

Might just have to listen to Jim Beglin describe the action

31. Tom Cleverley, Manchester Utd (MF) Down 1
I fully expect Cleverley to be involved with the England squad post tournament and hopefully for a few years to come.

32. Darren Bent, Aston Villa (FW) No change
How much have Aton Villa missed the striking ability of Darren Bent? I wonder if they would have been looking over their shoulder at the spectre of relegation this much if he had been fit. I think it’s a real blow for him personally and for England  that it looks likely he will miss the tournament, however, there has been a suggestion there is a slim chance he could be fit.

33. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Arsenal (MF) Down 5
I did think a couple of months ago when he burst into the Arsenal team that he would be in with a chance of being the Theo Walcott addition to the squad. It now appears as though he will have to bide his time for his full international bow… he may need to make sure he cements a place in Arsene Wenger’s first XI though.

34. Micah Richards, Manchester City (DF) Down 18
When Fabio Capello walked out on the England job I think everyone expected Micah Richards to stake a real claim for the right-back position. Despite his inclusion against Holland, his absence from Roberto Mancini’s team I think has proved to dampen his hopes and I think he will miss out.

35. Fraizer Campbell, Sunderland (FW) Down 8

What a season it would represent for Holt if he got the call

36. Grant Holt, Norwich City (FW) NEW ENTRY
The bustling striker’s form and goals this season for newly promoted Norwich City have certainly caught the eye, although, I can’t help but feel that his name is only being mentioned due to the lack of English strikers around at the moment. I think he definitely deserves consideration based on his approach, teamwork, contribution and goals this season… for him to be included would surely be an amazing story for the former Rochdale and Shrewsbury Town forward.

37. Ben Foster, West Bromwich Albion (GK) NEW ENTRY
I wonder whether Roy Hodgson might be able to tempt Ben Foster out of his self-imposed international absence to become a capable understudy to Joe Hart. He’s certainly had an excellent season and would be my choice for number 2.

38. Liam Ridgewell, West Bromwich Albion (DF) Up 6

39. Jack Rodwell, Everton (MF) Up 3

Might want to have a look if they have an Irish grandmother

40. Bobby Zamora, Queens Park Rangers (FW) Down 3
A couple of months ago I had Zamora just finding a way into the squad… at least that move to QPR has not had any sort of detrimental affect on his career.

41. Scott Sinclair, Swansea City (MF) Down 1

42. John Ruddy, Norwich City (GK) NEW ENTRY
His form certainly surprised me this year but he may finally be finding the promise that led him to Everton a number of years ago now.

43. Danny Graham, Swansea City (FW) Up 3

44. Joe Cole, Lille (MF) NEW ENTRY
Roy Hodgson did take Cole to Liverpool and he is having an excellent season in Ligue 1.

45. Kieran Gibbs, Arsenal (DF) Down 4

46. Gabriel Agbonlahor, Aston Villa (FW) Down 7

47. Michael Dawson, Tottenham Hotspur (DF) No change

48. David Stockdale, Fulham (GK) No change

49. Paul Scholes, Manchester Utd (MF) Down 13
It would seem that we all have finally seen sense and realised that post-retirement Paul Scholes looks very accomplished against those sides lower down the league, but against quality opposition his decision to retire looked like a good one.

50. Nathan Dyer, Swansea City (MF) No change


My thoughts on: England’s Euro 2012 squad part IV

March 13, 2012 Leave a comment

I’ve had a little time to reflect on how the England squad is going to look since my last blog, and I think the last month has provided more questions than answers. No longer does Harry Redknapp look the certainty to manage England into the Championships as Tottenham Hotspur’s domestic form has seen a recent wobble; his role next season may well depend if he fancies another tilt at the Champions League or not if Spurs manage to hold onto their top-four position. Stuart Pearce was put in charge for the friendly against Holland selected a rather youthful looking side which, in my opinion, once again looked completely outclassed at times by a much superior opponent. Anyway, here’s the latest standings as I see it:

On the plane, packed and raring to go

1. Joe Hart, Manchester City (GK) No change

2. Scott Parker, Tottenham Hotspur (MF) Up 1
It is remarkable to review Scott Parker’s international fortunes since he broke into the Charlton Athletic team as a teenager. Aged 31, he was given the captaincy in the recent friendly defeat to Holland in what was only his 11th cap; eight and a bit years after making his England debut. Most likely candidate I think to captain England in the tournament too

3. Wayne Rooney, Manchester Utd (FW) Up 1
Bang in form and banging in the goals for Manchester Utd; it is becoming increasingly likely that Rooney’s suspension could be much more costly than initially anticipated

4. Glen Johnson, Liverpool (DF) Up 1

Ashley Cole, still likely to be England's left back this summer

5. Ashley Cole, Chelsea (DF) Down 3
Although Ashley Cole played against Stoke City last weekend, he has been struggling with injuries and form. Chelsea clearly have problems, however, I wonder how much of these will change now Roberto Di Matteo has been put in temporary charge? I’m still confident Cole will be given the number 3 shirt this summer

6. Leighton Baines, Everton (DF) Up 13
The Everton full-back will be watching Ashley Cole and Chelsea’s form closely as his and Everton’s recent performance continue to impress

7. Ashley Young, Manchester Utd (MF) Up 11
I think both England and Manchester Utd are grateful to see the former Aston Villa winger return from injury as he continues to try to rediscover some form. He offers a goal threat for England, is able to play across the front-line, and is one of the few players we have who is capable of running with the ball. I think the bigger question is where will he play in the starting XI? Wide left, right or centre?

8. Danny Welbeck, Manchester Utd (FW) No change

9. Steven Gerrard, Liverpool (MF) No change
Was fairly disappointing against Holland whilst on the field, but as was the rest of the team I thought. However, if Gerrard can shake off his injuries, his driving runs could be something that England rely on in the absence of Wayne Rooney in the first two games

10. Rio Ferdinand, Manchester Utd (DF) Up 15
This is the first time I have put Rio Ferdinand in the squad, and, just like Manchester Utd, I think he has timed his return to form just at the right time. I think he will prove to be pivotal in the title run-in, and having endured what was a fairly uninspiring defensive performance against Holland, there may be a need for a more experienced head at the heart of the defence; and I don’t think it will be John Terry

Possibly England's future... but is he the England now?

