The Madness of the Managers

Sven Goran Eriksson was largely a very good manager for England. Then he snapped. Was it the constant media sniping, or just being too long in the job? I don’t know. Whatever the reason, when it came to World Cup 2006 in Germany, he decided to take one fit striker (Peter Crouch), one crocked striker (Michael Owen), one speedy schoolboy (Theo Walcott) who hadn’t even played a minute of Premier League football and a brilliant attacking midfielder (the then Wayne Rooney), but a player recovering from injury.

Schoolboy Theo Walcott

Readers of the Johnny Mackintosh books will know I’m a football fan, and I went to Germany for the bitterly disappointing tournament. It was the maddest of possible selections – Michael Owen dragged his injured body off the pitch in the group stages, never to return and we were bereft. Back in those days, when Rooney collected the ball in midfield and ran at the opposition, he was as frighteningly good as Messi, but he hadn’t played as a striker before and, however talented he is, didn’t know the role. When it came to the crunch, not even Sven believed in his Walcott gamble. When the team needed a spark of inspiration, young Theo remained an embarrassed spectator on the bench.

This time around, England sailed through qualification; Capello said all the right things about not taking injured players, only selecting players in form and not picking people who weren’t playing for his clubs. The horror of the vuvuzelas hadn’t then begun, so we can’t blame them for Fabio’s madness, but at the eleventh hour he too went barking mad and performed a volte face on his stated position.

Heskey flaunting the flag of St George?

Inexplicably, into the squad came Jamie Carragher, a man who retired from international football years ago and has had a simply terribly season for mid-table Liverpool. Into the squad came Ledley King, a man permanently injured. We also have Emile Ivanhoe Heskey, who may have the coolest middle name of any England player, but can’t get in the Aston Villa team (as well as not being able to score a goal). Finally, from nowhere we have Shaun Wright Phillips, far down the pecking order at Manchester City behind the sadly discarded Adam Johnson.

The best English centreback this serason has been Michael Dawson. He received a belated call up to the squad with Ferdinand’s sad loss, but should have been on the plane ahead of King or Carragher. Even now, he’s uncapped, and time is running out to play him.

Heskey is big and powerful, but can’t score; Crouch is big but lightweight, but scores lots. Sadly (and it’s not their fault), as soon as either goes onto the teamsheet, England play hoofball. The only way to progress in the World Cup is to keep the ball and to move it quickly from man to man, creating openings. Every punt to Heskey or Crouch is a 50:50 ball which, if we lose it, means we spend several minutes and lots of energy winning the ball back, only to punt it forward again. By all means take Crouch because he is different and does score, but only play him as a last resort  if we need a goal in the final half-hour of a game.

Fabio was probably right not to take Walcott, but Wright Phillips offers nothing better. The balance of the squad would have worked better with his Manchester City teammate Adam Johnson, much preferred by their club manager, Roberto Mancini.

I do think Barry will be fine, and will benefit from the rest (he looked jaded all through the second half of last season), so at least I agree with the manager there. However, with all the passengers now in South Africa, we’re down the bare bones of a winning squad.

Psycho - penalty miss

In Italia 90, after a dreadful opening, player power dictated a change of formation and method. Into the side came the incomparable Mark Wright as sweeper, and the team didn’t look back until first Stuart Pearce and then Chris Waddle fluffed their lines (rumour has it Waddle’s penalty went into orbit, he ballooned it so high). The pundits are now saying we have to change our formation for the later stages, but that’s too late if we’re to get used to it and learn to play incisive keepball on the ground. We’ve got to start now and hopefully the players will demand it if Capello himself can’t see it.

How Waddle's penalty went into orbit

Other than the keeper, the team for England versus Algeria picks itself:

GK: James/Hart/Green

RB: Johnson (could be the star of the tournament)

LB: A Cole

CD: Dawson

CD: Terry

CM: Barry

CM: Lampard

RM: Lennon

LM: J Cole

In the hole: Gerrard

CF: Rooney

I hope Signore Capello is reading this, or it could be a very miserable next month.

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~ by keithmansfield on June 16, 2010.

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