It’s all become a bit familiar hasn’t it? I don’t know what it is, but every time England are due to play, whether it’s a friendly or a major tournament, you can’t help but be embraced by the anticipation that this time, we have really turned a corner.
Unfortunately, we have been let down. Again. The stale performance against France prolonged the feeling of embarrassment felt post world cup, whilst our opposition, who had a similarly awful summer, seemed to have firmly put their disgraceful time in South Africa behind them.
Fabio Capello now has to deal with everything which is inevitably going to thrown at him. Liverpool’s physiotherapist, Darren Burgess, used Twitter to vent his frustration at how long Steven Gerrard played, the media have decided the youngsters aren’t good enough, despite feeling they should have gone to the World Cup and Gareth Southgate even suggested pre match that Andy Carroll should have been left in the stands, to warn him about him future off-the-field conduct.
None of this is new, though. The fallout from an England game is as predictable as Audley Harrison hitting the canvas, but we must look for positives in time for the next England game so we can become full of expectancy once more.
Here’s five things I learnt from England last night:
1. Gerrard should be captain. I’m a huge fan of Rio Ferdinand and I think the assurance he brings to England and Manchester United’s defence is irreplaceable, but if we are going to get the best out of Steven Gerrard, then the only way is to hand him the armband. It shouldn’t take something like this for the Liverpool skipper to step up, but he seems to thrive on the added responsibility and becomes Beckham-like in his one-man mission to win games for his country when he is captain. I got the feeling that had he been wearing the armband, he wouldn’t have let Mathieu Valbuena run past him quite so easily for France’s second goal.
2. The kids need time. After that joke of a World Cup, Capello had no option but to look to the future. Marcel Desailly said last night that the youngsters aren‘t ready, but they’re never going to be unless they are given chances, and last night was the perfect opportunity for that. Andy Carroll was fighting up top on his own with little service, which isn’t uncommon for an England striker, and I’m sure Jordan Henderson would have learnt a thing or two about international football after having a tough night, to say the least. But they weren’t alone. The senior players didn’t exactly shine so the kids by no means disgraced themselves. International football is another step-up from the Premier League which is why we so often struggle, but the more exposed the younger players or to it, the better they will become.
3.Phil Jagielka is not a right back. In the interest of using these friendly games to look at other options, why did Capello start Jagielka at right-back? He has been a rock playing centre back for Everton and England when called upon, so we know he’s good enough and an option should Ferdinand and Terry continue to be plagued by injuries. Micah Richards was on the bench and is much more acclimatised to life as a full-back. He is a real prospect for England and now he seems to be back to form and fitness, there is no reason why he can’t be competing with Glen Johnson.
4. Adam Johnson and Peter Crouch have to start. Peter Crouch must be starting to think he’s done something to really annoy Fabio Capello. 22 goals in 42 international game speaks for itself, irrespective of who it’s against. I can understand not starting him last night; the game represented a chance for Carroll among others to show what they can do. During the summer, though, Crouch was ignored to the point where he might as well have not been in South Africa, but every time he plays, he seems the only one likely to threaten the oppositions goal. Similarly, Adam Johnson looks a breath of fresh air whenever he comes on. Admittedly he’s not been playing as regularly as maybe he should at Man City, but I don’t see a better option to fill that jinxed left-hand side slot. He provides energy and is direct in attack, plus he can actually cross and score goals!
5. England miss Rooney. Like it or not, there is no denying Wayne Rooney was sorely missed against France. When Capello’s troops needed someone to take the game by the scruff of the neck, they were found wanting. His aggressive nature and ability to creative something out of nothing gives England an extra edge, even when things aren’t going to plan. If Capello can make sure he stays forward to work alongside Carroll (or Crouch) instead of coming deep, then England would look much more of a threat than they did against France.
The most notable point from England’s defeat, was the gulf in class between ourselves and the French. They seem to have forgiven and forgotten the summer’s antics and are now building with a togetherness which Capello’s men lack. The future looks bright but it’s going to take time. There was no disgrace in being beaten as long as the game was useful – food for thought Mr. Capello.