COS contributor Tom Moss speculates on the squad that England boss Fabio Capello will bring to the World Cup, and suggests that safe and steady route isn’t necessarily the best approach if England are to succeed in South Africa.
Fabio Capello is a practical man. He is astute, clever and above all confident. He won’t leave a stone unturned in his preparation for England’s assault on World Cup glory this June. Today is another World Cup milestone, and there is now just 50 days to the big kick-off. By now you can be sure that Capello will have a fair idea of his preliminary 30-man squad, with perhaps three or four places in the final 23 still up for grabs.
Another thing you can be sure of is that Capello won’t make a bizarrely erratic and ultimately idiotic selection akin to Sven Goran Erikkson’s inclusion of a then 17-year old Theo Walcott this time four years ago. I was working as a bank clerk at the time of that infamous moment of football madness, and I recall asking the next customer in line to kindly wait a moment as I struggled not to choke with disbelief. With Capello, there will be no real surprises. He will go with a tried and tested selection, players he has already worked with throughout his time as England boss.
Any football fan worth their salt could pick 20 of the 23 that the Italian supremo will call upon. But let’s get a few things straight before I go through my list of 23 that I would bring if, by some criminally insane reason, I was in Capello’s position. Firstly, contrary to the misguided opinion of the masses, it won’t take a miracle for England to win this competition. Far from it. The quality of international football at the moment is average, with only Spain, Brazil and possibly Argentina ahead of England in the list of teams capable of holding the precious trophy aloft on July 11th. If Spain have an off-day or Brazil’s fragile defence is exposed, England will be in as good a position as any other nation to pounce on the opportunity. That is, of course, dependant on the squad that Capello has with him. I just have this nagging fear that he will name a squad containing too many patched up, out-of-form or simply inept passengers.
Fabio Capello has arguably five world-class players at his disposal. World class players are players that would have no problem walking into any other squad, players that make opposition managers draw up specific plans to stifle their influence on a game, players who can change a game with a moment of brilliance. That’s what a world-class player is. And if a player isn’t world class, then they have to compensate by other means to warrant a place in a squad as competitive as England’s. Do they offer something that can catch the opposition off guard? Do they have a particular asset that no-one else vying for your spot has? And with all this in mind, I’ve drawn up my 23-man England squad. Be warned, it most likely won’t tally with your opinion, and it certainly won’t mirror that of Mr. Capello. I’ve ‘dropped’ at least three players that are stone-wall certs to be on the plane to South Africa, but that’s the luxury of being an armchair manager…I can do what I want and don’t have to call the soon-to-be-heartbroken professional footballer in front of me to inform him of my decision. Enjoy, and please leave a comment calling for my immediate sacking if you don’t agree!
Goalkeepers: (x3) Despite Sam Allardyce’s comments that Paul Robinson should call Fabio Capello and ask for an explanation for his exclusion from recent panels, the Blackburn stopper would be better advised to save his breath. There’s only three keepers that Capello will be bringing, because there is only three keepers that have done enough to deserve selection. David James will probably pip Rob Green to the No.1 spot, while Joe Hart’s fine season for Birmingham will be capped with the chance to work on his tan from the stands.
Defenders: (x8) Fitness permitting, the back four will be Glen Johnson, Ashley Cole with the John Terry/Rio Ferdinand centre back partnership continuing. The problem is that with Ferdinand and Cole both struggling with injuries, the likelihood of that four actually playing together at the same time seems remote. Capello will probably supplement the four already mentioned with Matthew Upson, Joleon Lescott, Gary Neville and Leighton Baines. For me, only Matthew Upson and Leighton Baines could justify inclusion. Neville is a spent force and with the heat and altitude to consider, he’s out of my squad. So too is Lescott. Struggling at Man City and with Baines to cover for Cole, he hasn’t done enough for me. I’m bringing Michael Dawson, who is in the form of his life and has been one of the key factors in Spurs assault on 4th place this season. No English centre-back, Terry and Ferdinand included, has had a better season. Right-back is a problem area. Johnson has also struggled with injury earlier in the season, and with the inexperience of Baines and Dawson, I’m bringing Wes Brown to South Africa, edging out Micah Richards who like Lescott has failed to live up to his reputation in recent times. Phil Jagielka and Steven Warnock are unlucky to miss out.
