The People against Wayne Rooney

21 06 2010

Honestly? They should come home now, as with every performance they embarrass their country more and more. The Quarter-Final Exit blog is not usually the place for hysterical hyperbole, so we’ll save the needless regurgitation of the clusterf@@ck against Algeria and just describe it as it was – hugely disrespectful. To the fans, to the shirt, to the history of the national team. There’s a very large part of me that would enjoy seeing this team eliminated – this generation of players, with the exception of David Beckham, deserves nothing.

So, with the honest points out of the way – here’s our starting eleven for Wednesday, and naturally our justification for it.

Soon to be home of another installment of English tragedy

1. David James – The dream of seeing the accomplished Joe hart starting has died, we’re stuck with David James. However, as one of the few to emerge with a slice of reputation intact on Friday, the country fears impending catastrophe and Jubulani sponsored madness less than it might with James between the posts.

2. Glen Johnson – There’s just aren’t any other options. The only positive, at a stretch, to be taken from his Algeria showing was that he wasn’t atrocious – merely very poor.

3. Ashley Cole – The only England player other than James to have sustained an acceptable level of performance in South Africa.

4. Michael Dawson – He possesses qualities that England desperately need at the moment, the most vital being that he would clearly run through fire to wear the shirt – not something that could be said for many others. Playing Matthew Upson would guarantee elimination.

5. John Terry – Seemingly now disliked by his team-mates for over stepping his brief with the media, but there quite literally is nobody else that can be selected. The biggest positive from Algeria was Jamie Carragher’s yellow card and suspension.

6. Steven Gerrard – Gareth Barry is not good enough to be playing international football, and Steven Gerrard is wasted out wide. End of discussion.

7. Aaron Lennon – Mystifyingly awful in both games. Lennon probably more than any other player has seen his confidence evaporate, looking to get rid of the ball as soon as he receives it. Gone are the probing runs and the searing pace that make him such an asset to his club, he needs to stop hiding and actually play.

8. Frank Lampard – His very last chance. If England fail to progress on Wednesday, it could mark his last appearance for England. Now a much-maligned figure for the disparity between club and country performances, Lampard is another clearly paralysed by fear. A truly great player hidden inside a shell of anxiety, his omission will only lead to a plethora of ‘what-ifs’ should England lose.

9. Jermain Defoe – A decision made because despite his obvious merits, Wayne Rooney is not fit to represent his country – in both senses of the phrase. His limp, ghost-written apology for the incident on Friday was unacceptable, and his original comments were an embodiment of the detachment of professional athletes from the real world. Coupled with the most disgracefully inept performance by an England player in my lifetime, only reputation can save him.

Empty Shirt

10. Peter Crouch – Emile Heskey’s purpose in the England team is to bring the best out of Wayne Rooney – now that this theory is at best, devalued, there should be no opposition to the Villa forward’s exclusion. Crouch brings a menace that can’t be contained, and Slovenia is exactly the kind of team that he should be able to ‘flat-track bully’.

11. Joe Cole – Almost certainly short of fitness, but through the ashes of implosion around him, he has emerged as a potential saviour. Drastic measures are now needed, and the game-breaking qualities owned by Cole could resuscitate England’s form.


Feeding The Myth

17 06 2010

Maicon: Poor final-ball

As Maicon sliced in Brazil’s opening goal of the World Cup, you knew what was coming next. No, not a sudden interruption to scheduled programming in North Korea, but rather a tedious repetition of a process that accompanies Brazilian football at every World Cup. The embelishment of the ordinary to the extraordinary.

