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England understudies can shine in Qatar

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Phil McNulty | 11:51 UK time, Thursday, 12 November 2009

England's shadow squad may only be the sideshow for the latest date on Brazil's world tour - but vital auditions will take place in Doha's Khalifa Stadium on Saturday.

Brazil's desire to play lucrative friendlies far from home means England's players are closer to Qatar's Singing Sand Dunes than Rio's Copacabana, but incentive is not something Fabio Capello's players should have to search for.

Capello's countdown to the World Cup started the moment the final whistle sounded on an impressive qualifying campaign with victory over Belarus at Wembley.

So while the names on Capello's team-sheet to face Dunga's Brazil may not evoke memories of classic past meetings between these two superpowers, the game represents an opportunity for some to play their way on to - or maybe off - the plane to South Africa next summer.

This game, with England's squad in much-reduced circumstances, cannot be used as an accurate measure of their World Cup aspirations, but there is enough riding on the outcome to provide an intriguing backdrop to the trip to Doha.

Capello may not learn much about his established England players, but with Aston Villa's James Milner confirming that every move is noted by the Italian's eagle eye, he will be attempting to detect vital signs from those he is still pondering for inclusion next summer.

Darren Bent is one who will be eagerly awaiting the opportunity to confirm the faith of his Sunderland boss Steve Bruce - and indeed Tyneside legend Alan Shearer - that he can make a strong case to Capello by simply scoring goals.

Darren BentDarren Bent has scored eight goals for Sunderland so far this season

Much has been made of what Bent does not do, particularly after an unfulfilling spell at Spurs when he failed to get regular football and drew unfavourable comparisons (in a football sense of course) with Harry Redknapp's wife - from Redknapp himself.

What Bent does do, and does with regularity, is score goals and as Shearer himself says, this is how strikers are ultimately judged.

Except that they are not, at least not by a succession of England coaches. Not where Emile Heskey is concerned.

Capello is the latest to persist with the use of Heskey - missing injured in Qatar - in the more or less certain knowledge that he cannot be relied upon to score goals at the highest level.

Bent has never proved himself in his fleeting international appearances, and the odds must still be stacked against him making England's World Cup squad with Capello signalling strongly that he will only take four specialist strikers to South Africa.

They are likely to be Wayne Rooney, Heskey, Jermain Defoe and Peter Crouch, although the latter may face a late challenge from Carlton Cole. Bent is the outsider and will have limited opportunities to change Capello's mind - not an easy task for at any time.

If he gets a chance against Brazil, it could be Bent's "now or never" moment with England and he will be straining to get into the action.

Bent's inclusion has its place in the wider context. It can be read, with justification, as another broad hint from Capello that unless Michael Owen turns the clock back several years his England career is behind him.

Capello is nobody's fool so he will never rule out Owen, but it is clear he will have to produce something out of the ordinary at Manchester United to make England's coach blink.

This is a mistake in my opinion because, as I have said before, Owen is the man you want that vital chance to fall to as opposed to Heskey. Capello, however, does not subscribe to the Shearer theory that the mark of a striker is goals so England are locked on to the Heskey gameplan.

And if Peter Crouch plays against Brazil, what an opportunity for him to answer charges that his impressive international goalscoring record is flattering because of the standard of opposition he has punished.

The argument may have merit, but there is also a rather large flaw exposed when the question is asked - how can he score against elite opponents when he rarely plays against them?

Few World Cup squads are complete without one name that almost comes from nowhere - although few have been as left field as when Sven-Goran Eriksson effectively selected Theo Walcott for a month's paid holiday in Baden-Baden in 2006.

So what are the odds on Aston Villa's Stephen Warnock being that man after Capello, who it is understood has been highly-impressed with his measured and mature performances, drafted him into his squad?

Warnock's England career amounts to eight minutes against Trinidad and Tobago almost 18 months ago, but suddenly the door is slightly ajar for him to push his way through.

How galling it must be for Liverpool that a player manager Rafael Benitez allowed to leave for Blackburn Rovers after an Anfield career curtailed by broken legs has developed into a left-back currently better than anyone he has on his books.

Stephen Warnock and Wayne RooneyStephen Warnock (left) hopes to force his way into Fabio Capello's World Cup plans

Ormskirk-born Warnock developed at Ewood Park and is now suggesting he will mature fully at 27 under the tutelage of Martin O'Neill at Aston Villa as part of a reconstructed defence.

Ashley Cole, injuries permitting, will be England's World Cup left-back, but with Wayne Bridge's form dipping desperately at Manchester City and Kieran Gibbs - a certain England star of the future - having to muscle his way past Gael Clichy at Arsenal, the opportunity to subdue Brazil's famed attacking talents provides quite a stage for Warnock if he gets his chance.

Manchester City's Joleon Lescott presents an alternative at left-back away from his natural central defensive role, but the player who looked so assured for so long at Everton is currently in a trough at Eastlands and has never truly adapted with England.

It is hard to see this being anything other than brief acquaintances with England for the returning Jermaine Jenas along with Spurs team-mate Tom Huddlestone, who has yet to make his debut.

But for Manchester United's Michael Carrick and Villa's James Milner, a fixture that has been regarded as a right royal pain in the neck by Premier League managers presents contrasting challenges.

For Carrick, it is a chance to restore some of the lustre he lost with a poor display in the defeat against Ukraine - and for Milner an opportunity to implant his ability and obvious versatility even further in the Capello psyche.

Milner has, in my opinion, every chance of making South Africa because he offers pace and crossing ability on both flanks with equal comfort and shows a maturity and composure that suggests he sits well with the pressures of international football.

Carrick may find he now has an uphill task with Gareth Barry, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard more or less cemented into the heart of England's midfield.

The absence of David Beckham should be neither here not there, unless he would have given fresh impetus to England's 2018 World Cup bid on important voting territory in Qatar, because as I have stated previously I do not think he should be in South Africa.

Rio Ferdinand's absence may offer opportunities for Bolton's Gary Cahill and Manchester United's Wes Brown - and once again the spotlight will be on England's goalkeepers.

If Capello's potential World Cup squad has a soft underbelly this is it. Every game between now and the day he names his squad will indeed be an audition for candidates who have yet to deliver compelling evidence that they are cut out for this most vital role.

Every move will be heavily scrutinised and every error will be dissected, as it should, for weaknesses that could pull the rug out from under England's World Cup campaign in South Africa.

Capello appears to have underscored the fact that Manchester United's Ben Foster and West Ham's Robert Green will be the understudies to Portsmouth veteran David James.

He has always been keen to look at Joe Hart, but I would prefer Blackburn's Paul Robinson to be in the squad at the expense of Foster. Rest assured this debate will occupy much of England's time over coming months.

So while the result may not carry huge significance as a gauge to England's World Cup hopes, short-term battles won in front of 39,000 fans in Qatar might pave the way to long-term goals for some.

When England meet Brazil it is never without meaning - whether battle commences in Rio, Wembley or Doha.

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  • Comment number 1.

    I think the really challenging decisions for Capello will be surrounding the currently injured or injury prone players. Aside from that he probably knows what his squad will be.

    I wonder how he'll react if Joe Cole starts putting in the performances he is capable of. Or if Rio Ferdinand doesn't rediscover his form. There's also Downing who will be coming back from injury soon.

    If Owen starts getting first team action and starts scoring goals how will Capello react. And how about Owen Hargreaves? If he is fit by the end of the season he has to be a consideration too.

    Ultimately Capello may have a few very tricky decisions to make when it's time to choose his final 23.

  • Comment number 2.

    I was thinking "this isnt a bad blog" but then just as I thought it you came out with the obligatory Liverpool/Benitez barb.
    "How galling it must be for Liverpool that a player manager Rafael Benitez "

    Cant you simply write a blog without this sort of caustic aside? Apparently not.

  • Comment number 3.

    The absence of David Beckham should be neither here not there, unless he would have given fresh impetus to England's 2018 World Cup bid on important voting territory in Qatar, because as I have stated previously I do not think he should be in South Africa.


    1st you tip Liverpool to win the league and now you state that Beckham should not be going to the World Cup!! do you say these things just to be controversial??