11. Phil Jones, Manchester Utd (DF/MF) No change
The more I see Phil Jones, the more I am impressed with his athleticism and pace; however, I think he really needs to improve his positional sense, which is possibly being hindered by him being employed in a number of different positions. That aside, I think he will go, however, if it was up to me, it wouldn’t be so clear-cut

12. James Milner, Manchester City (MF) No change

13. Theo Walcott, Arsenal (MF) Up 3
I find Theo Walcott incredibly frustrating. For England he rarely shines, but for Arsenal, I am often impressed with his directness and ability to get the ball into danger areas. I think his position in the squad may finally be cemented

14. Gareth Barry, Manchester City (MF) Down 7
I thought once again that against nippy and technical opposition, Gareth Barry can easily be exposed. I can’t fault his commitment but I think his inclusion in the squad could begin to be questioned

15. Kyle Walker, Tottenham Hotspur (DF) Down 9
A couple of months ago, the right back position was all sewn up with Glen Johnson and Kyle Walker set to battle it out to be first choice. However, Fabio Capello resigns, Manchester City’s Micah Richards comes back into contention, and all of a sudden it is game on. Walker will hope his form doesn’t suffer as Tottenham’s season comes to a close

16. Micah Richards, Manchester City (DF) Up 17
Richards provides cover for both right back and centre half, so could be a viable inclusion in the squad now Capello has left. There has been a fair few calls for his inclusion, but much will depend if, whoever is in charge, wants to take 3 right-backs, or whether they see the versatility that both Richards and Johnson can offer?

17. Scott Carson, Bursaspor (GK) No change

18. Daniel Sturridge, Chelsea (FW) Up 4
Offers width, pace and trickery. It would have been nice if he put his chance away against Holland rather than face the proposition of him, Welbeck and Campbell being England’s first three forwards and neither of them managing an international goal as yet

19. Gary Cahill, Chelsea (DF) Down 4
Unfortunately for him, I think Gary Cahill’s reputation is suffering from being part of what is a fairly calamitous period for Chelsea by their standards. The performance of his partnership with Chris Smalling against Holland wouldn’t have done him any favours either (although I don’t think Smalling is at all ready for international football yet); however, his superbly taken goal will hopefully remind people that he is a fairly decent footballer

20. Adam Johnson, Manchester City (MF) Up 4
I have had Adam Johnson floating around the cut-off mark since I began listing who I thought would make it into the squad. I still feel he has something to offer, however, I don’t think he can be assured a place until he gets that phone call

21. Stewart Downing, Liverpool (MF) Up 9
I thought Stewart Downing’s chance had gone with his continual disappointing shows in an England shirt and the promising start to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s Arsenal career. However, his inclusion in Stuart Pearce’s squad makes me think that he is still in with a shout of making it onto the plane

22. Jermain Defoe, Tottenham Hotspur (FW) Up 5
I think Defoe is the player who is most likely to benefit from Darren Bent’s misfortune

23. Robert Green, West Ham Utd (GK) No change

On the fringes

24. Chris Smalling, Manchester Utd (DF) Up 2

25. John Terry, Chelsea (DF) Down 15
I have a feeling that John Terry will miss out and his England career has come to an end. I can’t see both him and Rio Ferdinand being selected in the same squad, and I think there is possibly a need for some experience alongside what is a fairly inexperienced set of centre halves; and with Ferdinand and Manchester Utd in form, and more importantly, out of the papers, I think that Terry will be the one who misses out

26. Frank Lampard, Chelsea (MF) Down 6
He needs to begin to find form; so do Chelsea

Frazier Campbell deserves some fortune having been terribly unlucky with injuries

27. Fraizer Campbell, Sunderland (FW) New Entry
A surprising inclusion in the squad against Holland but with Darren Bent’s injury, there weren’t that many other viable alternatives. I’m sure he will be as surprised as anybody if he ends his season at the European Championships

28. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Arsenal (MF) Down 7
I was surprised to see he wasn’t selected by Stuart Pearce, particularly as he appears to be a player in form and shows no lack of confidence and a fairly mature manner for an inexperienced player. I thought he might the Michael Owen or Theo Walcott of this summer’s tournament, however, that omission may indicate that this is a tournament too soon

29. Joleon Lescott, Manchester City (DF) Down 16
I think Lescott has had a superb season and would put him ahead of other likely candidates coveting that centre half position, namely Chris Smalling. He was left out of the Holland match squad and this may mean he is a bit further down the list of candidates than I originally thought

30. Tom Cleverley, Manchester Utd (MF) Up 15

Hoping for injuries and loss form by others

31. Jack Wilshere, Arsenal (MF) Down 2
Despite him not kicking a ball this season, and his comeback consistently put off, I still think that if he gets some games under his belt before the end of the season, whoever is in charge may be tempted to pick him

32. Darren Bent, Aston Villa (FW) Down 18
Hugely unfortunate to be injured which is likely to now mean he won’t be going to the European Championships… still fancy his chances ahead of Bobby Zamora though!

33. Aaron Lennon, Tottenham Hotspur (MF) Down 2

34. Andy Carroll, Liverpool (FW) Down 2

35. Michael Carrick, Manchester Utd (MF) Up 2
Whilst watching the game against Holland I considered why, if Gareth Barry is playing, why wasn’t Michael Carrick? I’m not saying that either of them should be, but, Carrick does have the ability to be almost metronome-esque in his ability to keep the ball moving and holding onto possession in a much more stylish way than Barry

36. Paul Scholes, Manchester Utd (MF) Down 1

37. Bobby Zamora, Fulham (FW) Down 9
Unfortunately, I think Zamora’s season has taken a huge turn for the worse. Left Fulham and joined relegation threatened QPR and now appears to have seen his fledgling England career disappear

38. Phil Jagielka, Everton (DF) No change

39. Gabriel Agbonlahor, Aston Villa (FW) Up 4

Sun tan lotion, check, swimming trunks, check, WAG, check

40. Scott Sinclair, Swansea City (MF) Down 1

41. Kieran Gibbs, Arsenal (DF) Up 6

42. Jack Rodwell, Everton (MF) Up 2

43. Peter Crouch, Stoke City (FW) Down 2

44. Liam Ridgewell, West Bromwich Albion (DF) Up 2

45. Ledley King, Tottenham Hotspur (DF) Down 9
His inclusion is possibly most likely dependant on Harry Redknapp being given the position prior to the Championships

46. Danny Graham, Swansea City (FW) Down 4

47. Michael Dawson, Tottenham Hotspur (DF) Down 13
His injury is more likely to be a bigger blow to Tottenham than for England

48. David Stockdale, Fulham (GK) No change

49. Martin Kelly, Liverpool (DF) No change

50. Nathan Dyer, Swansea City (MF) No change

My thoughts on: England’s Euro 2012 squad part III

February 13, 2012 Leave a comment

The next England manager?