Other than the ongoing debate over the suspect physics of the Jubulani, bemoaning the standard and entertainment value of the play
has been the alternate raison d’etre for the perenially unentertained at this World Cup. Therefore, it was to be expected that Maicon`s mishit centre would fall into the hands of hyperbole loving ITV commentator types who desperately craved a marquee moment. In the same manner that every success achieved by African teams has been transformed into a ‘strike’ against the synonyms of the continent, even the most mundane Brazilian football has historically been wrapped in an articial glory. Like its predeccesor, Ronaldinho’s overhit free-kick in 2002, the Maicon goal, had it been scored by a journeyman right-back plying his trade in the depths of the football league, would have been described as it was… a shank. So, as opposed to the ‘swerving screamer’ (BBC), or the ‘geometry-defying…extraordinary goal’ (Telegraph), maybe we can just accept it for what it was?

I suspect also that those still salivating over ‘the cross that never was’ are the same demographic that still believe Roberto Carlos to have been a ‘dead-ball specialist´. The owner of the biggest pair of thighs in world football had many qualities, but free-kick taking was never one of them. Rather, and a truth that the player would later confirm, a mishit thunderbolt against France in 1997 gave way to a mythical ability around the set-piece. Whether it was the theatre of his absurdly exaggerated run-up, or merely being clad in the yellow and blue of Esquadroa de Ouro, his peerless abilty to threaten the lives of those occupying a defensive wall or indeed the upper tiers of the stand behind the goal never tarnished his reputation.

It must be the shirts, or the lingering ‘joga bonito’ advertising slogan that renders ‘football tourists’ all misty eyed at the site of anything a Brazilian player does with a ball. So, when you see Maicon’s goal in an over-emotive retrospective of the tournament, watch the player’s eyes before he strikes the ball, watch his state of balance, and in the words of one of the Bavarian patrons of the German bar in which i watched the game, observe the ‘sloooyce’, and ignore the myth.

Yankee Spanking Time

10 06 2010

In a break from the fashionable negativity usually deployed on this blog, today we’ve gone all patriotic on you. Maybe we’ve just been beaten down, or maybe we couldn’t find any other nationalities within our family bloodlines – either way, nice and positive for a change.

The Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Rustenberg

Our England team to face the USA – Saturday 12th June, 7.30pm.

Joe Hart – While abuse has rained in over our continual backing of the Man City stopper, it’s obvious that Fabio Capello’s fear of change is Hart’s only obstacle in his pursuit of the number 1 shirt. Technically excellent, secure hands, and a high level of confidence are all essential ingredients in the make-up of an international goalkeeper – Hart is set-apart from his rivals in possessing all three.

Glen Johnson – If Gary Neville had been included in the squad, the world would seem a happier place. When England encounter decent opposition in the latter stages, the likes of Di-Maria, Nilmar, and Robben will most likely highlight this error mercilessly.

Ledley King – Phenomenal player, creaking athlete. Nobody should lose sleep over his level of desire, but time and injury have robbed him of the electric recovery pace which made him such a formidable opponent in the earlier stages of his career.

John Terry – Suspect personality aside, he’s clearly willing to run through the clichéd brick wall for his country. Has anchored the defence of a premier European club side for the best part of a decade now, nothing lurks around the corner that he hasn’t seen before.

Ashley Cole – World Class in every aspect of his game. Is also the only left-back in South Africa that need not fear Lionel Messi. It’s not a coincidence that the Argentinian has consistently been anonymous against Chelsea in the Champions League., Will have landon Donovan in his pocket throughout.

Aaron Lennon – If he produces the pre-Christmas form he showed for Spurs, he could be one of the most destructive players in the tournament. The main question mark, as ever with Lennon, will be his delivery once he beats his man. Possibly key to England success on Saturday night, and should roast Jonathon Spector time and time again.

Frank Lampard –
The last chance for him to leave a mark on the global game. The media will focus on Wayne Rooney, but an in-form Lampard could be just as much of an asset. Worrying penalty form will hopefully rectify itself, and he remains lethal from inside 35 yards.

Steven Gerrard – His credentials as captain are suspect, but still completes an embarrassment of riches in centre-midfield. Hopefully the rumoured press-injuction can be maintained until after the tournament.