Midfielders: (x8) Let’s cut straight to the chase here. I’m dropping, get ready for it, Michael Carrick and Theo Walcott. There is no way Capello will, but remember, for this brief rambling, I’m the boss! Theo Walcott can run fast. Very fast. So too can Dwaine Chambers, but he’s not coming either. Walcott went to the last World Cup. That’s one World Cup too much for a player who since then has proved time and time again that he cannot cross a ball accurately and doesn’t pose a serious goal threat. If he stood on the right wing with a hundred footballs and was asked to hit a target the size of Neil Ruddock in the penalty area, from a stationary position, under no pressure from defenders, I reckon he’d hit the mark about twenty times. He’s out. Michael Carrick is one of the most infuriating players to watch. He occasionally shows world-class promise but then hits a ten yard pass ten yards off target. He has no ability to change gears in a game, and is as one-dimensional as a postage stamp under an elephant’s foot, with Neil Ruddock on its back. In a standard 4-4-2, I’d start with Ashley Young, Aaron Lennon, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard. But I won’t be playing that formation against the likes of Spain, I’ll be using a 4-5-1, with Garreth Barry coming in to provide the manpower in midfield to stifle the opposition. Along with these five, I’m taking Shaun Wright-Phillips, Scott Parker and James Milner. Wright-Phillips just gets the nod ahead of Adam Johnson, who needed another six months in the Premier League to fully convince me of his worth. Parker is perhaps the most underrated English player in the game at the moment. Milner has played his way in ahead of teammate Downing and a few more like him, simply because of his versatility and work-rate. He’s buzzing at the moment and could play a huge part in England’s progress. Spare a thought for David Beckham, who would have been in my squad purely for his influence, experience and ability to inspire teammates even when not playing.
Forwards: (x4) Three players are guaranteed to appear for Capello and rightly so. Wayne Rooney, one of England’s world-class players is the key man. He’ll be joined by Spurs duo Peter Crouch and Jermaine Defoe. Capello will more than likely opt for Emile Heskey as the fourth choice. I wouldn’t have him near the team. I admire Heskey, and he has worked well with Rooney previously, but if you’re looking for that kind of ‘Rooney-foil’ player, I’m going to raise more eyebrows than Raymond Domenech on speed by plumping for Kevin Davies. Ask any centre-back across the Premier League who they hate marking most, and I can guarantee that Davies will be higher on the list than any other potential candidate. Forget your Zamora’s, your Bent’s….cast your mind back to what I was saying earlier….if a player isn’t world-class, then have you something extra to compensate? Kevin Davies is better than Zamora, Bent or Heskey in the air. He is a player who continental-style defenders will have nightmares about for years after if he is utilised, and his work-rate and attitude is as good as anyone else’s in my squad. Cancel your holiday Kevin, you’re going to South Africa.
So that’s it. My 23 man squad has been announced, officially here on CaughtOffside.com first! What a scoop.
MY ENGLAND SQUAD FABIO CAPELLO’S SQUAD
David James David James
Rob Green Rob Green
Joe Hart Joe Hart
Glen Johnson Glen Johnson
John Terry John Terry
Rio Ferdinand Rio Ferdinand
Ashley Cole Ashley Cole
Wes Brown Gary Neville
Leighton Baines Leighton Baines
Matthew Upson Matthew Upson
Michael Dawson Joleon Lescott
Steven Gerrard Steven Gerrard
Frank Lampard Frank Lampard
Gareth Barry Gareth Barry
Joe Cole Joe Cole
Scott Parker Michael Carrick
Shaun-Wright Phillips Theo Walcott
James Milner James Milner
Aaron Lennon Aaron Lennon
Wayne Rooney Wayne Rooney
Peter Crouch Peter Crouch
Kevin Davies Emile Heskey
Jermaine Defoe Jermaine Defoe