Plenty of things have changed since my last post, and I think these need reflecting in how I currently perceive the race for inclusion in England’s Euro 2012 squad. With Fabio Capello no longer the England manager, Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Redknapp appears to be the leading candidate to replace him, and I wonder how this will affect players’ chances of selection? The whole John Terry saga may momentarily be overshadowed by the Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra affair, however, there are many question marks over the Chelsea captain’s inclusion.

On the plane and in the squad
1. Joe Hart, Manchester City (GK) No change

2. Ashley Cole, Chelsea (DF) No change

3. Scott Parker, Tottenham Hotspur (MF) No change

4. Wayne Rooney, Manchester Utd (FW) No change
Rooney is beginning to find some form again for Manchester Utd, and if he continues to replicate this until the end of the season, it may just highlight how important he is to the national side’s chances of progressing further than the group stages

5. Glen Johnson, Liverpool (DF) Up 1
Beginning to look equally as comfortable in either full-back slot for Liverpool and is beginning to find some consistency in his game

6. Kyle Walker, Tottenham Hotspur (DF) Up 1

7. Gareth Barry, Manchester City (MF) Up 1

8. Danny Welbeck, Manchester Utd (FW) Up 2
Welbeck’s partnership with Wayne Rooney is looking increasingly dangerous as he is rapidly maturing

9. Steven Gerrard, Liverpool (MF) Up 6
There is plenty of clamour for Gerrard to take over the captain’s armband for country (again), and as he regains fitness for Liverpool, I can see him becoming a more integral feature of the Euro 2012 squad

10. John Terry, Chelsea (DF) Down 5
The whole Capello and removing Terry from captain’s duties fiasco has made his position slightly more intenable. The question of whether Terry should be playing for England for some is not related to his impending court case, but reflects that his form this season hasn’t been up to the standards he has set before. I no longer think he is a certainty to go

11. Phil Jones, Manchester Utd (DF) Down 2

12. James Milner, Manchester City (MF) Up 2

13. Joleon Lescott, Manchester City (DF) No change

14. Darren Bent, Aston Villa (FW) Down 2
After being managed, having his striking credentials questioned, and then sold by Harry Redknapp, Darren Bent may be forgiven for possibly not wanting his former manager taking charge of the national set-up. More importantly for Bent, Aston Villa are beginning to need to look over their shoulders at the sides below them as they continue to struggle for form

15. Gary Cahill, Chelsea (DF) Down 4
I would have thought Cahill’s move to the capital would have not only cemented his position in the England squad, but would also have also helped him in his quest for a regular starting place. However, he has only played one game for Chelsea since his transfer, in that they conceded 3, and it would appear that his manager is not that overwhelmed with this signing as he has been left on the bench in preference to others so far

16. Theo Walcott, Arsenal (MF/FW) Up 5
I think Theo Walcott’s place in the England squad may be debated throughout his career. This last week has seem him do well and possibly puts him slightly ahead of some of his competition for the wide births for this summer’s competition

17. Scott Carson, Bursaspor (GK) No change

18. Ashley Young, Manchester Utd (MF/FW) No change

19. Leighton Baines, Everton (DF) No change

20. Frank Lampard, Chelsea (MF) No change
If Uncle Harry is given the role, Frank Lampard may find his position in the squad is a little more secure than it was under Fabio Capello

21. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Arsenal (MF) Up 1
The youngster is continuing to impress at the Emirates Stadium, and I would almost go as far as saying that it may be a shock if he actually is not included now

22. Daniel Sturridge, Chelsea (FW) Up 3
Sturridge continues to look lively for Chelsea and is showing a willingness to track back and perform defensive duties when necessary. His form and ability is further highlighted by Chelsea’s general poor showing this year and Fernando Torres’ continued struggle in front of goal

23. Robert Green, West Ham Utd (GK) Up 15

Might just miss out
24. Adam Johnson, Manchester City (MF) No change

25. Rio Ferdinand, Manchester Utd (DF) Up 1
Ferdinand is now fit and back at the heart of Manchester Utd’s defence. It would not surprise me to see him wearing an England shirt in the summer, however, I can’t see him going as an understudy and he may take John Terry’s place in the squad

26. Chris Smalling, Manchester Utd (DF) Up 1

27. Jermain Defoe, Tottenham Hotspur (FW) Up 4
Although not in Harry Redknapp’s starting XI at White Hart Lane, Jermain Defoe may find his position in the England set-up strengthened as he won’t be competing with the likes of Adebayor and Van Der Vaart for a starting place

28. Bobby Zamora, Queens Park Rangers (FW) Down 5
Having scored on his debut, Zamora has been part of two defeats for his new team, and again, similar to Darren Bent, Zamora has history with Harry Redknapp

29. Jack Wilshere, Arsenal (MF) No change

30. Stewart Downing, Liverpool (MF) No change

May be a fair few in the queue before them
31. Aaron Lennon, Tottenham Hotspur (MF) Up 3
His return from injury may be very well timed, but Tottenham are flying, and much may rely on how much game time at club level Redknapp affords the winger between now and the summer before he can be assured a place on the plane

32. Andy Carroll, Liverpool (FW) No change

Now Capello has gone, will Richards get a chance?

33. Micah Richards, Manchester City (DF) Up 3
The cheers in the Richards household must have been emphatic on the news that Capello had resigned. This now makes the fight for right-back very interesting with Glen Johnson and Kyle Walker both performing well currently whilst Richards remains many people’s choice for England right-back

34. Micahel Dawson, Tottenham Hotspur (DF) Up 10
The possible appointment of his club manager may see him leapfrog Phil Jagielka for a place in the final squad

35. Paul Scholes, Manchester Utd (MF) New Entry
I was appauled when it became knowledge that Fabio Capello had tried to tempt the Manchester Utd midfielder out of international retirement for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. With Harry Redknapp expected to become the new England manager, Paul Scholes returning to playing and Redknapp’s recent exclamation means that I wouldn’t rule him out of a startling return to the international scene. A step backwards I would say

A dramatic return for Scholes?

