By Mark Duckworth of The National Game
So the dust has settled on another Premier League campaign, and the attention will turn to South Africa and England as they look for glory. But before we get to June 11, Fabio Capello has some choices to make and with the announcement of Capello’s 30 man squad today, Mark Duckworth takes a look at some of the old and new faces trying to get a seat on the plane to South Africa.
Let’s start with the old, and its no surprise that Capello has gone for some experience in most of his positions. David James has been a solid keeper for England down the years, and even while Pompey have had a rough time, James has looked as calm as ever. David will also offer the two understudies valuable experience of how to deal with the pressure of playing for England and dealing with mistakes if they make any. In reality this will also be David James’ last tournament as an England player and maybe even his final appearance wearing the ‘three lions’ lets hope it will be Super James and not Calamity James that makes all the headlines.
Capello has also picked his trio of International stalwarts, Rio Ferdinand, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, these three are arguably what remains of the so called golden English generation lets hope its gold they are lifting come the end. Frank Lampard has had a remarkable season for Chelsea and looks in good form going into the next two International friendlies. Ferdinand has had a stop-start season and I think will need these two games more than most just to get some minutes under his belt. Someone who looks in need of a rest is Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, and if Capello wants him at his best then I’d consider resting Gerrard and at most playing him for a half in the second friendly.
So besides the obvious inclusions to the England squad, Capello has made a few bold calls in selection and these could carry on when he has to name his final selection in a few weeks time. One of the biggest shocks is the inclusion of Jamie Carragher. Carragher has been constantly one of the Premier League’s best defenders and with the risk of Ledley King and Ferdinand not being fit, then I think this is a clever move by Capello. A defender may not win you a match, but a solid defense builds the platform for the rest of the team to attack from. Carragher does have a chance of making it on the plane to South Africa, but the feeling you get is he has called him up to have a look at him just in case anyone gets injured.
But it’s in the middle of the park where Capello has been the most bold and the inclusion of Adam Johnson has been a real shock to some players who may have been left out. But I feel Johnson has the ability to make it even further and claim one of those last few seats on the plane. He offers something different to the other wingers and maybe a little fresher then some of the other players that have been selected to the training camp. In that same bracket is Joe Cole. Cole has been one of England’s best when he has been fit and it seems his last few games in the Premier League have convinced Capello to give him a shout. Like Johnson, Cole offers other attributes than pace, and his eye for a goal could prove vital when games become tight.
The last crop of supposed English talent was billed as the golden generation, but this young crop of midfielders has a real chance of glory. The pace and energy of Lennon, Walcott, Wright-Phillips and Johnson have the ability to cause defenses untold problems and with the potential of feeding Rooney and Crouch, Capello may want to take all four of them, but it seems he will favor three and use Joe Cole as an inside left position. Spain and Brazil may have the technical edge over England, but the pace that Capello’s side could contain, might make all the difference as the young Lions look to impress.
Mark Duckworth is a writer for The National Game and appears as a guest columnist for The Soccer Guys.