Joe Cole – Something of a renaissance man in the England squad. Rather than playing his way into contention, Cole has benefitted more than anyone else from the reshuffle that followed the injury to Gareth Barry. Of all the England players, probably the most technically complete and continentally influenced. This will be his third World Cup, so can be trusted where Milner and Wright-Phillips might be too much of a risk.

Wayne Rooney –
Will be unplayable for the US. Rooney’s power, pace, technique, flair and creativity will be fair too potent for a defensive pairing that includes the hapless Jay DeMerit…yes, the one that plays for Watford.

Peter Crouch – Whether scoring regularly or not, he continually troubles the very best the Premier League has to offer – furthermore, he’s not the kind of player who can be negated by ‘heroically’ throwing bodies in front of the ball. Factor in Tim Howard’s less than convincing history under a high-ball and you can guess the rest.

Official news, media hysteria, and The Sun being all ‘IN-GER-LAND’ – all here….

Predicting Good Things

26 05 2010

A World Cup prediction game and a chance to be our football writer… oh, how we spoil you.

to’s World Cup prediction pool – code: hobspays

World Cup year is exciting isn’t it? The fantastic Nike adverts, the last minute injuries to German captains, and the undermining of England’s chances by the friendly-fire of the British media. However, an unavoidable and tedious aspect is the need for those employed by Heat magazine to feel the need to start chucking in their two cents regarding the perils of the Lampard/Gerrard ‘axis of evil’ in centre-midfield.

Luckingly, just in the nick of time, Sport Guru have added the World Cup to their already fiendishly addictive range of prediction games, and we can now separate the knowledgeable from the bandwagon jumpers. We at Fingertips have had our working schedule seriously threatened all year by the need to make our predictions for the Guinness Premiership, the World Twenty20, and the Super 14 competition. The World Cup will surely tip us over the edge into doing very little that’s actually work related.

Adding to the excitement, we’ve also decided to use the competition to find our new football writer for next season. The winner, or whoever finishes second to a very over-confident Fingertips Editor, will have the opportunity to have their weekly column published on Fingertips for the duration of the next domestic football season. If you’re a budding Martin Samuel, Henry Winter or Oliver Holt, better get yourself over to SportGuru and sign-up to our ‘’ pool using the pool code ‘hobspays’.

So, if you know your Italian full-backs from your unused Honduran substitutes, it’s time to prove it. Best of luck to everyone, if you’re not able to follow that incredibly simple set of instructions then Fingertips staff are ready to help you at, just remember to include the word ‘SportGuru’ in your subject bar.

Dodgy Mexican

25 05 2010

Well, what did you expect?  Amidst the tediously faux-informal presentation style of Adrian Chiles and the irritating ‘let’s make a human England flag in the stands’ malarkey, some football also happened at Wembley last night.  Who benefited, who floundered, who’s now already on the plane.  Our England evaluation from the 3-1 victory over Mexico.


Joe Hart

Nothing occurred on the pitch last night to help his cause to be England’s number one, but there is a general feeling that you feel ‘safer’ with him between the sticks than Rob Green.  Casting aside the usual ITV hyperbole that stemmed from Green’s two mundane first half saves, Hart looked the more secure and commanding at the back.  It shouldn’t be forgotten that despite having the excuse of playing behind a woeful defence all year, Rob Green has still had a season littered with errors – hardly surprising, as goalkeepers who are continually picking the ball out of their own net tend not to do maintain a high level of confidence.  Excellent shot-stopper as he is, the West Ham man’s handling error late in the first half could prove to be a premonition for something far graver in South Africa. And, Joe Hart can do this…

Wayne Rooney

More owing to the events around him than anything he actually did.  Competitive spirit is clearly bubbling, and flashes of brilliance showcased just how important he will be.  Should unquestionably be England captain – peerless player who leads by example.