36. Ledley King, Tottenham Hotspur (DF) New Entry
King oozes ability, if only his knees were up to it. However, again, like some of his teammates, the potential appointment of Redknapp may provide him with an international opportunity

37. Michael Carrick, Manchester Utd (MF) No change

38. Phil Jagielka, Everton (DF) Down 10
Currently injured whilst others are playing well. His chances of making the final squad I think are looking slimmer

39. Scott Sinclair, Swansea City (MF) Down 6

Have you booked your holiday yet?
40. Joe Cole, Lille (MF) Up 2

41. Peter Crouch, Stoke City (FW) No change

42. Danny Graham, Swansea City (FW) Up 7
He is still scoring goals but would represent a huge gamble. He may get an opportunity next season if his form continues

43. Gabriel Agbonlahor, Aston Villa (FW) Down 8

44. Jack Rodwell, Everton (MF) Down 4

45. Tom Cleverley, Manchester Utd (MF) No change

46. Liam Ridgewell, West Bromwich Albion (DF) Down 7

47. Kieran Gibbs, Arsenal (DF) Down 4

48. David Stockdale, Fulham (GK) Down 32
Mark Schwarzer has returned to keep goal for the Cottagers and I can only see Stockdale going as third choice and for experience

49. Martin Kelly, Liverpool (DF) Down 1

50. Nathan Dyer, Swansea City (MF) No change

My thoughts on: England’s Euro 2012 squad part II

February 2, 2012 3 comments

Following on from my previous blog and with England’s one and only pre-tournament friendly drawing in, competition for places in Fabio Capello’s squad continues to be a pertinent issue. With the January transfer window now closed, and a number of fixtures taking place since my initial review, I think there have been some notable changes in my list.

On the plane and in the squad

1. Joe Hart, Manchester City (GK) No change

2. Ashley Cole, Chelsea (DF) No change

3. Scott Parker, Tottenham Hotspur (MF) No change

4. Wayne Rooney, Manchester Utd (FW) No change
Despite being ineligible for the first two games of the tournament and currently being injured and out of form, there is no way Capello won’t take him

John Terry is likely to lead England this summer

5. John Terry, Chelsea (DF) No change
Missed Chelsea’s draw in Wales at Swansea City and he still has the court case hanging over his head. However, the news this week that the hearing will now take place after the European Championships is likely to mean that Terry will keep his place in the squad and the captaincy

6. Glen Johnson, Liverpool (DF) Up 1

7. Kyle Walker, Tottenham Hotspur (DF) Up 1

8. Gareth Barry, Manchester City (MF) Up 1

9. Phil Jones, Manchester Utd (DF) Down 3
Although not playing poorly, he is struggling to rekindle some of the early season form he showed in the Autumn. Injuries have certainly not helped, and he will hope that he will find fitness and form at the right time

10. Danny Welbeck, Manchester Utd (FW) Up 2
Goals at Manchester City in the FA Cup and at Arsenal in the league and his ommision against Stoke City appear to show that Welbeck is the current first choice partner for Wayne Rooney at Old Trafford. I think this is likely to continue and he may have a shout of being England’s number one striker come the summer

11. Gary Cahill, Chelsea (DF) Down 1
I expected his move to Stamford Bridge would cement a partnership with John Terry at international level, however, three games in and he is yet to kick a ball. His exclusion surprises me, particularly considering the lengthy pursuit Chelsea endured to get their man. I doubt he will remain on the bench for long, however, he needs to be playing in order to be selected

12. Darren Bent, Aston Villa (FW) Down 1

13. Joleon Lescott, Manchester City (DF) Up 1

14. James Milner, Manchester City (MF) Up 1

15. Steven Gerrard, Liverpool (MF) Up 2
His steady return to fitness will, I believe, cement his role in the final 23. A fit Steven Gerrard with his drive and experience could be a useful asset for England

16. David Stockdale, Fulham (GK) Up 5
17. Scott Carson, Bursaspor (GK) Up 5
Whoever is in the squad for England’s next friendly are likely to got to the European Championships as back-up to Joe Hart. I doubt there will be any surprises in this role although Rob Green may get a shout

18. Ashley Young, Manchester Utd (MF) Down 5
What is worrying is that Young has only played in excess of 75 minutes of football on two occasions since that 1-6 defeat at home to Manchester City in October. Young needs to return to fitness soon as he offers pace and, more importantly, an end product, an attribute that some of the other options available to Capello don’t consistently provide

19. Leighton Baines, Everton (DF) Up 11
After another inspiring performance by the Everton full-back against Manchester City, coupled with Ashley Cole’s dismissal at Swansea City, I think with the uncertainty of who may play out wide in midfield, this may dictate that an actual left-back by trade would be more prudent to take as support to Cole rather than consider playing Glen Johnson or Joleon Lescott out of position if the need necessitates

20. Frank Lampard, Chelsea (MF) Down 4
Lampard continues to have a difficult season. Not only is he no longer seen as first choice at Stamford Bridge, but he also currently injured. The fitness of Jack Wilshere may influence Lampard’s international career being extended into the summer, but, with Chelsea’s apparent lack of creativity and goals of late, Lampard may find himself becoming a key member for the Blues which won’t do his chances any harm at all

21. Theo Walcott, Arsenal (MF) Down 2

He's been dubbed the new Theo Walcott... I hope he's not!

22. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Arsenal (MF) Up 12
After his recent performance against Manchester Utd and his inclusion against Aston Villa in the FA Cup, the indications are that the former Southampton winger may become a more pivotal figure for Arsene Wenger. I think he has a good chance of making the squad, particularly with Stewart Downing, Theo Walcott and Adam Johnson all struggling for form and Ashley Young currently injured; arguably he is the in-form winger at the moment

23. Bobby Zamora, Queens Park Rangers (FW) Up 2
His move across London is an interesting one. He has swapped competing with Moussa Dembele, Bryan Ruiz, Andrew Johnson, Orlanda Sa and Fulham’s new signing, Pavel Pogrebnyak, for a regular start, for a relegation battle with his former manager Mark Hughes. I would guess the logic behind this is that he may feel he will get more opportunity to impress Fabio Capello at Loftus Road as he, and QPR supporters, will hope he forms a quick understanding with fellow new signing Djibril Cisse

Might just miss out

24. Adam Johnson, Manchester City (MF) Down 4

25. Daniel Sturridge, Chelsea (FW) Down 2

26. Rio Ferdinand, Manchester Utd (DF) No change

27. Chris Smalling, Manchester Utd (DF) No change

28. Phil Jagielka, Everton (DF) No change

Wilshere's injury has stopped him playing this summer and is likely to mean he misses Euro 2012

