Same old World Cup, Same old England…Another list.

21 04 2010

You know it’s coming, come on… no reason to believe it will be any different to all the other times is there?

The wives and girlfriends of the English players to not comprehend the variation in seasons across different continents, and to be photographed collectively shivering on the tarmac of Johannesburg Airport.

Event one to be described in unnecessarily loving detail by every British tabloid in circulation.  Additionally, to be featured at staggering length within specially commissioned ‘EXCLUSIVE!’ columns attributed to said WAGS.  Lengthy, descriptive passages devoted to ’emergency shopping trips’ and ‘breaking into the team hotel to get Wayne’s credit card’ follow.  Nation enthralled.

The BBC to spend a disproportionate percentage of their World Cup budget on employing a retired foreign player to provide ‘expert insight’ at every possible opportunity.  Broken English and incoherent tactical analysis litter licence payer-funded coverage.

ITV to punctuate all advert breaks with grindingly irritating sponsor featurettes.

Opening Ceremony to ram local culture down the throat of all viewers – further irritation created by ITV/BBC commentator feeling the need to ‘commentate’ through the duration.  Lots of flags, lots of local children, lots of artificial enthusiasm from all involved.

The Sun to use front page to crudely Photoshop combat accessories onto images of Argentine/German/Foreign players.

Face painted England fans to ‘take’ local town and burn local monuments / ruin local economy / tarnish famous land mark / kidnap South African dignitary.

The Sun to use front page to express mock-incredulity at level of English xenophobia, all British national newspapers to feature front page headline ‘The Night That Shamed Football’.

Disappointingly impotent group-stage performance by England leads to nationwide melodrama – Facebook campaign starts in a bit to replace Fabio Capello with ‘not a foreigner’.

Reasonably assured victory over Algeria leads to nationwide melodrama.  Pundits, ex-players and experts queue up to give reasons why England will definitely, definitely, definitely win the World Cup.

Previously unknown South American player scores fortunate wonder goal, signs for West Ham for hugely inflated transfer fee.

England stumble throughfirst knock-out game – WAGS blamed for distracting players.

Paul Gascoigne arrested for drink driving.

England paired with Argentina in Quarter-Final stage, Falklands War footage/ Maradona ‘Hand of God’ shown on continuous loop.

The Sun crudely paste over image of Belgrano with image of Argentinian team bus and reinstate classic ‘Gotcha’ headline.

England cheated out of the World Cup in a 4-1 humbling.





But we know better…

20 04 2010

Disregard the international retirements, the manager’s favourites, and the players that will never be dropped regardless of how poorly they play… this is how the England squad would look.  We think.  And no, number 23 is not a wind-up.

1. Wayne Rooney

Obviously.  Would walk into any team in the world.  Brilliant in every facet of the game, and the icon of English football.

2. Ashley Cole

Given the players England are due to face in the latter stages of the tournament – and given the part of the pitch they will inhabit – Cole’s fitness is only secondary in importance to Rooney’s.  The list of right sided players that he has held in his pocket for ninety minutes is a who’s who of world football.

3. Rio Ferdinand

His rank on this list depends on the version of him that we’re talking about.  Fully fit and on-form, he’s a undeniably a huge asset.

4. Frank Lampard

Critics of his England form neglect to mention that he has always been given a restricted role for the national team.  Loosening the shackles on Lampard and creating the midfield structure around him has been a philosophy that has never really been explored.

5. Aaron Lennon

Pace, skill, and suddenly…a final ball.  He embodies the concept of an old fashioned winger, and a direct offensive threat whenever he has the ball.  It’s said that pace is not as valuable a commodity at international level as it is domestically – well, it is if you have as much of it as Lennon does.

6. Jermain Defoe

In reality, he’ll be a bit-part player in South Africa, which is a shame given what he would be capable of in 90 minutes.  He will doubtless suffer from the misconception that he and Rooney are not capable of playing together – such is English football’s need to pass early judgement and stubbornly stick with it.  Could be a revelation with his high octane game, even if question marks exist over his ability to link play.

7. John Terry

Makes the starting eleven by default.  Virtues as an International player remain uncertain.  If Ledley King actually had cartilage in his knees, Terry wouldn’t even be on the plane.

8. Steven Gerrard

Now a staggering nine years since the victory in Germany, and Gerrard’s last quality performance in an England shirt.  Is in genuine danger of becoming a player that lives off his domestic reputation, which itself is not in a healthy state following a disastrous.

9. David James

Another default selection, simply because, ridiculously, he’s the player least likely to make an horrendous error at a crucial stage.

10. Gary Neville

Bit of a surprise admittedly.  But if you’re still playing for Manchester United, you’re probably still good enough for England.  Detractors point to his age and lack of pace, but at what stage of his career did he have pace anyway?  Has the nous to cope with most players, and football intelligence is a priceless commodity at this level – something in which Neville is almost peerless.  Did anybody notice Craig Bellamy on the pitch last Saturday? No. Point made.

11. Michael Carrick

More disciplined than Gareth Barry, better in possession than Gareth Barry.  England’s tendency to pick midfielders capable of every aspect of the task has been their biggest mistake over the years – every World Cup winning side in recent memory has had a player detailed to sit and break-up play (Dunga, Makelele, Kleberson/Gilberto Silva , Gattuso).

12. Theo Walcott

A huge luxury as an impact player.  Too often ineffective for club and country, but worth the risk for the option.

13.  Peter Crouch

Numerous reasons not to include him, but offers one of the most unique alternatives possessed by any team in South Africa.

