Posts Tagged ‘Capello


Surely Owen would have been a better option for Capello

Michael Owen shows "Ze Germans" how its done

Michael Owen shows "Ze Germans" how its done

To be brutally honest Michael Owen is not my favourite Manchester United player, I appreciate the effort he puts in and like every other United fan duly went mad in the 4-3.

However with the young strikers Sir Alex Ferguson has at his disposal, this season I’ve questioned whether United really need the former Liverpool hero.

There’s no doubt Owen can still do a good job, my argument was that with the likes of Kiko Macheda and Chicharito available as back-up to the front two of Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov, did United really need a striker who’ll be 31 in December and has had more than is fair share of injury problems.

I’ve already been pretty much proven wrong as Owen’s brace in the League Cup away at Scunthorpe and more importantly his equaliser at Bolton justified Fergie sticking with him, at least until January.

There’s also the point that having an experienced finisher like Owen in the squad can only be beneficial to the young strikers, who can maybe learn a thing or two from him. After all in a career that’s taken in two of the top clubs in Europe- as well as Liverpool and Newcastle, plus a host of international caps, Owen has always delivered goals and is perhaps the ideal player for someone like Chicharito to learn from.

Despite not being Michael Owen’s biggest fan, even I had to admit being totally dumfounded by his omission from the recent England squad. It’s not that Owen has exactly been a regular for Manchester United this season but surely a player with 40 England goals would have been handy to at least have on the bench.

When it comes to not getting regular football, Owen has started only two games this season, a reason Capello has bandied about for not picking players in the past, we all know that’s poppycock- if you pardon my French.

The nadir of my time as an England fan was watching Emile Heskey take to the field in Bloemfontein as Germany soared into a three goal lead. Heskey had been a substitute more times than he’d started for Aston Villa that season- don’t get me started on how many goals he’d managed- yet found himself playing for the national side at the biggest tournament there is.

Capello’s ‘if you’re not playing regularly for your club, you won’t play for your country’ line just doesn’t ring true. This season Shaun Wright Phillips has figured in less games for Manchester City than Owen has for United, yet the tiny winger still found himself coming off the bench against Montenegro.

I was actually hoping Wayne Rooney might not figure against Montenegro, I thought he should have a few more days off before the game against West Bromwich Albion on Saturday. There seems to be this constant cycle of Rooney having a slight knock coming back and not looking right that’s been going on for months. I advocated a couple of full weeks off following his latest ‘slight injury’ and rather foolishly thought England could afford to rest him, against despite what all the England propaganda machine will tell us, should have been a relatively easy side to beat.

However with injuries to Darren Bent and Jermaine Defoe Rooney was about as likely to be rested as Robert Green was to have been picked to start.

The news that the ‘people’s elbow’ Kevin Davies was in the squad made Rooney’s selection seemed more assured. After all if Wazza wasn’t starting then the front two would have been Davies and Crouch and despite Crouch’s goal tally in an England shirt, Capello seems to have a lack of faith in him.

It was the sight of 33 year-old Davies making his debut as England looked for a winning goal that caused me the most confusion since I flicked over to the X-factor on Saturday and saw a Jimmy Saville look-a-like playing a set of bongo drums.

What on earth is going on?! Why would someone who’s fourth in the all-time England goal scoring charts and still deemed good enough to play Champion’s League football, not be at least given a small chance over a player who’s never played, let alone scored for England?

It seems Owen just isn’t on Capello’s radar which is a shame for both him and England because as last night’s bore draw showed- how many shots on target did England muster?- he could have been useful.

In the past Capello has shown he is willing to swallow his pride and bring formerly exiled players back into the fray if he needs them, as he did with David Beckham at Real Madrid.

While it’s hardly time to start panicking the fact is poor performances against mediocre opposition just aren’t good enough for many fans who spend a lot of money following England. If Capello wants to give himself the best chance in qualifying smoothly maybe turning to Owen wouldn’t be such a bad idea.


