COS contributor Jamie Clarke takes a look at the latest recipient of the Three Lions captain’s armband
Steven Gerrard must be wondering just how he is England captain as the team prepare for the 2010 world cup in South Africa. For many others, however, it has long been the case of wondering just how Gerrard had not been captain sooner. It’s taken John Terry’s over-charged mojo and an Emile Heskey challenge on Ferdinand for it to happen, but for many people England finally have their true leader. Gerrard was pivotal in 2006 and has improved under Capello, however Capello’s Italian roots ensured that Terry, and then Ferdinand, would be England’s chief lion due to his desire to hand England’s captaincy to a centre-half. Baresi (AC Milan), Sanchis (Real Madrid) and Cannavaro (Juventus) were Capello’s defensive captains and stand as testament to Capello’s preference for a leader at the back.
So Capello now faces a difficult, but not entirely new, challenge with Gerrard as captain. Raul captained Madrid in Capello’s second stint with the galacticos and he managed to win La Liga. The comparison becomes natural; Gerrard is to Liverpool what Raul is to Madrid. And the thing is Gerrard could mean the same to England. In Istanbul Gerrard won Liverpool the Champions League as he scored one and won a penalty, subsequently being voted man of the match and UEFA club footballer of the year. Again, in 2006, he scored twice and dragged the FA cup trophy back to Liverpool with an outstanding injury-time equaliser leaving myself and countless Hammers equally devastated and astounded by the stoppage time goal. Gerrard has been, on so many occasions, the inspiration for Liverpool players, supporters and former managers. Furthermore, he has performed at the pinnacle of European and domestic football. He is the individual talent that could catalyse an England World Cup triumph.
So how should Capello construct a team of eleven around captain Gerrard? With James set to be number one, the back four will probably consist of Cole, Terry, King/Upson and Johnson. I would prefer King, however Upson is an assured and competent partner for Terry. With Barry returning to fitness, Gerrard can shine as captain in a central midfield role alongside Lampard. With the assurance offered by Barry protecting the back four Gerrard and Lampard could then push on and score the crucial goals we need to progress. Creative play and incisive runs into the central path towards Gerrard and Lampard will be needed just as much as Rooney’s deeper hold up play. I would, therefore, go with Milner and Cole on the left and right wing respectively. A five-man midfield would allow Gerrard and Lampard to support, and be supported by, Rooney in attacking situations. This midfield would offer security to what will be a delicately assembled back line and would also enable Lampard, Gerrard and company to attack with confidence.