    Do you seriously believe that Beckham is not one of the strongest 22 English players around? even to come off the bench and perhaps put in a few decent crosses/free-kicks/corners?

    I find it absurd that somebody who writes about football for a living can be so blinkered. Beckham WILL be on the plane to South Africa because thankfully we have a manager who can see the benefit of having someebody like Beckham in the squad.

    Rant Over COME ON ENGLAND!!!

  • Comment number 4.

    Of course i meant one of the strongest 23 English players!!!

  • Comment number 5.


    England's big problem will be defensive personnel. We've been so used to a rock solid defence and 'keeper - but this is no longer the case. With the likes of Banks Shilton and to a lesser degree Clemence, we've been spolit with world class goalies. Our defensive set up has always been strong but now we are at the bear end of the thread. Established internationals are either injured on a regular basis or completely bereft of form. In this coming World Cup our defensive midfielders will become key to the success of our suboptimal defence.
    Other points:
    Carlton Cole must be on the 'plane if not in the first team as he can do everything Heskey does but he scoes goals too. Owen would spend his time on the treatment table as is a liability. I think Bent does have something to offer and I would most ceratinly consider taking him. However the problem is that with Rooney, Defoe and Cole already in my sqaud and no real reason to drop Crouch (for the reasons you have covered) a midfielder or defender would have to be left behind to accomodate his inclusion. Now that's a tough decision to make.

  • Comment number 6.

    "when Sven-Goran Eriksson effectively selected Theo Walcott for a month's paid holiday in Baden-Baden in 2006"

    Another good blog undermined by a careless cliche, Phil - don't all England players donate their national 'wages' to charity?

  • Comment number 7.

    I really rate Warnock, he doesn't have the potential of Insua (which he has only really started to show in his last few games this season) or the technical ability of Aurelio (who, when fit, is right up there with Cole, Evra and Clichy for dangerous left backs. The diagonal aurelio-kuyt combo foxed many defences... last season), but he is a class act with real strength of character, unlike Bridge, who in his career has gone from big fish in a small pond at Soton to a makeweight at Chelsea and a mediocre buy by City. Bridge, for me, offers nothing that can't be provided by Gibbs, Warnock, or even Baines.

    But I don't blame Rafa for Warnock's departure, after his injuries I think the move away brought fresh impetus to his career, I would have loved for it to work out at Anfield for him, but I'll be made up if his progression since sees him in the WC squad.

    Phil, do you think Joe Cole's absence (unless there's another injury I don't know about) indicates that his position in the squad is under threat? or that Capello knows that if he's fit he's going (he was possibly our best player during the first few Capello games), and so doesn't need to try and rush him back into the squad; same goes for Walcott, who is probably more under threat.

  • Comment number 8.

    Someone who isn't in Qatar is Joe Cole. I would have taken him, even though he is only just back in action for Chelsea.

    If he is anywhere near his best he would be a must for my World Cup squad. He will give England, and has given England in the past, variety, flair and something of the unexpected. This could prove vital in South Africa.

    As for the remark about Rafael Benitez selling Warnock. Too sensitive - might he not regret selling a player who is really flourishing now while his own left-backs such as Emiliano Insua and Fabio Aurelio struggle for form and fitness?

    In my opinion this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask without it being labelled as some sort of "caustic aside". I suspect some Liverpool fans might actually be asking themselves the same question. If not, they should be.

    And I have made my views clear on why I would not take David Beckham to the World Cup. I do not believe he will have the pace, and space and time, to trouble the top class opposition England are likely to face if they reach the latter stages.

    In all seriousness England should be able to negotiate the group stage without him unless the draw deals them a particularly severe hand. I would not take a player to the World Cup on the basis no-one else is capable of taking a corner, delivering a cross or taking a free-kick in a dangerous position. This is clearly not the case when you look at the quality available in midfield and on the flanks.

    I think England have the players who can do that without taking Beckham - I still think Fabio Capello is likely to pick him though!!

  • Comment number 9.

    As i said before Phil Capello will pick Beckham because he knows exactly what he can bring to the squad.

    You speak about the quality available in midfield and on the flanks yet we always play somebody out of position on the left and not one player has took that right hand side position and made it their own (post Beckham) Walcott looked the most likely candidate but injuries are hampering his progress SWP is out of his depth at international level and granted Lennon has looked OK but he is too inconsistent!!!

    To win the world cup you need a strong SQUAD and you did not respond to my point - Do you seriously believe that Beckham is not one of the strongest 23 English players around?

  • Comment number 10.

    The absence of David Beckham should be neither here not there, unless he would have given fresh impetus to England's 2018 World Cup bid on important voting territory in Qatar, because as I have stated previously I do not think he should be in South Africa.


    I think you're way off on this one Phil.

    Unlike the pretenders that you keep putting forward david Beckham changes games, scares opposition teams as they all know he can deliver an accurate free-kick or game-changing pass from anywhere on teh field. England are often more threatening and press more when he is in the team. Unlike Lennon, SWP etc he actually tracks back and defends and unlike them is regarded as a World Class player. In the last world cup most of Englands goals were set up by him and in tournaments you need people who have been there and can handle the pressure (which having played for 3 of the worlds biggest clubs (United, Real and Milan) he can handle it.

    If he was past it (as you say) then why would Milan make sure they got him for another 6 months. Simply becaause he is an outstanding player, comsummate professional and someone you should be glad is in the squad to help develop the younger players

  • Comment number 11.

    I do not believe he will have the pace, and space and time, to trouble the top class opposition England are likely to face if they reach the latter stages.


    Considering most of teh top teams do not defend high up th pitch pace is not teh most important consideration and Beckhams game has never been based on that. It is ability to CREATE the space and time for himself that marks him above Lennon and Walcott who are great at running into space and Walcott can score but he is not even starting regularly for Arsenal still and Lennon is too hit and miss.

    Beckham is easily one of the top 23 English players available so I would take him.

  • Comment number 12.

    8. At 09:07am on 13 Nov 2009, Phil McNulty - BBC Sport wrote:
    In my opinion this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask without it being labelled as some sort of "caustic aside". I suspect some Liverpool fans might actually be asking themselves the same question. If not, they should be.

    If this "caustic aside" was taken in isolation then I would agree with you. However it is the cumulative nature of your comments which berate Liverpool and especially Benitez. If you really dont see it, take some time to go back over your blogs and check.
    The blog itself is OK but you spoil it with this anti-Liverpool/Benitez sentiment.

  • Comment number 13.

    Here here Adam!!

  • Comment number 14.

    David Beckham will be on the plane no doubt, and deservedly so. Every time he plays he is great, can't remember the last time i saw him play badly. If we get a free kick in the last minute of a world cup final, would you want anyone else taking it? Joe Cole will also be there, and starting i would imagine on the right wing, with Gerrard ont he left, Frank and Barry in the middle. Defensively i think we look pretty solid with johnson, Terry, Rio, and Cole. Robinson should stat in goal, with Rooney and Defoe starting up front!

  • Comment number 15.

    Mr Cheesecake you need to calm down, I understand your point, but McNulty is not taking an aggressive tone here. It has felt all season that we have been bashed unnecessarily all over the place, but I think you are getting slightly sensitive when Phil is just asking a fair question.

  • Comment number 16.

    15. At 09:43am on 13 Nov 2009, pidgeGULL wrote:
    Mr Cheesecake you need to calm down,

    I'm perfectly calm Pidge, merely sharing my observations. I agree with your comment about being bashed all season, but I am of the opinion that this should not happen on a constant basis from the BBC's chief football correspondent.

  • Comment number 17.

    To pidgeGULL...I do not think we should read any long-term significance into Joe Cole's absence. I just think Capello wants to see more of him after such a long time out.

    I think that's a very fair decision, but I am such an admirer of Cole having seen his influence and impact with England at close quarters both as a player and personality, that I would draft him straight back in.

    To others, we will have to agree to disagree on Beckham which is ok - we are all entitled to our opinions.

    This is a question that can be best answered by Charlton, Spurs and Sunderland fans but I would like to hear from all.