29. Jack Wilshere, Arsenal (MF) Down 11
Arsenal have missed Jack Wilshere desperately this season, and it would have been nice to see him in an England shirt to see him continue his good start to his international career. The news this week that he has endured a stress fracture of his heel whilst recovering from injury, I fear may mean that he misses out on this tournament

30. Stewart Downing, Liverpool (MF) Down 6

Probably can take the phone of the hook

31. Jermain Defoe, Tottenham Hotspur (FW) Down 2
Things are going great for Defoe at the minute, which sounds odd as his record shows that when given the chance at Tottenham, he scores. However, most recently, his miss away at Manchester City and the rumours that were rife surrounding a possible departure, may reflect that Defoe is no longer considered indispensible. He may need to infiltrate the seemingly preferred partnership of Emmanuel Adebayor and Rafael van der Vaart if he is going to make it to the tournament

32. Andy Carroll, Liverpool (FW) Up 1
His performance at Wolverhampton Wanderers will be something that the Liverpool supporters will want to see continue. If Carroll is going to manage to get into Capello’s thoughts, I think he is going to have to really raise his game and continue to put in these sort of performances, coupled with goals, and get about it fairly quickly

33. Scott Sinclair, Swansea City (MF/FW) Up 2
I would love for Sinclair to be given an opportunity in England’s friendly against Holland later this month; particularly with other players being injured or out of form. His, like Swansea’s, first season in the Premier League, has been a good one, and, as I stated at the start of the season, I think he is a future England international

34. Aaron Lennon, Tottenham Hotspur (MF) Down 3

35. Gabriel Agbonlahor, Aston Villa (FW) Down 3

36. Micah Richards, Manchester City (DF) Up 3

37. Michael Carrick, Manchester Utd (MF) Up 6

38. Robert Green, West Ham Utd (GK) New Entry

39. Liam Ridgewell, West Bromwich Albion (DF) New Entry
I like Liam Ridgewell and am surprised that many other teams didn’t show an interest in a player who has shown versatility in playing both central and at left back. At Birmingham City, he showed that not only was he becoming an accomplished defender, he was also a danger in opposition penalty areas. With Arsenal’s Kieran Gibbs still injured, I am struggling to find a realistic alternative to Ashley Cole or Leighton Baines at left back

Get the sun tan lotion and speedos out; you’ll be going somewhere sunnier

40. Jack Rodwell, Everton (MF) Down 3

41. Peter Crouch, Stoke City (FW) No change

42. Joe Cole, Lille (MF) No change

43. Kieran Gibbs, Arsenal (DF) Down 7

44. Michael Dawson, Tottenham Hotspur (DF) Down 6

45. Tom Cleverley, Manchester Utd (MF) Up 5

46. Jordan Henderson, Liverpool (MF) No change

47. Stephen Warnock, Aston Villa (DF) No change

48. Martin Kelly, Liverpool (DF) Down 8

49. Danny Graham, Swansea City (FW) No change

50. Nathan Dyer, Swansea City (MF) Down 5

My thoughts on: the England Euro 2012 squad race

January 20, 2012 1 comment

Can Capello and England get it right this time?

The European Championships are due to be held in Poland and Ukraine commencing on June 8th. England obviously failed to qualify for the finals of the previous tournament in Austria and Switzerland and achieved nationwide derision for their showing in South Africa in the 2010 World Cup finals. With this in mind, the squad that Fabio Capello assembles to represent our nation in Eastern Europe has a huge amount of responsibility in terms of redressing the poor performances in the previous two competitions as well as offering optimism for the new incoming national team manager.

With a little over 4 months remaining of this current season, I thought it be interesting to begin to predict how the final squad of 23 will look and map this as individual and team performances fluctuate between now and the summer; basically this will be a dynamic list that I will update periodically

The top 23 – current rankings of who I think Fabio Capello will select

1. Joe Hart, Manchester City (GK)
Literally the first name on the team sheet and secured of his starting berth barring anything cataclysmic happening between now and the plane departing

2. Ashley Cole, Chelsea (DF)
Has been arguably one of England’s most reliable performers for a number of years now and I don’t think has any real competition for his place

3. Scott Parker, Tottenham Hotspur (MF)
For far too long Scott Parker was overlooked for England in my opinion, and finally his consistency and combativeness has been rewarded with regular selection. His importance to how Capello has begun to shape his formation is as critical as his role is in Harry Redknapp’s championship contenders

4. Wayne Rooney, Manchester Utd (FW)
There was plenty of discussion around the prospect of omitting Rooney from the final squad pending his 3-match ban for the act of stupidity against Montenegro in October. His international, and more lately, domestic form, have equally been questioned, but Rooney remains one of the few players who have the ability to ‘make things happen’. The reduction of his ban to two games I think means that there is no doubt whatsoever that he will have a squad number

5. John Terry, Chelsea (DF)
Terry’s role for England provokes much debate, and his inclusion may ultimately rely on the outcome of his court appearance on February 1st. However, if we are solely assessing footballing merit, I think Capello will select Terry and will only debate whether he gets the captain’s armband or not

6. Phil Jones, Manchester Utd (DF/MF)
The former Blackburn Rovers player has received many admirers this season although he is a long way from a polished gem yet. His athleticism, speed and versatility, I think are traits that Capello will want in his squad, although it is difficult to second-guess the Italian as to where he sees him fitting into the team; full-back, centre-half or central midfield

7. Glen Johnson, Liverpool (DF)
I think Johnson remains Fabio Capello’s first choice right-back, despite the consistency of Manchester City’s Micah Richards. What may prove an issue for him though is Kyle Walker’s form at Tottenham Hotspur and whether Capello chooses him ahead of the Liverpool man, and relies on Phil Jones’ versatility to allow options for other positions elsewhere in the squad

8. Kyle Walker, Tottenham Hotspur (DF)
The former Sheffield Utd full-back has consistently been rated as a player with a bright future. His performances for Tottenham Hotspur this season, seeing off the competition of internationals Alan Hutton and Vedran Corluka, to assert himself as one of the most attacking full-backs in the Premier League can only be topped with his assured debut for England against Sweden. I think he is very real competition for Glen Johnson (although I think Micah Richards should be selected ahead of Johnson anyway)

9. Gareth Barry, Manchester City (MF)
A stalwart of the Capello reign, Barry has the ability to drift through games without being noticed too much. From what I’ve seen of Manchester City this season, he plays an integral role, however, I believe there remains questions over his agility and fitness (with visions of that German goal still very real) with regards to him truly being dubbed ‘international class’. His role may likely depend on what formation Capello opts for