Aaron Lennon

Again, more of a ‘by default’.  In 75 minutes, Theo Walcott again showed why he is more suited to athletics than football.  Still lacks a basic level of decision making when in the final third, too often undermining anything he accomplishes up to that point.  On the other hand, Lennon’s brief cameo showcased a directness and cutting edge that will genuinely concern any left-back at the World Cup.

Scott Parker/Tom Huddlestone

Must surely be given an opportunity against Japan.  The extent of Gareth Barry’s injury will be known by the end of the day, and should he be ruled out, there must be an option available which doesn’t require reverting back to the dark days of Lampard and Gerrard co-existing in the middle of the field.

Peter Crouch

Officially ahead of Emile Heskey in the hierarchy of ‘big men’ to play alongside Rooney.


Michael Carrick

Dreadful.  How Sir Alex Ferguson must long for Owen Hargreaves.

James Milner

Seemingly not quite as versatile and brilliant as we thought.  Baring in mind that Barcelona have just parted with £35 Million to lure David Villa to the Nou Camp, how can anyone believe that £30 Million + represents good value for Milner.  He is a good player that happens to be English, but this alone should not exaggerate a transfer fee.  Ironically, Milner’s situation at the moment is reminiscent of a pre-Chelsea Scott Parker. Strike off ‘holding midfielder’ as one of the positions covered by Milner.

Ledley King

Looked absolutely shattered after twenty minutes. Difficult to admit, but not very convincing – certainly not enough to threaten John Terry’s place.  Exists in the Premier League now through shear desire to play for the club and fans that he loves, the same spirit doesn’t exist when wearing a England shirt.  Tragically, if his body had not let him down there would be a strong case for him to wear the captain’s armband – but as it is, colossal and inspirational as he is for Tottenham, international football is now unrealistic.

Leighton Baines

Embarrassed by Giovanni Dos Santos. Ashley Cole’s fitness is almost as important as Rooney’s.

England vs Mexico – Our XI.

24 05 2010

England’s first World Cup warm-up game is upon us, and regardless that the Wembley pitch will be more of a foe than the Central Americans, here’s how we think the home team should line-up…. and why.

1. Joe Hart

Eligibility for number one jersey is hypothetical without some game time before South Africa.  Premiership form unrivalled amongst fellow countryman, if not all, but International football is a steep learning curve… and up until now, Hart only has 45 minutes under his belt.

2. Glen Johnson

Winger masquerading as a full-back.  One of his chanced to show he can develop a defensive awareness within his game.  On paper, his combination with Aaron Lennon could give England the most threatening right side in the tournament, but also one of the most fragile.

3. Ashley Cole

The best left-back in the world.  End of discussion

4. Rio Ferdinand

Needs game time badly, and a full ninety minutes without a howler would also be welcome at this point.

5. John Terry

Not much value in debating his place, right or wrong he’ll be starting.

6. Tom Huddlestone

Most likely the answer will be no, but must be given the opportunity to show he can play at this level.  At this point it would be prudent to assume that Gareth Barry will not be fit to face the USA, so other options should be tried and tested.  A horrible, nagging feeling suggests that Capello will revert to playing Lampard and Gerrard alongside each other – and we already know how effective that is.  Doubters suggest that the Huddlestone should struggle against mobile and technically astute opponents, interesting to see then how the Tottenham man will fair against club mate Giovani Dos Santos.

7. Arron Lennon

Only doubt is fitness, is must – and as such requires a full ninety minutes.

8. Steven Gerrard

Obviously.  Intriguing to note if removing the Liverpool shackles ignites his form.

9. Peter Crouch

The critics will never be silenced with regards to Crouch, but goals to games ratio is still impressive, and remains the only England forward possessing the ability to hold the ball up.

10. Wayne Rooney


11. Frank Lampard

Much the same as Rooney, but must actually show up to a major tournament this time around.

How Prophetic We Are.

22 04 2010

Klinsmann and Seedorf join BBC World Cup team.