World Cup diary -England v Germany

The Lampard 'goal' was at the other end- yet I could still see it went in

As soon as the Germany Ghana game finished and it was obvious England would be playing the Germans in the next round, my friends and I made a decision, no matter what we’re going.

After spending a ridiculous amount on a ticket- 150 quid for a 35 pound ticket from some bloke on t’internet- and getting rid of a Argentina Mexico one that I already had, it was time to sort out transport.
Staying in Johannesburg, getting to Bloemfontein should have been a doddle, after all they’re both big cities. However after checking train times it became clear that both trains coaches and even flights were not going to get us there before kick-off.

Due to the fact none of us had a credit card, car-hire was also out of the question, so it was dodgy lift time. My mate Simon had the number of a Zimbabwean bloke called…..erm Zimbabwean geezer, who ran a taxi of sorts so we gave him a ring. After some bargaining that went on throughout Saturday over a series of phone calls we eventually settled on a price of 2000 rand which is about 200 quid. We had a train booked to take us back at 4am so we could stay in Bloemfontein and celebrate England defeating the krauts- or so we thought.

A light aircraft had made an emergency landing on the road to Bloemfontein

We set off at 7.30 am – miraculously Zimbabwean geezer was on time, luckily for me I managed to sleep throughout most of the journey. When we got to a petrol station to get some supplies we encountered a crowd of both England and Germany fans, we were almost there.

After a four and half hour drive we arrived in Bloemfontein and made our way to where all the fans were heading- it was a good four hours till Kick-off.

All the fans were congregated round a waterfront set of bars, and the England supporters were in full voice. There were inflatable spitfires , St George flags, even a few St. George body suits on display. Unlike other games I’ve attended there was a distinct lack of vuvuzelas- although there were the odd one or two.

Both sets of fans were in good spirits and the atmosphere was jovial and friendly- chants of Deutschland and In-ger-land could be heard everywhere interspersed with the occasional “you can stick your vuvuzelas up your *rse” and the odd actual vuvuzela.

As we made our way into the ground, walking through a shopping mall, there were several chants of “England till I die,” which I’ve always found slightly embarrassing for some reason. It reminds me of one of those no surrender to the IRA nonsensical chants that many England fans used to sing before the Good Friday agreement consigned it to the scrapheap- although I have heard the word IRA has been replaced by Taliban.
Maybe I’m just not as patriotic as some people but I’ve always found supporting England to be something of a paradox. Standing alongside people wearing everything from Arsenal to Liverpool to Chelsea to whatever tops sometimes feels a bit weird. As does cheering on a team led by that cheating “there you go Chelsea, you have the league title” badge –or camera- kissing donut Steve Gerrard. I do want England to succeed- obviously as I wouldn’t have spent almost the rest of my entire South Africa budget going to see them but if I’m honest, they’ll always be a fairly distant second to following Man U.

The waterfront at Bloemfontein was almost like being in England

That aside, the atmosphere in the stadium was electric and the old chestnut “England fans did us proud” was actually very true.

Just outside the ground I got chatting to a couple of lads from Oldham- Royton to be precise- who told me they’d got rid of their spare tickets for a measly 20 quid a few minutes earlier. Apparently despite the rumours that there were thousands of England fans travelling to Bloemfontein without tickets and that the game would be a sell-out and then some, there were lots of tickets available from touts or supporters just prior to kick-off for ridiculously low prices. It looks like, spending 150 quid each for ours was a bit of a fook up to say the least but we weren’t to know that.

The game itself was obviously disappointing from an England point of view. We were sat behind the goal where the Germans opened the scoring, when Upson put us back in the game we thought the comeback was on. For Lampard’s ‘goal’ even though we were down the other end we –along with every other person in the ground bar the ref and linesman thought it was a goal and celebrated as though it was. When we realised it hadn’t been given we were distraught, angry, bemused, devastated, all rolled into one. At half time a woman told me her friend had texted her and the ball was at least “two yards over the line”.
Great, yet again it seemed a decision against England- a bad one- was going to cost us our chance at a major tournament. When England came out for the second half we were all still pretty confident, but obviously it wasn’t to be.