    Is Darren Bent an international striker? I think he is an excellent Premier League player but have reservations with regard to England. I do, however, think he deserves a chance and his goalscoring record puts players such as Emile Heskey to shame.

    Is Heskey really likely to be that much more influential for England than Bent? I'm not sure on that one.

  • Comment number 18.

    #15 - Quite agree. Can people please stop harping on about perceived bias. Phil is employed to write his opinions on the big stories of the day. All of those who chastise him for being for one team or against another are only exposing yourself as being completely biased. In an argument with a BBC journalist and some randon blogger who takes the opportunity to rant about some imagined slight, there's only one side I'm going to take. Yes, you're entitled to your opinion but keep it on topic and not personal. If you can't do that, don't leave a message.

    For the record, letting Warnock go was one of the smaller mistakes that Rafa has commited over the past few years, but I'd take Beckham to SA.

  • Comment number 19.

    Phil is surely entitled to voice his opinion on the Warnock decision? Benitez made a mistake here and Phil is giving a timely reminder at a point when said player will turn out for England. As for it being cumulative, well that's surely to do with the way Liverpool are performing rather than some murky agenda? If every week Phil harps on about Liverpool/Benitez - which I don't think he does - then that's surely related to the fact that they are not doing great right now. If results pick up for Liverpool, then let's see the content of Phil's blogs and ask whether he's being unduly biased. Until then, such criticisms are merited in my view.

  • Comment number 20.

    16. At 09:49am on 13 Nov 2009, Kíllìnghölmê_Clᥠ(aka Charlie Cheesecake) wrote:

    15. At 09:43am on 13 Nov 2009, pidgeGULL wrote:
    Mr Cheesecake you need to calm down,

    I'm perfectly calm Pidge, merely sharing my observations. I agree with your comment about being bashed all season, but I am of the opinion that this should not happen on a constant basis from the BBC's chief football correspondent.


    Okay, didn't mean to be condescending, just saying that in the light of the bashing we have had we need to keep perspective, Phil is just asking a question that is designed to create debate over Warnock, not Benitez. It's not like he's a [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator] hack (printing headlines like "Liverpool reach new low" which suggest that we were operating at some kind of moral deficit before N'Gog took his swan dive).

    Thom: Like I said I don't think it was a mistake, worked out for him, we aren't really much worse off, no doubt we'll miss him more when next year's new regs come in to play.

  • Comment number 21.

    It is too difficult to judge Bent for England as just as at Spurs he hasn't had a regular chance but unlike Heskey he scores and does so more prolifically than Carlton Cole. It is something that will be decided at the last minute especially if Michael Owen starts scoring regularly at Man Utd

  • Comment number 22.

    Any idea why Capello didn't call up replacements for Frank Lampard and Glen Johnson, Phil? Would've been a good opportunity to give other, less well-versed England hopefuls a chance.

  • Comment number 23.

    @18. At 09:51am on 13 Nov 2009, Thom wrote:
    In an argument with a BBC journalist and some randon blogger who takes the opportunity to rant about some imagined slight, there's only one side I'm going to take. Yes, you're entitled to your opinion but keep it on topic and not personal. If you can't do that, don't leave a message.

    Good for you. I'm a "random blogger". Its an "imagined slight". Its a "rant".
    The irony of your post is that your comments are of a personal nature. Perhaps you should take your own advice and "not leave a message".

  • Comment number 24.

    I heard a statistic at the weekend, that Emile Heskey has yet to have a shot on Target this season. Unbelievable that he is always in Capello's thoughts, and selected, yet Michael Owen is over looked.
    Shows our lack of options does it not??

    Also I'm hoping the B-Side we're fielding this weekend will do us proud, as we did against Germany beating them 2-1 in Berlin last November!!

  • Comment number 25.

    Do you even read what you write? Beckham was never a pacy right winger!

    "And I have made my views clear on why I would not take David Beckham to the World Cup. I do not believe he will have the pace, and space and time, to trouble the top class opposition England are likely to face if they reach the latter stages"

    You are just one of many English media men blinded by Beckham's celebrity status. He has played for arguably the 3 biggest clubs in the world, and his fellow teammates have had nothing but good things about him. Beckham is not just about pinging crosses from right hand byline, but his vision and his movement make him the player he is. At his age he is still supremely fit and committed and will put in the hard yards for his team.
    Also beckham gives Capello a plan B. Its very obvious that Capello's plan A does not include Becks, but his plan B definitly does. What do you do if you have 20 mins to play in WC semi against Spain and you are a goal down? Do you keep playing the same football and hope it'll come off? I'm no Capello but I know what I would do, put Crouch and beckham on and watch Beckham find the big front player time and time again!

    I'm sorry sir, I'm not for a moment suggesting that I can do a better job of being the BBC's chief Football writer, but I daresay there must be better individuals in this country to do this prestigous job!

  • Comment number 26.


    I just don't see the justification for your own, and the media generally, clamour for Owen to be part of the squad. He is barely doing anything at Man U and we have more reliable options in the England squad already. We scored a shed load of goals in qualifying so I don't think that finding the back of the net is a problem.

    Your argument that Owen should be there for that one chance doesn't really have much merit either. Firstly, Owen is seemingly needing several chances before he buries one for Man U. Also, in my opinion at least, even if Owen is the best finisher, for the other 89 minutes he is something of a passenger and so to have a different players, one who contributes more to the teams performance as a whole, is much more beneficial. You might almost say that by your reckoning, we could play ten defenders and then wait for penalties, if we had specialist penalty takers. No, we are taking a squad to have a team and I don't think there is room for such an individual.

    As for Beckham, I'm not convinced he should go to South Africa, however, other right wingers have only showed form in patches and this position is still up for grabs I think. Therefore, Beckham is still in contention though I do think that if any of the heirs to that particular throne do well for the rest of the season, then Beckham is likely to stay at home.

  • Comment number 27.

    Good blog Phil, I just have one minor point; you mention that James Milner offers pace down both flanks, but whenever I have seen him he looks quite slow compared to a lot of wingers (as an old football coach used to yell when we struggled with shuttle runs "I've seen milk turn quicker").
    I think Milner is a good player, technically gifted and works his backside off, but thought a lack of true pace held him back a bit from being potential world class. What do others think? Maybe I don't watch the guy enough, and am happy to be corrected on this point.

  • Comment number 28.

    Beckham played for three of the biggest clubs in the world?

    Man Utd, Real and...?

  • Comment number 29.

    I agree with the point about taking Robinson instead of Foster. One plays for his club the other one sits on the bench (or reserves).

    Warnock could be in with a shout, as noted by Alan Hansen on MOTD, Wayne Bridge didn't excel.

    I think Joe Cole, injury besides, will definately be in the squad when it comes to the crunch.

    On the subject of Darren Bent, and also speaking as a Spurs fan, I'd be inclined to give him a chance and show what he can do. He's certainly playing well enough at the moment and personally I'd prefer we took five strikers to the World Cup - we've seen in the past how injuries / suspensions have hurt us. So that's Rooney, Defoe, Crouch, Bent and heskey (well not my choice but he's going to go it seems).

    On the subject of Jenas and Huddlestone being called up, well I simply can't believe that Huddlestone was. He doesn't have the pace, aggression, effort nor the desire for me. In fact I wanted him dropped for Spurs after his absolutely awful display in the North London derby (worst player on the pitch).

    I'd like to see Cahill in action, as I have serious doubts about Ferdinand's fitness, and as we know what Terry, Upson and Lescott can do, lets give Cahill the same benefit.

    I do think Capello should clear up this comment about how people need to play regular first team football in order to go, as neither Foster nor Heskey do, but continue to get picked.

  • Comment number 30.

    28. At 10:45am on 13 Nov 2009, pidgeGULL wrote:
    Beckham played for three of the biggest clubs in the world?

    Man Utd, Real and...?

    AC Milan!!!!!

  • Comment number 31.

    # 28 pidgeGULL

    AC Milan can claim to be a club of a certain size and stature surely?

  • Comment number 32.

    Regarding the continued selection of Heskey, thankfully Capello is a world class manager and knows that football is a team game, and is not about picking your 11 best players but about picking those who work best together.