14. Michael Dawson

Absence in the England set-up is a complete mystery – especially given the inclusion of Matthew Upson and Wes Brown.  Capable of subduing the very best the Premier League has to offer.

15. Paul Scholes

Optimistic at the very least, but were he not retired from international football there would be at least some degree of public clamour for his inclusion.  Probably the most talented player of his generation, the overwhelming regret must be that he spent most of his prime playing out of position for England.  Given the frequent accusation that England are inept at keeping the ball, Scholes’ set of attributes are missed now more than ever.

16. Paul Robinson

As a backup, could you to better than a player who has the Blackburn stopper’s blend of experience and good form.  However, the glaring defect in his footwork that makes him so prone to conceding from long range prevents him from occupying the starting jersey.

17. Carlton Cole

It would be bold of Fabio to take the West Ham forward, but surely a risk worth taking.  Strong, direct, technically astute – hugely difficult to contain when on-form.

18. James Milner

See yesterday’s entry – versatility and creativity get him on the plane.

19. Tom Huddlestone

Brilliant passing range, good set-piece delivery, and excellent strength.  In an ideal world he replaces Gareth Barry in the squad, and demonstrates the virtue of playing the holding role with discipline.

20. Glen Johnson

Too much of a liability to start, but a useful and versatile squad player.  Great athlete.  Probably the best example of someone who has thus far been picked because he plays for a ‘big’ club.  Apart from Wes Brown.

21. Jolean Lescott

Included through gritted teeth, but the combination of Ashley Cole’s fitness problems and Lescott’s ability to sort of play left-back work in his favour.  Still the worst £18m player playing today though.

22. Joe Hart

Purely for the need to have a third keeper, not going to play so largely irrelevant

23. Lee Bowyer

Well, would you want to play against him?  Good form this season overlooked, most likely because he’s so universally disliked – but combative, competitive and nasty.  Essentially like having one of the fans on the pitch, only he can play.





Tedious Inevitability

19 04 2010

We begin our World Cup blogging action with a slightly facetious look at who Fabio Capello will select for South Africa… don’t worry though, tomorrow’s ‘Who should be on the plane’ will be much more interesting.

1. Wayne Rooney

No explanation necessary, not worth going without him.

2. Steven Gerrard

Has become tediously undroppable, despite those under the age of 16 never having seen him play well for England.

3. Rio Ferdinand

More name than ability as of late, but still a marquee centre-half in world football.

4. Frank Lampard

As with Gerrard, consistently underwhelming in white – further discussion is always redundant as seems to be another member of England’s untouchable.

5. Ashley Cole

Awful human being, outstanding player.  Although now a hate figure of comic book proportions, it should never be forgotten how frequently he muted Cristiano Ronaldo during the Portuguese’s stay in English football.  Hate him you may, but a world without him as left-back would be extremely bleak.

6. John Terry

Form and body are now loudly creaking, but the deposed captain remains a huge figure on the pitch for England.

7. Gareth Barry

His prominence on this list says more about the calibre of English holding midfield players than about Barry himself.  Consistently anonymous against high-class opposition, nothing more than adequate in many areas of the game rather than excellent in any.  His appearances for England do little more than make the heart grow fonder for Owen Hargreaves.

8. Aaron Lennon

Worryingly hasn’t been seen near a football since the end of 2009.  However, should he be if he brings the one quality that can’t be nullified – raw pace.  Ironically, aside from Ashley Cole there isn’t a left-back in world football that can deal with him comfortably – England could do a lot worse than simply giving him the ball on the touchline and letting him play.  Absence would be far more of a problem than is yet fully appreciated.

9. Emile Heskey

Favourite of Capello’s, he’s going – deal with it.

10. David James

Probably the English goalkeeper we all trust most at the moment.  A reality both hilarious and disturbing

11. Glen Johnson

An attacking threat who sees the defensive part of his game as fairly irrelevant. Enormous liability, but benefits from playing for a big club and being valued by Fabio.

12. Jermain Defoe

Most natural goalscorer in the English game.  Pedigree at International level remains suspect, but a real luxury as an impact player.

13. Theo Walcott

Attributes of a world class athlete rather than a football player, but has existed on the back of his hat-trick in Croatia for 18 months – and will also be on the plane on the back of this.  A poor man’s Aaron Lennon, but capable of fireworks.

14. Stewart Downing

Ineffective for club and country, but inclusion is a tedious certainty.

15 Matthew Upson

Much the same as Downing, but replace ‘ineffective’ with ‘error prone’. Has a disgraceful number of caps for someone of his abilities.

16. James Milner

The poster child for making the most of what you have.  Versatility is a huge asset to England, and is an ideal squad player for Capello.

17. Peter Crouch

Goal record at International level flatters him severely, but his size and technique make him the most obvious ‘Plan B’ at England’s disposal.

18. Robert Green

Average, but good enough in the current goalkeeping climate.

19. Michael Carrick

Continually, and unfairly, pilloried by the English press.  Keeps possession better than any other English player – and has the ability to dictate the tempo in a World Cup game.  And can take penalties.

20. Jolean Lescott

Another to benefit from versatility and the most over-inflated transfer fee in British football.

21. Joe Hart

He’s not going to play, so might as well go along for the ride.

22. Wes Brown

Utterly rubbish, would never have played for England if he’d played for a different club side.

23. Adam Johnson

History will treat him as Capello’s ‘Walcott’ moment.  No international experience, a non-event against top-half sides in the Premier League, but will be seen as an unknown quantity.  Predictably will not see a minute of action in South Africa.