England will hope the Cahill/Terry club partnership will reap dividends

10. Gary Cahill, Chelsea (DF)
Chelsea’s newest acquisition may have assured his place in the England squad by moving to the capital. His partnership at club level with John Terry may not only be a benefit for the Chelsea captain and his club, but the England coaching staff may also be forgiven for hoping that 4 months playing together on a weekly basis will be a solid foundation for a centre-half pairing at the finals

11. Darren Bent, Aston Villa (FW)
Aston Villa’s leading striker hasn’t been firing on all cylinders so far this season, however, it would probably be fair to say that neither has anyone at Villa Park. Bent though remains a real threat whenever he plays and is capable of playing the lone striker role which Capello seemingly prefers. I think he is the current incumbant of the number 9 shirt, however, how much game time Messrs Welbeck and Sturridge get may dictate if that remains the case

12. Danny Welbeck, Manchester Utd (FW)
Although Welbeck remains without an international goal and has had a gentle introduction to the England set-up, his growing prominence in a Manchester Utd shirt will be hard to ignore if he continues in the same manner as he has done so far this season

13. Ashley Young, Manchester Utd (MF/FW)
Although Young’s impact since signing from Aston Villa in the summer may have been curtailed somewhat by his injury, his performances for England have been steadily getting better over the last two years. A fit Ashley Young is an excellent attacking asset and he will hope his form returns quickly when he comes back from this current setback

14. Joleon Lescott, Manchester City (DF)
Has begun to add consistency to his game playing alongside Vincent Kompany and his performance, alongside Phil Jagielka, and the fact he is left-sided, I think may have secured his spot. A lot may depend on whether Capello wants to go with the Evertonian or give Rio Ferdinand one last hurrah

15. James Milner, Manchester City (MF)
Milner’s versatility and honesty has won him many plaudits in both an England and City shirt. I remain unsure whether he can truly compete for a starting position but I think Capello is an admirer. There is a lot of competition in midfield at the minute and Milner is one of many that could be left sitting at the airport

16. Frank Lampard, Chelsea (MF)
Many predicted that Lampard’s England career was over and now the same people are clamouring to draw a curtain on his time with Chelsea too. The problem is though that Lampard continues to do what he is good at, and that is being a goalscoring midfielder. One of the ‘golden generation’, finally not given an automatic starting place, however, I wonder whether Capello will take both him and Steven Gerrard

17. Steven Gerrard, Liverpool (MF)
Gerrard’s return to fitness couldn’t have been timed better as they have to live with the prolonged absence of Luis Suarez. However, Gerrard’s re-emergence could also prove to be vital for England as if he manages to reach the heights he has done previously, he could well fill Wayne Rooney’s role in England’s first two matches. He desperately needs to steer clear of injuries

18. Jack Wilshere, Arsenal (MF)
Yet to kick a ball in competitive action this season and Wilshere, I think, is still likely to make it onto the plane such is the belief in the young Arsenal midfielder. If he’s fit and playing I doubt Capello will leave him behind

19. Theo Walcott, Arsenal (MF/FW)
Walcott narrowly missed out on the debacle of South Africa and pledged to make it a more difficult decision next time. For me, he too often goes missing in games, however, his pace continues to frighten defenders. Arsenal’s wayward season isn’t helping his cause, however, Stewart Downing’s and Adam Johnson’s inconsistency may allow him to keep his place

20. Adam Johnson, Manchester City (MF)
Despite struggling for form recently for Manchester City, Johnson remains an excellent impact player for England and I think it may be a fight between him, Walcott and Downing for two spots… unless of course Capello opts to be more attacking and take 5 forwards that is

21. David Stockdale, Fulham (GK)
22. Scott Carson, Bursaspor (GK)
English goalkeepers seem very keen to not play for England/for Fabio Capello, and with the dominance of Joe Hart as number 1, the two back-up ‘keepers seem to be resigned to a little relaxing holiday. These two seem to be currently playing second and third fiddle

23. Daniel Sturridge, Chelsea (FW)
Sturridge has openly been critical of his lack of game time for Chelsea, and to be fair, he is their leading striker in terms of goals. In addition to that, his performances at the end of the last campaign at the Reebok Stadium, and you would think his place in the England squad would be more secure. Unless Sturridge gets to play a bigger role in Chelsea’s run-in he could see himself considering a role for the Olympic team instead

Make sure you’ve got 6 months on your passport

24. Stewart Downing, Liverpool (MF)
Consistency and goalscoring continues to be an issue for Downing, and with a number of other options, I think he will miss out

25. Bobby Zamora, Fulham (FW)
Fabio Capello likes to have a physical presence up front and it would appear that Fulham’s Bobby Zamora fits the bill. He does appear to be slightly out of favour at Craven Cottage at the minute and unless that situation improves, he may find his one and only chance of appearing on the big stage disappears. If he scores goals regularly between  now and the end of the season, I think he will go in place of either Bent or Sturridge

Rio Ferdinand: Still an England international?

26. Rio Ferdinand, Manchester Utd (DF)
In my eyes, Ferdinand’s England career is over. There are plenty of alternatives and with his age and injuries, he appears to no longer have the aura about him which resulted in his multi-million pound moves to both Elland Road and Old Trafford. I’m still not sure though that Capello shares my judgement

27. Chris Smalling, Manchester Utd (DF)
Much has been made of the former Fulham defender this year, however, for me, I still don’t know what to make of him. He’s played at full-back, but I think centre-half will ultimately where is career will lie. Not quite good enough yet and I’m not sure what Capello would get out of taking him

28. Phil Jagielka, Everton (DF)
Partnered Gary Cahill superbly in the friendly against Spain, and continues to be an integral cog in the Everton side and one of the most sought after defenders in the Premier League. His recent injury may prove to scupper his hopes of making the trip, however, the impact of injuries elsewhere in the squad may dictate the final outcome. If Wilshere is unfit, Capello may see Phil Jones as a holding midfielder; equally the outcome of John Terry’s court case may lead to an opening but I think Jagielka may once again miss out on playing on the biggest stage

29. Jermain Defoe, Tottenham Hotspur (FW)
Once a Capello favourite and often repaid him with goals. Now, he is playing back-up to Emanuel Adebayor and Rafael van der Vaart at White Hart Lane, and unless he can oust either of them, I doubt whether Defoe will get a ticket

30. Leighton Baines, Everton (DF)
Possibly Ashley Cole’s reserve, however, with Glen Johnson and Joleon Lescott both showing versatility, Leighton Baines may see himself omitted as a method of fulfilling more attacking options in the squad

Probably won’t need to wait for a call

Will Andy Carroll get another opportunity in an England shirt?

