Steven Gerrard has found himself at the centre of attention, which really could have been avoided if tabloid journalists and FA pen-pushers finally saw sense!
Once again, the media has decided to do its worst and blow a problematic situation out of all proportion, but maybe they should be attacking the FA for scheduling friendlies in the first place?
The aims of football friendlies during the football season are clear. Aim number one is for Capello to try to get his team playing as a unit, and so that he can get a good idea of who is up for the job when it comes to the big qualifying fixtures. Aim number two is for the FA to make money from the money-spinning matches that essentially are 100% meaningless.
I feel sorry for Capello as once again he starts to get phone calls from across the nation informing him that such and such has a twinge, and such and such isn’t fully fit, but what does the England manager expect? The age-old argument will never really go away, and the oft-recited line of “well we pay his wages” from club fans is in fact totally correct and really does sum up the situation perfectly.
Surely no one can doubt the desire of a player such as Steven Gerrard to proudly display his talents for his country but in many ways he is hamstrung (pun intended) by loyalties he feels to his club. If he has a twinge, or even a hint of twinge, then he would be wrong to go to Germany, simply because the game means nothing.
In this day and age when Premier League footballers plying their trade for a team playing in Europe, as well as dealing with their domestic commitments, will probably be looking at a season of between 50-55 games, and that’s a lot of football. They already sit out the early rounds of the Carling Cup as a result of this hectic schedule; are they supposed to report for every single friendly? So you see the problem, so what then could be the solution?
Well one can see the importance of the need for teams to meet up and train together, and be part of a collective squad so that the boss can get to know his players and for the players to bond, but can anyone really explain to me the wisdom for instance in the upcoming friendlies against Slovenia and Slovakia? Firstly, friendlies are more relevant to players starting their international careers, so not so important to proven international stars. Secondly, the law preventing unlimited substitutions should be lifted, the argument that the constant changing of teams during these matches doesn’t carry water as the matches themselves will not be any more or less entertaining with 11 changes than with 5!
Maybe international squads could convene more often in the season for two or three day periods but perhaps this could go hand in hand with a slight cut in the amount of actual matches?
It is important to note that I am in no way refuting the importance of each and every competitive qualifier, or indeed the finals of major tournaments themselves, this is about trying to cater for national teams needs without harming a club’s desire to not hamper their players unduly.
The media will always jump in on any possible story that sells papers and gets people on their websites, which is fair enough, but how about being more balanced guys? After all, a number of players have pulled out of this upcoming squad, yet it’s Stevie G who seems to have attracted the most attention, why is that?
I think it would be incorrect for people to suggest that footballers now care less about playing for their country than they did say 20-30 years ago, the point is that the game has changed a great deal in recent years. Whilst many would attack Sir Alex or Rafa for not wanting to let a player with a slight knock travel across Europe for a non-competitive fixture, maybe those people should consider the cost to a season in terms of success financial, or otherwise a long-term injury could do?
I am sure that every player who is selected to play for their country feels immense pride at being selected, but there has to be place in their thinking for the club that has honed their talents, pays their wages and ultimately got them that international call-up in the first place.