    Heskey's performances and input for England are exactly the same as they are at club level, whereas many players are outstanding at club level but choke when they make the step up. Heskey wins countless battles with the opposition defence, and holds the ball up to give the other attack minded players numerous scoring chances. I personally don't care if he doesn't score, as long as the team score when he is playing.

  • Comment number 33.


    I think HoneyB means Man Utd, Real Madrid and ......AC Milan??
    Surely not L.A Galaxy???

  • Comment number 34.

    Hi Phil

    I am a Villa fan although not a fan of Heskey (in a villa shirt). However, i think he brings other, more talented individuals into the game when playing for England. Noticing the majority of qualifiers that Heskey has been involved in, Rooney, Gerrard and Lampard have been in goal scoring form. I don't see this as being a co-incidence and therefore think Heskey should certainly be considered above the likes of Bent.

    As for Warnock, I must admit, i knew little about him when he was at Blackburn but since his move to Villa i have nothing but praise. He is strong, confident, composed and a key man in what is now a very strong Villa defence. I think Rafa has missed a serious trick here.

    Where do you stand on Barry and Carrick? Lets face it, Carrick is battling to dis-place Barry (not Lampard). But do you think he is up to the job? I personally think Barry has cemented his position in the centre of midfield and although un-assuming, i feel he is just as important as Lampard in the team...

  • Comment number 35.

    28. At 10:45am on 13 Nov 2009, pidgeGULL wrote:
    Beckham played for three of the biggest clubs in the world?

    Man Utd, Real and...?

    Milan maybe?

  • Comment number 36.

    To day we will agree on something - but disagreeing is absolutely fine by me and I know Michael Owen is a divisive subject.

    I have to say all my comments about Owen have to be placed in the light of his fitness. I think if he plays regularly he will score goals.

    I suspect my concern for England is a wider one in that I find it a struggle to grasp the logic that a striker who does not score goals with anything approaching regularity, if at all, is somehow regarded as an untouchable part of the game plan.

    I hear all the talk of how Heskey makes this player or that player better. Gerard Houllier, a man and coach I hugely admirer, was also someone who played Heskey, often at Robbie Fowler's expense, at Liverpool because he helped Michael Owen. I know which one I would have picked.

    And I fear it might come back to haunt England when it matters most. I would like the reassurance of a finisher of Owen's proven quality at least in the squad. If fit.

  • Comment number 37.

    Phil you have a nact for writing interesting articles but you just have to make the 1 wrong comment almost all the time too many at times such as your well publicised opinion on Beckham and the quote below:

    "Capello appears to have underscored the fact that Manchester United's Ben Foster and West Ham's Robert Green will be the understudies to Portsmouth veteran David James. He has always been keen to look at Joe Hart, but I would prefer Blackburn's Paul Robinson to be in the squad at the expense of Foster."

    What 'fact' do you know, are you a football manager? Capello by all standards is a world class coach and we in england and most especially our local coaches should be learning from him. We presently do not have an english manager that can put out and manage a team that gave us an almost perfect qualifying campaign like we just had. People like you Phil have no qualification to make the kind of demands you talk about in your writhing, and sureley you are by no statistics a well renowned football journalist who has any authority to dictate the names on a teamsheet of a well seasoned football coach in the calibre of Fabio Capello. I strongly suggest that like the rest of us fans you sit back for once and support the team Capello puts out and keep your opinions to yourself cos it will not in any way sway Capello's plans

  • Comment number 38.

    28. At 10:45am on 13 Nov 2009, pidgeGULL wrote:
    Beckham played for three of the biggest clubs in the world?

    Man Utd, Real and...?

    AC Milan!!!!!


    absolutely, it was a genuine question because the loans had slipped my mind, mainly as I couldn't care less about Italian football.

    mtrenners, I absolutely agree about Huddlestone and Jenas, I'd even expand it to Carrick who, for me, is as bland as footballers can be. I just don't see what he adds to the team, he's good but is in no way an exceptional player. I think Cattermole was in line for a call up before his injury, but even then (and I speak as a Liverpool fan)... Rodwell! Surely worth a look as a squad member, versatile, resolute, strong. Carrick just about passes muster for a back up, but I hope Cattermole or Hargreaves surplant him in the final 23. Maybe Downing could even challenge for a central berth as it appears to be MoN's plan for him at Villa. Or who knows Jimmy Bullard could stay fit and single-handedly keep Hull up.

    Maybe I'm thinking too experimentally this close to the championship.

    On Bent. I think the decision should be Bent or Defoe, both are similar strikers, and I've never been convinced that Bent can adapt to a team that isn't built around him. I'd prefer the fifth striker spot go to someone with some versatility and pure pace (Walcott or Agbonlahor).

  • Comment number 39.

    #36 Phil McNulty - BBC Sport wrote:

    To day we will agree on something
    Hope springs eternal Phil, and I hope you recognise that we just have different views, rather than seeing my comments as just contrary. :-)

    Anyway, the Heskey issue may take care of itself. I am a bit of a fan of Bent on the quiet and I think back in his Charlton days he was the leagues top English scorer, as he is now he is at Sunderland. Spurs may be something of an anomaly but the manager comparing you to his wife is hardly a confidence boost!

    If Bent does carry on scoring, if he shows that he can bring others into the game and if he shows in what limited chances he has that he has something about him, he may overtake Heskey in the pecking order.

  • Comment number 40.

    Sidioteque, we really missed Barry against Ukraine. He's a lynchpin for the side, if at times suspect defensively (which is why I think his back up in the squad needs to be strong tackling battler, NOT Carrick)

  • Comment number 41.

    Phil, I think you overlook the impact Beckham has just by being there. Whether you like him or not he is undoubtedly an English icon at this stage and that can have both a positive effect on the English squad and a negative one on the opposition.

    His potential impact as a substitute is high, not just based on his set-piece ability but the pyschological impact he can have....and he always gives 100%.

    If the contenders to displace him were untouchable it would be a different matter....but they're not.

    You need to reasses your thinking on the same way as you had to with the 'Liverpool for the title' thing.

    On another note, Wes Brown, prior to his injury ridden season last year, owned the RB position for Utd (PL and CL winners) and for England 2 seasons ago. He may not be the best crosser of a ball, although I do remember him putting one on the head of Ronaldo in the CL final against Chelsea, but his defensive qualities are far superior to Johnson and, if he gets back in the groove this season, don't bet on him not being 1st choice in SA.

    Interested to have your view on that.

  • Comment number 42.

    #37 bdkye04

    I agree with your sentiments entirely.

    Of course, everyone is welcome to their opinion but you just know that in the event of England not winning the world cup, journalists will conduct a post mortem and will almost completely forget the word hindsight and will talk like they knew what was wrong all along. He should have done this, he should have done that etc etc

    Once again, as far as journalists go, I am reminded of the line 'self important judges judge, more than they have sold'.

  • Comment number 43.

    Phil - good blogg (as usually usual!!)
    Capello has already demonstrated he plans things meticulously and I suspect he already knows who he is taking to SA, baring injuries; he knows the styles of play he will adopt, the team formations and the variations possible.
    Because of the likelihood of some injuries (or drastic loss of form) with certain key positions, he may well need to 'run the rule' over one or two other players and that will be what its all about from now to June 2010.
    For 'wannabes' or 'last minute WC hopefuls', such as Bent, the question is not how many goals has he scored, but how many chances does he need to score - 'conversion of chances' is a key statistic, similary Capello will look at how much will (any) individual 'fit in' and what will they contribute to the team and its chances of success.
    Its no good having the greatest players in the world if they cannot 'gel together' and do 'their thing' when requested, not when they feel like it, or when the opposition is poor, etc.
    'Wild cards' are a great idea, but not when you want to win something like the World Cup -Capello and for that matter the whole team, need to know why each individual is there and what is expected from them.
    What the England team does not need, is to think 'oh it would be great to have 'so and so' available' but at the back of their minds are thinking 'yes , but it depends on how he is feeling on the day; if the sun is shining or; if the newspapers(or some pundits) are raving about him- everyone has to have confidence in one another, knowing the their role and that they can do it, when required.