31. Aaron Lennon, Tottenham Hotspur (MF)
32. Gabriel Agbonlahor, Aston Villa (FW)
33. Andy Carroll, Liverpool (FW)
34. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Arsenal (MF)
35. Scott Sinclair, Swansea City (MF/FW)
36. Kieran Gibbs, Arsenal (DF)
37. Jack Rodwell, Everton (MF)
38. Michael Dawson, Tottenham Hotspur (DF)
39. Micah Richards, Manchester City (DF)



Book your holidays, I doubt you’ll be heading to the European Championships

Joe Cole appears to be enjoying French football

40. Martin Kelly, Liverpool (DF)
41. Peter Crouch, Stoke City (FW)
42. Joe Cole, Lille (MF)
43. Michael Carrick, Manchester Utd (MF)
44. Leon Britten, Swansea City (MF)
45. Nathan Dyer, Swansea City (MF)
46. Jordan Henderson, Liverpool (MF)
47. Stephen Warnock, Aston Villa (DF)
48. Danny Simpson, Newcastle Utd (DF)
49. Danny Graham, Swansea City (FW)
50. Tom Cleverley, Manchester Utd (MF)

My thoughts on: Wayne Rooney and England

October 10, 2011 4 comments

Wayne Rooney shows the petulance we all thought he'd grown out of

On Friday night we saw England qualify for next summer’s European Championship finals in Poland and Ukraine due to a 2-2 draw in Montenegro. It was a strange game I thought. For the first 40 minutes England seemed to be relatively in control without playing particularly well, and thanks to taking their chances, had secured a two-goal lead.

Although Montenegro had shown signs of causing problems for the England defence and had reduced the deficit before half time, the sending off of Wayne Rooney could arguably be referred to as the catalyst for the sustained pressure Montenegro applied in search of the goal that would secure their play-off spot.

Rooney’s red card, in my opinion, is incontestable, despite Joe Hart’s protestations, and I think is an act of stupidity that he  unfortunately remains capable of. It is debatable whether Rooney ought to have started considering the news regarding his father and uncle, and it is only speculation whether that was a contributory factor to his poor performance and ultimate sending off.

I thought Rooney was poor in the first half in Podgorica; his touch was unusually slack, his passing poor and I thought his general contribution was not equal to the level we would expect from a supposedly world-class player against this sort of opposition. I felt you could visibly see Rooney becoming increasingly more frustrated with his own performance and was surprised that Capello didn’t succumb to the urge to bring him off and move Ashley Young behind Darren Bent.

Rooney’s petulance could have had far more serious consequences if Montenegro were a slicker and better unit. The home side and the support were lifted by England’s reduction in personnel and I wonder what would have been the final outcome if they had managed to find the equaliser 5 or 10 minutes earlier? My gut feeling is that they may have gone on to get a third goal and England would have found themselves in the lottery of the play-offs, but I think more importantly raises a question over his temperament, an issue I think that many of us had thought he had learned to handle.

Rooney will get at least a one match ban and will miss England’s opening fixture next summer; it could be worse pending the referee’s match report. Capello has publicly stated that the Manchester Utd frontman will be omitted from the warm-up matches (well, at least the starting XI) as the England manager has now claimed he wants to “test new players, a different style and a new different movement”.

I applaud the decision to exclude Rooney from the build-up to the competition and I would urge Capello to consider why he hasn’t already considered an England team without him anyway? Amidst the adulation linked to the removal of the reliance on previous stalwarts such as Ferdinand and Lampard, Rooney appears to be immune to ‘the chop’ despite his recent record in an England shirt being relatively uninspiring.

Will Daniel Sturridge be given a chance?

Who is to replace Wayne Rooney though? Much will depend on how Capello wants England to play. Will he want to see Steven Gerrard returning from injury to play a more advanced role or will he opt to move Ashley Young inside (which may depend on the form of Adam Johnson, Theo Walcott, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Aaron Lennon)? We are led to believe that the forwards in with a chance of claiming a starting position are Darren Bent, Jermaine Defoe, Peter Crouch, Bobby Zamora, Andy Carroll, Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge; but what I don’t understand is why has it come to Wayne Rooney being suspended before Capello realises that you just cannot rely on one player and in the modern game, the era of the squad, alternatives need to always be considered.

This isn’t intended to be an opportunity to bash Wayne Rooney; I rate him very highly and I think it is clear that Manchester Utd function far better when he is playing. However, for England, I struggle to recount the number of games where Rooney has excelled and rather than react positively to having a ‘world class’ striker leading our nation’s line, I now feel that his inclusion is on name rather than merit.

Since the start of 2010, England have played 19 international fixtures (of which 7 have been friendlies) and have won 57.9% of them. The six draws and the opposition and circumstances that these have come in I think are a totally different discussion but if presented with the names of Montenegro, Algeria, USA, Ghana and Switzerland I would have expected more positive results from the English national team.

Wayne Rooney has played in 76.1% of the total game time during this period; and as England’s main striker I would have expected a better goal ratio than one every 433.7 minutes (or 4.8 games). Wayne Rooney has scored just 3 international goals in this time, which I think is quite a stark statistic, particularly if you take into account that two of these goals were scored in Bulgaria only last month.

Jermaine Defoe secures England's only win at World Cup 2010

Over this same period, Jermaine Defoe has been given 453 minutes in an England shirt, including 4 competitive starts, playing 26.5% of total available game time. Defoe scored in two of these games; a hat tick against Bulgaria at Wembley and the winning goal in England’s solitary win in South Africa in the World Cup. Defoe’s four goals however show a ratio of a goal every 113.3 minutes and is almost 4 times better than that of Rooney. The Tottenham forward has had periods of injury but has accumulated only 31 minutes of international football in the last nine England matches as Capello has sought a player to play alongside Rooney with Kevin Davies and Bobby Zamora amongst others to be given a taste of an opportunity.

Peter Crouch was once a maligned figure when representing England, but his 22 goals have over time meant he has been largely a mainstay of the national squad. Crouch’s last run-out was a 5 minute cameo in the 1-2 defeat to France in November 2010 on an evening when England looked embarrassingly second best; he scored. Other than 70 minutes in the previous game against Montenegro at Wembley, Crouch’s opportunities have been bit-part at best, with him accumulating just 17 minutes in total at the World Cup (which I think is remarkable!) and then a couple of halves against Mexico and Egypt as part of the build-up to that tournament. Crouch scored 3 goals in those two warm-up games which makes the fact he was given only 17 minutes against opposition such as Algeria, Slovenia and USA even more astonishing! Since March 2010, Peter Crouch has scored 4 goals whilst playing 10.8% of the total game time for England; that’s one goal every half and I think raises serious questions as to his under-usage in South Africa and to why he seems to have been cast aside so easily by Fabio Capello. I hope he begins to find the net regularly for Stoke City.

