Just hours after naming his squad for England’s friendly against Hungary, Capello’s preparations for the game were dealt a huge blow as Blackburn goalkeeper Paul Robinson and Manchester United defender Wes Brown both called time on their international careers. Their retirements beg the question: has international football lost its appeal?
For Robinson and Brown, that certainly proved the case as they refused to simply make up the numbers. In all reality, Robinson and Brown would have had little chance of seeing the field in competitive action therefore their call-up was an exercise in futility. Robinson echoed this sentiment when he gave his reasons for his sudden retirement to the BBC:
“Only now have I been able to make this decision as previously I haven’t been in contention for selection.”
“I don’t see myself as a number three or four keeper and find that role very frustrating.”
“I haven’t had the opportunity of anything other than [not being first choice] in recent years therefore I feel it is in the best interest of myself and my club Blackburn Rovers that I concentrate solely on my club football.”
Despite being called up to the squad, Robinson would have found himself behind in the pecking-order; something Robinson has become familiar with in his time with England. Ever since Gary Neville’s unfortunate own-goal against Croatia, Robinson’s reputation has taken a battering. Never mind that Robinson has produced some of his best football in the last few seasons since moving to Blackburn, he will forever be haunted by that Neville goal and Capello certainly hasn’t forgotten it.
Capello left Robinson out of his preliminary 30 man squad for South Africa, choosing instead to go for David James, Joe Hart and Robert Green in goal. In Capello’s most recent squad, Robinson would have certainly been behind Manchester City’s Joe Hart and this final snub proved to be the last straw.
The fact that Robinson and Brown have decided to retire even though they had good seasons for their respective clubs is maybe a reaction to a certain mistrust over Capello’s selection policy. When Capello took over from Steve McClaren, the Italian insisted that he would be picking players for his squad based on form rather than reputation. However, Capello’s World Cup squad went against this maxim.
Capello chose to select Emile Heskey and Shaun Wright-Phillips who hardly featured for their clubs while leaving out Darren Bent who was regular in the Sunderland team as well as being the Premier League’s second highest English scorer behind Wayne Rooney.
Now that Robinson and Brown have retired, they can concentrate solely on their club form. Robinson can concentrate on maintaining his recent form and keeping hold of the number one jersey at Ewood Park and Brown can focus on trying to establish himself as a first team regular for Manchester United. Imagine if Brown or Robinson picked up an injury in training and were ruled out for an extended period of time while on international duty in which neither of them were realistically expected to play. Their managers would be absolutely livid.
Playing for your country is said to be the greatest honour that any professional footballer can get. But for Robinson and Brown, that honour is looking less and less likely. Club football for these two is now their only occupation and who can blame them? After all, it’s the clubs and not the national team that pays them. Club football is what writes the cheques for these players, not international football. International football is an added bonus for those lucky enough to be good at what they do. Both Robinson and Brown decided that that bonus just wasn’t for them anymore.