The final nail in the coffin of my England world cup experience was seeing Emile Heskey come on in the last twenty minutes. I’ve never been a fan of the Villa forward and don’t buy into the whole ‘he brings the best out of Rooney’ nonsense that’s often spouted by so-called experts. Seeing him take the field to help us gain back a three-goal deficit was a joke. The man’s scored 3 times all season and yet somehow Capello thinks he’s the key to unlocking the German defence. To quote a distasteful Ivorian striker “It’s a fooking disgrace.”

After the game we headed to a bar/club as our train journey back to Jo’burg wasn’t until 4am. The shock of being knocked out and the manner of the defeat actually seemed to subside slightly and many England fans were in good voice and getting along well with the Germans- I was almost disappointed. Surely there must have been somebody rioting or burning Bloemfontein to the ground? But no we just got on with enjoying our night.

One of the few highlights of the journey back - picture Jon Devo

The train journey home was without a doubt one of the single most stressful journeys I have ever undertaken. The carriages were all full so we had to try and sleep in a corridor which was about minus 3 degrees. It was a nightmare. The journey lasted 9 hours?! But if felt like 24, although the last two hours were less harsh as seats were available and some all the ladies in our carriage began signing church songs and dancing, it was a truly magical experience watching all these ladies singing along, clapping and dancing in the aisles. I was tempted to start of a few Cantona chants but decided against it.

We were treated to two rather disconcerting things in the final hours of our trip, we saw a dead body from an accident on the side of the tracks- I say dead without meaning to sound melodramatic but the poor chap clearly was and then someone threw a rock through the window which narrowly missed my mate Jon’s head.

We finally arrived in Johannesburg a full 28 hours after we had left. England were out of the World Cup and no doubt the English newspapers would be blaming Capello, the referee and more than likely the linesman too. For our post-match analysis we went to a Nando’s and while the game may have been disappointing, the journey back a nightmare, the trip itself had actually been a good laugh. Now to find another team to get behind…….come on Ghana!


Does Wayne Rooney really need an England strike partner?

Trying to pick out Peter Crouch with a cross was not easy

Wayne Rooney- those two words seem to occupy any article involving England’s world cup hopes and let’s face it rightly so.

Despite the talent named in Fabio Capello’s provisional squad Rooney is the one man who looks genuinely irreplaceable in the team. As Manchester United have found out this season, when you take Rooney out of your team even average opposition becomes a problem.

Looking at the England team on paper you could genuinely believe that even without Wazza they had a chance of going far. After all Frank Lampard, Steve Gerrard and erm, James Milner are among some of the top players in world football- sort of.

The trouble is that not everyone seems to replicate their club form for the national side, with Gerrard and Lampard often being rightly accused of failing to live up to expectations.

To be fair to Lampard he’s been a little hard done by England-wise as I recall him being totally overlooked by many in the English press during Euro 2004 due to the emergence of Rooney. Lampard managed to score three goals yet with all the Roo-mania –to quote almost every tabloid from the time, poor old Frank barely got a look-in for what was a truly excellent tournament for him.

In 2006 Lampard was lambasted for not only missing his shoot-out penalty but also having more shots on goal than anyone else and still not scoring- a true victim of the cyber-age obsession with stats.

Gerrard is another one who’s been accused of being lacklustre on the international stage and has four less goals than his midfield partner despite having played one more game. While the last world cup was hardly considered a success for Gerrard it should be noted that he finished as England’s top-score- albeit with only 2 goals.

This season Gerrard has had a somewhat disappointing campaign whereas Lampard’s has been nothing short of phenomenal. Everyone talks about Didier Drogba being the key to Chelsea’s success and while this is no doubt true how Wayne Rooney must’ve wished he had someone of Lampard’s quality at Old Trafford to help with the goal scoring burden. 22 League goals from Lampard is only two less than Rooney himself and there-in lies a massive difference between the top two clubs.