Darren Bent finally appears to be given opportunity and I am glad about that. I am a big supporter of Bent and I think far too often when people talk about him they refer to the negative things (his miss against Switzerland, his move from Sunderland to Aston Villa and Redknapp’s famous quote), rather than concentrate on his excellent goalscoring record. In the 12 games England played in 2010, Darren Bent played 75 minutes and scored one goal; the third in the 3-1 win in Switzerland. Since then, he has been involved in 4 of England’s subsequent nine matches, scoring 3 goals in the process. Similarly to Defoe and Crouch, statistically, Bent poses a much greater goal threat than Wayne Rooney as in the 409 minutes Darren Bent has played, he is managing a goal approximately every 100 minutes.

I think for too long, Wayne Rooney’s inclusion in an England shirt has been uncontested as the general consensus is that he is capable of doing something extraordinary or being capable of producing a match winning moment. I’m struggling to recall many of these in recent years and therefore think that his role in the team needs to be examined. As a striker, Wayne Rooney’s value to the team surely is primarily how many goals he scores; particularly if, as Capello has been known to do, he is played as a sole forward. I hope we can draw a positive out of his sending off in that it encourages Capello (and hopefully provide his successor with some ‘food for thought’) to challenge Rooney’s position and offer encouragement to other strikers by utilising a different system with different personnel. The three players I highlighted, Defoe, Bent and Crouch, may have all not been in form during the period I highlighted, however, when selected they have produced goals as their statistics show; something Rooney cannot claim.
Player Total mins Game time Goals Min per Goal Games per Goal
ROONEY 1,301 76.1% 3 433.7 4.8
DEFOE 453 26.5% 4 113.3 1.3
CROUCH 184 10.8% 4 46.0 0.5
BENT 409 23.9% 4 102.3 1.1

My thoughts on: The Next England Manager

September 28, 2011 3 comments

England face a trip to Montenegro on Friday 7th October as Fabio Capello aims to secure qualification to next summer’s European Championship Finals in Poland and Ukraine. A draw will suffice but England, as always, will be expected to win and to mount a serious challenge for winning the tournament with the memory of the team’s failings in South Africa still fresh in the mind.

For many, and I include me in that, thought that there should have been a change in leadership after the defeat to Germany; but there wasn’t, and now England sit on the verge of qualification for the 2012 tournament with Capello still at the helm, albeit ready to step down post-tournament (or sooner I guess dependant on the results next week?).

The big question then is who should take the reins and move England forward? To be fair, to call the Italian’s time in the job as a failure may be a bit harsh. We are slowly seeing a change in personnel and the removal of the reliance on a number of players in preference of youth; he has overseen comfortable qualification campaigns and who knows; he may have learned from the mistakes made in 2010 and England may have a good tournament next year (what would happen if we went on to win it I wonder?). The fact remains though that, in my opinion, England need a fresh start inspired by a new regime.

The next England manager?

The leading contender amongst the media and many supporters is Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Redknapp. Although Redknapp is tagged by some as a ‘wheeler dealer’ manager, borne out of his stewardship at clubs such as AFC Bournemouth, Portsmouth, West Ham Utd and Southampton; Redknapp has dealt with many high-profile players, so I fail to see how this attempted blot on his CV stands up. Some might say he hasn’t been that successful, which again I would argue against, citing his time at West Ham Utd with finishes of 5th and 8th and the overseeing of many academy products making the journey into first team regulars (and ultimately internationals).

His two stints in charge of Portsmouth brought about great success for a provincial club; winning the second tier at a relative canter, keeping them in the top-flight and winning the FA Cup and was ultimately more successful than his brief spell in charge of their near-neighbours Southampton.

Now in charge of Tottenham Hotspur; Redknapp has led the club forward to a point where they are now seriously considered as a real and consistent threat to the monopoly of the top-four slots in the Premier League, and indeed, oversaw qualification to the Champions League for the first time in the club’s history.

I hear suggestions that this relative success was only possible due to the financial clout he received at Portsmouth and what he currently gets at White Hart Lane; however, I would argue that this is really not that relevant as being England manager dictates that you have a pool of every English player to select from and the role relies more on coaching ability, tactical nous and man management skills rather than how successful or dependant you have been in the transfer market to acquire success.

The FA I believe have openly suggested that the next manager of the national team will be an Englishman and although it is a sentiment that I would rather, I think it is something of a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction to the media/public frustration connected to Sven-Goran Eriksson and the current incumbant. By choosing an Englishman does not necessarily guarantee you greater success as the opposite doesn’t as recent appointments have shown. My main issue with Fabio Capello is that I feel he doesn’t have the grasp of the language to communicate effectively nor did he have a great understanding of the English game when he came into the role… I may even question if he fully understands it now.

I would not be adverse to another non-English appointment, but I would stress that it would have to be given to a character who has experience of the English league and is able to communicate clearly and concisely in English. I would have no problems with names such as Wenger, Ferguson, Mourinho or O’Neill being linked to the job; all of which have been successful in England (albeit to differing levels and consistency) and all of which would command the respect of the squad. The same old arguments undoubtedly will be discussed referencing how successful (or lack of it) English managers actually are; but the problem with that is that if you measure success purely by winning the Premier League, until one of those clubs who monopolise that title give an Englishman the job, then it is unlikely we will see it for a few years yet.

Another common suggestion is that in order to be successful England need to appoint someone with proven international management experience. Research shows that this is completely inaccurate as since 1994, only Berti Vogts (one year with Kuwait) and Roger Lemerre (coached under Aime Jacquet’s reign) had previous experience at that level and therefore I think blows that thought process out of the water

The Special One?

For me, the next England manager needs to be an experienced coach, someone who has shown to be tactically aware and successful, someone who can communicate coherently with players and supporters, someone who can manage the players as individuals, including those players who aren’t necessarily in the squad, and someone who commands respect. For me, my choice would be one of the above; Redknapp, Wenger, Ferguson, Mourinho or O’Neill; I wonder whether the FA dare select any of these characters or opt for the ‘safer option’ of Stuart Pearce?