  • Comment number 44.

    Good blog Phil, but I disagree on the Paul Robinson issue.

    3rd choice keepers rarely get a chance in tournaments anyway and I think taking Joe Hart along for the experience of being in that environment and part of the squad could benefit him as a future England keeper.

    He has much more to gain from being in South Africa than Robinson does.

  • Comment number 45.

    My squad of 23 for the world cup:

    Goalkeepers: David James, Robert Green*
    Defenders: Ferdinand, Terry, A Cole, Johnson, Bridge, Upson, Jagielka**, Brown
    Midfielders: Lampard, Gerrard, Hargreaves**, Barry, Beckham, Walcott, Lennon, Milner, J Cole
    Strikers: Rooney, C Cole, Bent, Heskey

    * I know teams seem to take 3 keepers, but unless it is compulsory I see no reason to take that many - how often do keepers get injured anyway?
    ** If fit, and playing regular club football by the end of the season. If Jagielka is not, then take Lescott. If Hargreaves is not, then take Ashley Young

    I think that's a strong team with lots of versatility. There are a lot of good players who didn't make my squad too - Crouch, A Young, Lescott, Defoe, Owen, SWP etc, but I've included those I would take. No doubt someone will come on here and mention someone I've forgotten and I'll have to backtrack, but we'll see.

  • Comment number 46.

    but vital auditions will take place in Doha's Khalifa Stadium on Saturday.

    what do you think, Phil, of the game being played in Doha, and do you know who the FA took money from for this?

    I'm not new!

  • Comment number 47.

    WordsofWisdom, name juxtaposed with your views on Beckham , i notice

  • Comment number 48.

    What's going on?

    First Dimbleby is out for Queston Time.

    Then Lampard is out for England AND Chelsea for three weeks.

    Now Brucey is out for Strictly Come Dancing.

    Phil, tell me you're not going anywhere soon are you?


  • Comment number 49.

    Its my first time posting, although i read these blogs everyday. I guess my excuse is that its friday.

    I know Phil has been banging on about Owen for a England call up for some time, but i honestly think Capello sees his strikers in certain catagories based around Rooney. Owen falls into the poacher catagory but is not the best in England...Defoe beats him hands down simply because if given the chance he scores unlike Owen who now needs on average 3/4 chances before scoring. Unless Owen hits some amazing form he going no where.

  • Comment number 50.

    To oncearedalways54...take your point entirely about Bent's potential conversion rate at England level because this is where doubts exist about his international pedigree - but this brings me back to Heskey. He flouts the term "conversion rate" for club and country.

    I'm interested in your take on this. Is he really the best foil for Rooney? Can England do better - and if so who would you play? Crouch? Cole? Defoe? Owen? Or is there someone else, or some other system, out there we have not talked about?

    All this underlines what a crying shame Dean Ashton's injury problems are. He would have been perfect - an intelligent all-round footballer with a physical presence and a regular goal threat.

    How sad it would be if he does have to call time on his career so prematurely.

  • Comment number 51.

    #46 captainlazytim

    but vital auditions will take place in Doha's Khalifa Stadium on Saturday.

    what do you think, Phil, of the game being played in Doha, and do you know who the FA took money from for this?

    I'm not new!
    Perhaps I can help Phil out on this one (particularly as he seems to have gone to lunch already!)

    I think you'll find that England playing Brazil as part of Brazil's world tour is part of a reciprocal agreement, the other side of which saw Brazil play England in the first full international at the new Wembley two years ago.

    Nothing more or less than that I think.

  • Comment number 52.

    is it me or is this the worst turn out for an friendly for some would think that they would all be gettin a touch of the world cup fever by now and be gagging to turn up and put in a good show (especially as no one is guaranteed a place - supposedly)...if things get any worse we might have to call up Luke Young...oh no wait he has retired (as if he felt it necessary to announce that lol)

    Anyway the strikers seems to be the talk of the day. My four would be rooney (shock), heskey (provided he gets a game between now and june - if not take bent), defoe and carlton cole. Walcott (if fit) can be taken as one of the wingers but fill in up front if needs be.

    They, for me, are the best we have currently, no crouch (many comments above describe well why i loath him playing for england...yes despite the goal ratio b4 anyone says). I personally really hope carlton cole can has a really strong season and surplants heskey as the target man. He could be salvation upfront long term, he has all the attributes (and now the mental application) to be a 'big man' of the highest calibre.

  • Comment number 53.

    I don't get how people want Joe Cole in the line up but not Owen? Cole hasn't really done anything significant since his return, Owen has bagged winners and had good games and has proved his fitness. I might be a little bias here but i'd take Foster ahead of Robinson, Robinson has conceded so many for Blackburn that it's just worrying more than anything and before you question the two teams in comparison, Foster was outstanding for Watford so he's played for a poor team too even if I do think Blackburn are better. Injuries are a problem for England currently, Lampard being injured may be a sign of things to come (he's at that age now!!) there's still a good 6 months for Hargreaves, Owen, Ferdinand, Cole, Gerrard etc... to prove their worth and fitness.

    ...Please God don't let Crouch go to the World Cup, CARLTON COLE WE WANT!!

  • Comment number 54.

    To I understand it the FA were locked into this game because Brazil played as England's first opponents at the new Wembley. Brazil are playing a series of lucrative friendlies around the world and this one happens to be in Doha.

    Not really the FA's doing from what I can see and it is understood Brazil will be getting a lot more money from the game.

  • Comment number 55.

    Cheers BlueBee

    Still think it is silly, and the first team shouldn't have to travel there. Should be a law about internaltional games being played on the same continent, at least.

  • Comment number 56.

    Phil - you're obviously not a fan of Heskey for England? But why do you think we should change a winning side? I honestly think that would be suicidal. I think its been proven time and time again that when Heskey is in the side, England play well.

    If Heskey were to be injured i would look at playing Gerrard Just behind Rooney and push Rooney up the field, and therefore utilise one our key strengths...the abundance of wingers we have at our disposal.

    Without Heskey, my team would be:


    Johnson Ferdinand Terry A. Cole

    Lennon Lampard Barry J. Cole



  • Comment number 57.

    And now Terry's a doubt.

    Might have to call up Titus Bramble at this rate!!

  • Comment number 58.

    Its interesting, this Heskey thing. I think it has a lot to do with the label that we choose to give to a player. We call him a striker. We call Ronaldo, for example, a winger.

    What if we labelled Heskey as an advanced midfielder? Or target man? The label we give him defines the job we expect him to do. I suspect that isn't the case for Capello. The job he gives him has nothing to do with being labelled a striker or anything else.

    Having said that, how are we to judge whether Bent or Cole could do the same job as Heskey (bring others in to play, create space), but with added threat, if they never get to play with Rooney?

  • Comment number 59.

    55 captainlazytim

    Cheers BlueBee

    Still think it is silly, and the first team shouldn't have to travel there. Should be a law about internaltional games being played on the same continent, at least.
    If you did do that though, you would never get to see certain teams in the flesh unless a country hosted a tournament.

  • Comment number 60.

    This game does seem to come at a strange time in the football calender but it does represent an excellent opportunity for Mr Capello to have a look at fringe players. Personally, I'm dissapointed that we haven't been able to send a full strength squad and truly measure our current standing against one of the best.

    As for Beckham? the debate rages on. Capello likes to have him in the squad more for his influence in the dressing room than his playing ability. Beckham has experience of playing extreme high pressure matches and I'm sure he helps some of the younger, less experienced squad members, in their preparations before a big match. On the field he is surely only going to be a substitute for late on in games that need closing out.

    If England do win the World Cup then they will be the first to do so with, a striker who doesn't score enough goals, and a goalkeeper who doesn't make enough saves!

  • Comment number 61.

    hiiiiiiiiiii .........anybody please tell me the time of starting the match between Brazil and England in GMT

  • Comment number 62.


    I don’t think rafa is going to be worrying to much about selling Warnock, we have two class international left backs in aurelio and insua, Warnock has only really started to flourish for villa, if I were FC I would take gibbs over bridge!!

