On Saturday evening, Micah Richards would have been a proud man. In the absence of the suspended Vincent Kompany, Richards was named captain for Manchester City’s trip to QPR.
It was another plus point in what has so far been an excellent period in Richard’s career. As the first-choice right back for the team five points clear at the top of the Premier League, he has been attracting all the plaudits after getting his career firmly back on track. Everything has been rosy in his particular garden – but he hadn’t factored in Fabio Capello. On Sunday evening, Capello named his England squad for the upcoming friendlies against Spain and Sweden. It was a young squad, as understandably Capello looked at his options using two non-competitive matches. Despite all this, he thought Micah Richards didn’t merit a place in the squad, for the team he first represented in 2006 aged only 18. The response was one of incredulity, and not just from City fans. Supporters of all clubs were mystified. As Annie Eaves (a Manchester United fan) of the Mirror tweeted: When so many Manchester United fans are outraged that a City player isn’t in the England squad then you know it’s a strange decision.
Joey Barton was incredulous. Darren Huckerby surprised. The cast of the Guardian podcast bemused.
Richards himself released a couple of tweets. The first simply said: ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha <repeat to fade>.
The second said: Disappointment is an understatement!!
His disappointment was understandable, as it is hard to know what more he has to do. He said in 2010: “It’s definitely frustrating and every time the full squad’s named and I’m not in there, I’m devastated, because I know with my ability that I think I should be. If you look at my England career, I’ve played 11 times and in all those games I think I’ve done reasonably well”.
He said it again this week: “I know what I’ve got to do – keep working hard – and that’s what I’ll do.”
But sadly for him, Capello simply doesn’t rate him.
The rumour is that Capello has serious doubts still about Richards’ defensive capabilities. If so it seems strange as Richards had improved immeasurably over the past year. If Capello really doesn’t rate him defensively it simply is nonsensical to pick Glen Johnson instead, who offers nothing extra in defence, and isn’t even a first team regular in a team 12 points behind city in the premier league( not that league position is everything, far from it). Kyle Walker has also been chosen for the squad- a perfectly acceptable decision as he is a player on the up, but I still don’t personally think that at this precise moment he is better than Richards. Some have argued that the other two are superior going forward, yet the Premier League defender with the most assists do far this season is: yes, Micah Richards with four, on top of the other six goal-scoring opportunities he has created for team-mates. He creates more chances per minute on the pitch than any other England rival, and has a superior tackle success percentage than any of his rivals too.
Capello’s big mantra has always been that he picks players on form, not reputation. His omission of Richards shows this to be rubbish. Richards may have fallen foul of circumstance, saving his worst performance for against QPR when Capello was in the crowd the day before the squad was named, but then the team as a whole was not at its best on Saturday night, not helped by Richards having to cover for Savic’s difficult full premiership debut. If Capello is making judgements from one game he isn’t worth a £60 annual salary, never mind £6million.
It seems his principles only apply to some. There’s no question of an out-of-form John Terry losing his squad place, even with a racism investigation hanging over his head. Manchester United new boys Phil Jones and Chris Smalling were of course fast-tracked straight to England glory. To play Jones out of position in a qualifier rather than pick Richards was laughable.
Let’s not claim Richards is perfect. A year ago I would have sold him for a set of training bibs and a multi-pack of Quavers. After being previously linked with a. £25m move down the road to United, he went off the boil, seemingly more interested in bulking up in the gym and DJ’ing. But he has come back strongly to recapture his form and concentrate on football. He has an excellent mentality, a professional attitude and is an extremely popular team member. He still needs to improve, especially on tracking back and concentration- he still has his lapses (and admitted so this week). But he is generally considered the best current English right back in the game, and for the England manager to not even pick him for two friendly games simply beggars belief. I despise the Capello-bashing that many newspapers have turned into our new national sport over the past couple of years. Not being picked for two friendlies is hardly the end of the works, and it helps City to keep their player fresh. But I feel for the player who must wonder what he has to do, and the actions of Capello defy explanation. All Richards can do is knuckle down and continue his good club form, count down the days until Capello is gone, and then wait for his international career to resume.
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