Although Gerrard’s been poor by his standards nine league goals and seven assists in 33 games is not to be sniffed at –as Robbie Fowler used to say.

Gerrard’s also weighed in with a hat-trick of goals during England’s qualifying campaign so he’s hardly been a disaster on that front.

The point is both Gerrard and Lampard are still potential match-winners and must surely start for England in South Africa.

Fabio Capello seems to have a liking for Emile Heskey as Rooney’s strike-partner as he ‘brings out the best in him.’

For me this may have some truth but is a misleading analysis. Heskey may be better suited to partnering Rooney than say Jermaine Defoe or Peter Crouch but that doesn’t mean he has to partner him.

All season long Wayne Rooney has pretty much carried Manchester United almost single-handedly more often than not playing as a lone striker.

Against teams such as Manchester City, Liverpool, AC Milan and Arsenal –not to mention Chelsea away where Rooney played well and United were unlucky- Wazza led the line superbly, not only weighing in with goals but also holding the ball up well for the attacking midfielders to feed off him.

If Rooney was asked to do the same job for England I don’t see any reason why Lampard and Gerrard wouldn’t benefit by being encouraged to support him at the quickest given opportunity.

A five man midfield also allows Gerrard to fill the role he has done for Liverpool so often- playing just off the front man, rather than being pushed out wide which for me dilutes his effectiveness.

Then there’s the wide positions, with five in midfield you could have say Aaron Lennon or James Milner or whoever on the wings which is much more balanced. With this formation Capello can still accommodate a defensive midfielder-which he always seems to like- allowing Lampard and Gerrard to concentrate more on attack.

The argument is of course that Rooney as a lone striker is not as effective as he would be with a partner. Well here I’d argue that he is, after all anyone who’s seen United this season will know that Rooney has grown into the role. If you take the two Arsenal games as an example, at Old Trafford at times Rooney looked isolated and drifted a little bit too deep, yet at the Emirates he gave a master-class in not just passing and holding but also counter-attacking.

United have adopted a 4-5-1 formation for most of the big games which can be changed to a 4-3-3 of sorts when they’re attacking. This formation could work for England with two wingers from a five-man midfield linking up with Rooney when they’re on the offensive.

Then there’s the question of have any other strikers really done enough to convince they could really perform at the World Cup.

Emile Heskey’s record for Aston Villa this season is quite frankly abysmal with 31 appearances, 15 of which were starts and a paltry 3 goals and 2 assists. Heskey’s record for England is again nothing to brag about with one goal in his last seven starts. People will point to the fact that he’s also got 2 assists but when you’re playing alongside Wayne Rooney gaining assists is not that difficult as even Dimitar Berbatov will testify.

Jermaine Defoe has scored his fair share of goals for Tottenham this season, but 4 in his last 14 appearances leaves me for one feeling a little worried as to whether the season exertions have caught up with him.

Peter Crouch is probably the only striker in recent memory who is more prolific for England than he is for Spurs. Everyone’s favourite light-bulb changer only has 8 league goals this season, yet has appeared in every league game- with 21 of them starts. Yet Crouch’s goal-scoring record for England is better than even Rooney’s and this season his six caps have brought five goals. There still remains the question mark of whether he can perform against the top international sides has most of his England goals have come against small-time opposition.

That just leaves Darren Bent who has been prolific this season for Sunderland, yet for some reason doesn’t seem to have fully convinced Capello of his international worth. The smart money’s on Bent not even making the plane despite his 24 league goals.

Looking at Rooney you can say without any fear of getting laughed at that he’s one of the top strikers in the world, good enough to get into any team. However the same can not be said of any of his potential strike partners and the fact that two of them –Heskey and Crouch aren’t even regulars for their clubs speaks volumes.

My point is with the obvious quality Lampard and Gerrard possess and the ability of Rooney to operate as a lone front man- is it not time that Capello tried the 4-5-1 formula that’s seems to work at Old Trafford and bring out the best in the ‘white Pele’?