    I think bent deserves his opportunity, but not sure if he will handle the pressure at international stage, I would like to be proven wrong tho. Heskey takes a lot of stick for not scoring, but he takes the pressure off rooney, because he is so big and strong and still has a bit of pace. This opens up space for rooney and allows him time on the ball and links up well with gerrard. Okay heskey should score more, but in the qualifiers, goals were coming from everywhere and rooney was at the top of his game, which is what all England fans want!! You could argue that carlton cole can do what heskey does but score, but Fabio prefers heskey!!

    Phil if you think owen should be going to the world cup and beckham not then Im just confused, picking someone who is playing week in week out over someone who is on the bench. You say you don’t think beckham will have the energy levels to play, but he wont be starting, he is a plan B along with crouch. Finally I hope Hargreaves gets fit soon because barry looks like he switches off to often when playin for England and that has cost us goals in a few games.

  • Comment number 63.

    Agree with post #27 about Milner's pace (or lack of). That's the only thing missing from his game though, and he deserves to go to the World Cup.

    And I wish people would stop comparing Bent's scoring record to Heskey's. Rightly or wrongly, Heskey isn't in the team for his scoring ability but because he holds the ball up and frees up other players. Bent is a completely different type of player who likes to run in behind the defence, and he isn't international class in my opinion. Personally, I'd like to see Carlton Cole in the team because he offers much the same as Heskey with the added benefit of actually scoring some goals.

  • Comment number 64.

    "these two superpowers"
    Exactly whom are Brazil playing?

  • Comment number 65.

    what an idiotic jibe at benetiez. if warnock hadn't left liverpool he wouldnt have been playing regular first team football and wouldn't have developed to the player he is today,so if he was still at liverpool he wouldnt be in the england squad and wouldnt be talked about. just shows the extremely poor quality of analysis that is typical of the bbc

  • Comment number 66.

    17.00hrs Kick off

  • Comment number 67.

    56. At 12:18pm on 13 Nov 2009, Sidioteque wrote:

    you have a good point. Gerrard is a better option when compared to all the second choice strikers we have. Wasn't that the position he was playing for liverpool back when Alonzo was there. The whole of England would much rather a chance fall to Gerrard than Heskey.

    Joe Cole is being questioned??? Crazy talk. If fit he has to be on the plane. One of the best 2 players we have in my opinion, the other being Rooney.

    Heskey - He should just come over to my house and watch the world cup. I'll look after him. Nice bloke and all but lets keep him back at home.

    Becks. He's a good alternative to the other wingers that we have who run at full tilt past the defence before putting in a poor cross. Yeah, he should go.

    All said and done, Capello seems to know what he's doing. He even managed to get Gerrard and Lampard playing together. The whole of England had pretty much resigned it'self to them being pants together. Maybe he uses muti, who knows. Maybe we should just trust him...

    ... as long as he takes Joe Cole

  • Comment number 68.

    England is weak in two positions Goalies and Strikers. What concerns me the most is the lack of players we have in these positions playing in the top clubs or regularly in the Champions League. I think the Goalie situation is terrible and the only chance we have of it not having an impact is if the rest of the players can defend well enough to keep the attacking chances down to a minimum.

    Strikers we fair little better with only Rooney playing at the highest level of the game. Well Rooney and Owen which is why I am convinced it is just a matter of time before Michael will be back in the England team. He is the only natural top quality goal scorer England has. Defoe is OK but a poor second and if it comes to one or the other my money is MO every time. Crouch deserves to be there because he does put the ball in the back of the net. Heskey as well as he brings the best out of his strike partner. If it was me and they were all fit my strikers would be Rooney, Owen, Dafoe, Crouch and Heskey. The rest need to start producing it for club before country.

  • Comment number 69.

    To Sidioteque...again point taken about not changing a winning side. I am just wondering whether that winning side can be improved by finding another centre forward who can score more goals than Heskey. Sure Heskey is selfless and has a physical threat, but is there no-one else who can do that and score goals as well? Maybe there isn't - I am just posing the question.

    I have to say I actually like the look of the formation you have posted without Heskey. Joe Cole in on the left and Steven Gerrard just off Wayne Rooney in the manner he plays behind Fernando Torres at Liverpool. That would do for me.

    I'm not totally convinced about Carlton Cole or Darren Bent at international level, but I would be intrigued if someone could tell me what Heskey has that they don't as strikers. Not much as far as I can see.

    And to scouse_mara...I remain unconvinced by Emiliano Insua and Fabio Aurelio, while talented, is injury-plagued. I would have Stephen Warnock ahead of either on current form.

  • Comment number 70.

    ****Great point coming up****

    The key is a good squad, strength in depth and from that, some will rise to the occasion...others will not.

    Who in 1990 would have predicted Toto schillacci would out perform the world class gianluca vialli? In 2006, world cup final goalscorer Materazzi would never be considered apartner for Cannavaro ahead of Nesta, but due to good fortune, he got in and played well, made the most of it.

    Now we have the ability to take a squad full of first class players and this is what wns you a tournament. However, you must add one star performer to that mix, and Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard are capable, on their day of providing this

  • Comment number 71.

    will the match start at 17.00hr GMT

  • Comment number 72.

    After scrolling through the comments, fairly sure no-one has yet mentioned Gabby agbonglahor?
    Since last season he's worked on his upper body strength and has been finishing well (which was rightly pointed out as a weakness last season)

    He's obviously a different type of player to bent/heskey but if considering defoe or owen then I really can't see what he's done to warrant being dropped.

    The last villa game I went to was Villa v chelsea and although it may not have come across on MOTD he gave chelsea's defence real problems.

    With regards to milner, I agree , he's not the quickest but he is far more aggressive than other contenders. On top of this he tracks back, defends well and can ping one in on his right or left. That has to better than SWP, lennon or even a.young getting the ball, head down, run in a straight line, fall over, start again!

  • Comment number 73.

    65. At 1:32pm on 13 Nov 2009, jpinthegoals wrote:
    what an idiotic jibe at benetiez. if warnock hadn't left liverpool he wouldnt have been playing regular first team football and wouldn't have developed to the player he is today,so if he was still at liverpool he wouldnt be in the england squad and wouldnt be talked about. just shows the extremely poor quality of analysis that is typical of the bbc


    I think this is harsh a comment. If Warnock was still at Liverpool then i would have assumed that if he applied himself in training then Benitez would notice it. Surely, if you look sharp in training then you should be considered - particularly when you have problems in this position (as Liverpool well do).

    Phil - I think that if Joe Cole is fit, he has to be not only in the squad but starting, in my opinion. He is a wonderful player who really is a match winner and in order to win a major trophy, we need as many of those as possible.

    Although he hasn't had much playing time since returning from injury, i thought in the game he started (i can't remember who against), he was really excellent. Having the confidence to perform as he did in his first start from such a long lay off says a hell of a lot about his caliber. He will not be one to shy away and disappear in teh big games!

    As for the question about Heskey, i'm not sure what sets him apart from Bent and Cole. I think it may just be down to his selflessness. But it probably has a lot to do with experience as well. A the end of the day, unlike Cole and Bent, he has been to and performed at, a major championship.

  • Comment number 74.

    I think the final team (if available aka hargreaves) and squad should be as follows:

    First Team


    Johnson Ferdinand Terry Cole

    Theo Lampard Hargreaves J Cole



    Remaining Squad:
    Green, Foster, Upson, Brown, Warnock, Barry, Beckham, Milner, Lennon, Crouch, Defoe, Carlton Cole.

    I'd have Crouch there simply because he's the only striker capable of offering us the plan B, and like it or not his goal scoring record is excellent precisely for this reason. Defoe is our only real goal poacher, someone who can snatch a goal in seemingly unthreatening situations, especially if Rooney were to get injured (or suspended) again. His movement alone creates space for midfielders to push forward into.

    I've got nothing against Heskey in fact I think he does a good Job however I think Carlton can do that Job as good if not better, plus gives us an additional scoring threat.

  • Comment number 75.

    The Heskey thing again:

    "The whole of England would much rather a chance fall to Gerrard than Heskey"

    Yes, I definitely agree (or Owen, or Cole, or Bent, or Lampard, or...). But how do chances come along in the first place? Apparently by playing Heskey! In the past England have played with "better" forwards, but not with the same results. People seem very happy to completely overlook this.

    I completely agree that there are better players -technically, and with the ability to score more goals -but are there better team players who make opportunities and chances for their team mates? I'd certainly argue Heskey is a very viable team member in this respect. Very rarely will all the "best" players make a squad -tt's because managers know it's more than just having the best technically gifted players out there, it's about fitting the pieces together to make that team as a whole.

    You have to have chances to score in the first place, and part of the game is recognizing how you make those chances. I'm very glad Capello is in charge!

  • Comment number 76.


    I'm not sure i'd have Theo over Lennon...a player who rarely plays at club level shouldn't be starting.

    Hargreaves or Barry is a tough one. As a Villa fan, i've watched Barry for years week in week out and he always seems to have a cool head and has time with the ball. However, Hargreaves is a great player and when fit has to be there or thereabouts...

    Its a toughie!

  • Comment number 77.

    72. At 2:04pm on 13 Nov 2009, longlivelaursen

    Agbonglahor will only ever be effective in a counter attacking team (which England certainly are not), hence his good performance against Chelsea. With the defence in front of him his ball skills and head for the game are some what lacking.

    He's actually not bad at holding the ball up at the right end of the pitch however there are other srikers available for that purpose.

  • Comment number 78.


    Its been covered by other people but I would re-iterate that as I far I am aware you are one of very few people to not want David Beckham at the World Cup.

    So long as he is playing regularly at AC Milan in 2010, (which seems likely given his success there last year), then he falls into the criteria of Capello's in terms of playing regularly at the highest level. His performances for England in recent matches, off the bench, have been impressive and he has generally improved England's fortunes on the pitch. He is in my opinion one of the most important players in the squad, particularly his impact off the bench could be crucial (just as you have advocated for Michael Owen.)

    On the subject of Owen, your persistence with calls for his inclusion is equally baffling. His goal against Man City apart, he has generally been profligate in front of goal; being at Manchester United he no longer has the excuse of poor service which he had at Newcastle. Just as you would rather have a chance fall to Owen over Heskey, this is true of almost any English striker playing in the Premiership, even darren Bent. However, Heskey has shown, particularly during the early qualifiers i.e Belarus, that his all-round game justifies his place. Owen has neither the composure in front of goal anymore, nor the all-round game to justify a place.

    I believe that I am not alone in believing that your calls for Owen to be on the plane are entirely misguided, barring a drastic return to form, which he has not threatened.


  • Comment number 79.

    Being a Villa supporter, I thought I would give my opinion on a few issues and ask some questions of my own.

    Is Agbonlahor being totally overlooked now? I'm not sure why Bent is getting into the England team over him in all honesty. Gabby is on a terrific run of form at the moment. Even when he is out of form, his pace is terrifying and his new more bulked up physique has made him even better. He can play upfront and on both wings, which also makes him quite versatile. I bo no means think that he should be starting for England, however I do think he would be a great impact player to have. His pace alone causes so many problems.

    When it comes to Milner, I think he should be in the squad and possibly in the starting line-up. Every time he pulls on an England shirt he plays extremely well. He has great technical ability and can play on both wings. Add the fact that he has got a wand of a foot on him and I would say that he should 100% be on the plane to the World Cup. I would put him ahead of both Beckham and SWP.

    Onto Warnock, I feel that he has an excellent shout at making the squad. He is a composed defender and can deliver a good ball at times too. Bridge is out of form right now and even when in form I feel that Warnock is the more solid defender. I think this World Cup will be one too early for Gibbs, thus making Cole and Warnock the likely left-back picks.

    Heskey is constantly a talking point. Whilst I don't rate the way he plays for us at all, I do feel that he does a job for England. He holds the ball up well and brings others into the game. I feel that he has that experience that could come in very useful in the World Cup. The forward line-up is going to be a difficult one whatever happens. There is only one man that is guaranteed to go (being that he is fit), and that's Rooney.

    I'm not sure if it is too later for another of our players to make a late run for the England team, although I feel it may be. However, does anyone else think that Downing could be a valid option for the left midfield slot? I am concerned that he may not be fit in time to prove himself. Despite this, he has shown in the past that he is a good left midfielder and once again it is something that England lack. I really don't like seeing Gerrard out on the left as he tends to drift in far too often. Against weaker teams this is fine, however against the better teams of the world the left back would be exposed.

    Anyway, everything is down to Capello. I just thought that I would give my opinion on some issues and plant some seeds.

  • Comment number 80.

    Just a thought but how about a change in formation when Joe Cole is fit?
    Especially against the "better teams"!
    Possible suggestion could be:

    Johnson Ferdinand Terry Cole
    Hargreaves Lampard Barry
    Gerrard J.Cole

    Any thoughts?

  • Comment number 81.

    73. At 2:06pm on 13 Nov 2009, Sidioteque wrote:

    65. At 1:32pm on 13 Nov 2009, jpinthegoals wrote:
    what an idiotic jibe at benetiez. if warnock hadn't left liverpool he wouldnt have been playing regular first team football and wouldn't have developed to the player he is today,so if he was still at liverpool he wouldnt be in the england squad and wouldnt be talked about. just shows the extremely poor quality of analysis that is typical of the bbc

    I think this is harsh a comment. If Warnock was still at Liverpool then i would have assumed that if he applied himself in training then Benitez would notice it. Surely, if you look sharp in training then you should be considered - particularly when you have problems in this position (as Liverpool well do).

    I don't think it's that harsh (at least in the analysis, the word 'idiotic' is maybe over the top). Players need first team football in order to develop, and managers inevitably have to balance the needs of the future with the needs of the present. If a player shows promise, but has no chance of making the first team you may as well move them on.
    Venables at Spurs a few years ago sold Ruddock, and brought him back a few years later. His justification? At the time of the sale Spurs needed the finished article, not a young player in development. At the time of bringing him back Ruddock WAS the finished article - but he wouldn't have become that had he stayed at Spurs.
    It's true that if you look sharp in training then you would hope that your manager notices you, but there are precious few managers in the Premiership (Ferguson and Wenger being the two notable exceptions) who are actually prepared to give their young players a genuine chance to make it in the first team other than just cover first team players.
    How many young English players has Benitez brought through into the Liverpool team so far? Not enough to justify the idea that he would have developed Warnock (this isn't intended to be a criticism of Benitez but a justification by the way!) The chance of Warnock really developing at Liverpool into an international player seems slim, and there was no real reason to keep him.
    You could argue that he could have developed out on loan, but that still supposes that Benitez would have been inclined to risk going with the youngster when he came back, and his record with home-grown players suggests that is unlikely. Quite possibly Benitez wishes he had Warnock now, but that's not the same thing as making a mistake in letting a player who wasn't the finished article and with broken legs go!
    On another note I think that arguing Owen should be in the squad because you'd prefer a chance to fall to him than anyone else when he's missing chances like crazy this season shows someone stuck in the past and selecting him on past glories rather than anything Owen's showing now. And I'm a fan of Owen!

  • Comment number 82.

    # 50- Phil - sorry for delay in responding, been out to lunch!
    Is Heskey the right foil for Rooney?
    Well it seems Fabio thinks so, it is, I think, partly because Heskey is not (as you have pointed out before) the conventional striker; he is not selfish (enough) however he does rattle defences and he makes some very good runs at fixed (conventional) defensive positions. Heskey is also brave and goes in where it hurts, in areas of the pitch that most strikers would never go, let alone risk their skins. Perhaps more than anything Heskey will help to create the space that Rooney (and in some cases, only Rooney) can exploit.
    At international level, especially in the world cup, real chances on goal are few and far between and when they do occur you need someone who can finish 9 times out of 10, not 50:50 as many of our so called 'strike contenders' do (Bent amongst them) -thats why I agree with you that if Michael Owen is showing anything like his old form, he would go to SA, at least for me!
    At present, the Rooney/Heskey partnership gives England the best chance in an attacking formation, i.e. that will always carry a real goal threat. Rooney, at least in terms of the England team, has no peer -Heskey's play gives us the best chance of utlising Rooney's abilities -its really that simple!
    Obviously there has to be other alternatives and other dimensions to Englands strategy, but I suspect Mr Capello wants to keep these 'up his sleeve', as long as possible.
    I made the point earlier that everyone who travels to SA with England must have a clear job to do and the whole team must know what this is, for themselves and for their colleagues - I suspect these plans have already been printed and Fabio will be dishing these out to players in the not too distant future!

  • Comment number 83.

    63. At 1:19pm on 13 Nov 2009, smurfmeister wrote:
    Totally agree... Only reason Bent is being compared to Heskey however, is that the plan will be quite obviously Rooney & one other...

    Bent isn't a hold up or target man, exactly why he never had any joy at the Lane, as we seemed to want to use him like that too often.
    Is a shame as he's a good player and finisher, but just was never going to work for him, Sunderland is a much better fit for him!

    Beckham should go to the WC in my opinion, so much to offer! Owen again but I just don't know if he's up too it anymore

  • Comment number 84.

    On a heavy liverpool theme, ive thought for a while that the system when everyone is match fit should be the liverpool 4-2-3-1 with rooney pushed right up and gerrard in behind, it gets the best out of both of them,
    as wilst people say rooney is best when he "drops off into the hole" actually he doesnt do that for man u and if fergie thought that would be the best thing for him then he wouldnt have signed berba and let tevez go.
    this formation would also allow for J.cole on the left and the walcott (who i think if he gets up to the form of last season must play) on the right. Then have barry + lamps/ carrick in CM. Thoughts Phil?

    On warnock, he had stalled at lpool and was behind john arne rise at LB, more importantly he was sold to make funds, i believe his sale went towards buying agger, such is the way at liverpool at the moment, sale before buy.

  • Comment number 85.

    Phil I can understand what you mean about current form, but this is warnocks 2nd england call up (I think) he hasnt done to much from leaving liverpool to blackburn and now villa until now for you to say rafa will be annoyed he let him go. I just dont think you can compare them considering Insua is still very young and learning and Aurelio is coming back from a serious knee injury. Dont get me wrong i think warnock is good player, but he wont be 1st choice, maybe not 2nd or 3rd, i would gibbs in front of him and bridge.

  • Comment number 86.

    If I was Capello, I'd drop Heskey and pick Carlton Cole instead. He can do all the things Heskey does even better, is a million times more skillful and best of all SCORES GOALS!

    My Strikers would be

    ROONEY, COLE, Defoe, Crouch


    BARRY, LAMPARD, GERRARD, LENNON, Beckam, Milner, J. Cole, A Young, T Walcott


    TERRY, FERDINAND (form or no form), A.COLE, JOHNSON, Bridge, Upson, Wes Brown, Jagielka


    D. JAMES, R. Green, J. Hart (because he sees more regular action at B/Ham than Forster and is clearly a better goalkeeper than Robinson)

  • Comment number 87.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 88.

    Personally I don't think Beckham should go to the world cup solely based on his ability....he is playing in a very mediocre league in the U.S and having watched him play here he isn't the player he was by a long mile....he wouldn't be able to compete with the best the world has to offer!

    He will not get the space or the time to be able to produce them long ago back in time crosses he could in his prime so if you take that away from him he does not give the team anything can say what about dead ball situations....would anyone be upset if Lampard, Gerrard, Barry or Cole to name a few are standing over the ball ready to deliver....I wouldn't.....What about his passion playing for England someone might say......well what about it, I think it is an insult to every other player in the squad when Beckham is always mentioned as having the most passion!!! Every single squad member who throws on the 3 lions is just as passionate about playing for England as anyone else so Beckhams passion for playing is a mute point....what else does he offer, leadership, we have bags of that, experience, we have tons of that, unfortunately Beckham does not offer anything more than we already have....Beckham in his prime was a great player, Beckham today is not, he should be left at home and we should take one of the fleet, fancy work footed players instead....Beckham had his chance's at the World cup and failed so let's give somebody else the chance to shine and provide us with a possible great future and not those glory days of old.....Thankyou Mr Beckham for your contributions to the England team, I do not question your pride, but even you know your time is up!!! If you need to go to South Africa please go as part of an ambassador team and leave the playing of football to the players of the future......

    I hope Warnock gets the chance to play because he is a solid left back and has great delivery from wide, I would take him over Bridge....if Owen Hargreaves is fit he should be going, probably for the expense of Carrick but that is a sacrifice I am willing to suffer.....As for goalkeepers that is a toss up, people are forgetting Kirkland if he stays fit and plays all season he will be a contender cos when it comes to potential he has bags of it so i am hoping his brittle days are behind him...if not...I would take Robinson cos he has the experience and he isn't a bad keeper...Foster leave him at home, he is unproven, unreliable, even SAF is looking forward to the return of EVS!!! Keepers should be James, Green, Robinson/Kirkland but I am not the England coach so Mr Capello whichever way you go....I will follow!!!

  • Comment number 89.

    What makes me laugh is how people debate Michael Owen's "old form", when they don't know much about the player at all.

    So form 1 is 1998, a fast player with a good finish.

    Form 2 is 2001, a bit slower after a few hamstring injurys but a better left foot with the same finish as 98. Can also include teammates in general play.

    Form 3 is 2005, slightly unfit from being benched at Madrid. But still knows where the goal is.

    Form 4 is 2009, similar to 2005 but lacks confidence. However he always suits the big occasion when it matters due to experience.

    Defoe, Rooney, Bent or whoever you like miss as many if not more chances than Owen. Or it may just be the fact that people consider players they favour more as, "oh well he put in the effort" or "it was close", instead of saying for Owen "Oh he's missed again, useless..."

    Others have scored more because they have played more minutes, but people only hear what they want to hear. Some were praising Owen through their teeth in 2001 when he scored a hat trick against Germany, some of them were even 'England fans'. Now he's been or is still going through the rough stuff they can't kick a man enough when he's down.

    But Capello is no fool. He realises the quality and experience Owen holds above his rivals, especially in big games. So if he does get more time on the field then he will be a part of the fold. Even if it means missing the World Cup at worst he could well be back after it. Bar the big teams England have been ok over the last year or so, so i'm not saying Owen should start and upset the balance. He, however; offers us a different option and amount of experience to anyone else.

  • Comment number 90.

    "David Beckham will be on the plane no doubt, and deservedly so. Every time he plays he is great, can't remember the last time i saw him play badly."

    Ok, the last time he played really badly was in Le Tournoi 1997. He could not cross over the first defender. I could not believe the biased commentary at the time, constantly talking about Beckham's great crossing yet almost every cross was headed away by the first defender and the few that were not cleared everyone.

    In 2006 World cup he did not play badly, however, 6 weeks before the tournament Lennon was in the form of his life and should have easily been the first choice for the right wing...unfortunately Beckham kept him on the bench.

    "Unlike Lennon, SWP etc he actually tracks back" I agree Lennon rarely tracks back, but for England SWP always tracks back, I suspect he runs more than the majority of the team. I am certain the main reason SWP is picked is because he never stops running. I wish SWP would always play to his full potential, but he only intermittently shows this at Man City, and rarely for England.

    Given all the injuries England have I expect Capello to be even more defensive. I know that England are unlikely to win the World Cup, and so I would prefer to go out fighting rather than aiming for defensive 1-0 wins and failing to look like ever scoring against top teams.

    With the lack of fit players I would like to try a 4-4-2 diamond with fast wing play from Lennon and A. Young/Milner with Rooney at the point of the diamond and Defoe and Crouch up front. Unfortunately Brazil's defence is too strong at the moment, and their counter attack is probably the best in the World, so they would just sit deep and ruin the game plan, but if they foolishly did not that team would be very exciting to watch...and might even get a couple of goals against Brazil.

  • Comment number 91.

    Warnock deserves his chance. I think that Bridge comes into the same category as Glen Johnson - suspect defensively. Oh to see Hargreaves back in an England shirt!

  • Comment number 92.

    Kieran Gibbs has played 11 games for Arsenal. 11. He hasn't been outstanding, he's been okay. He can't dislodge a poor Clichy from the side.

    Warnock was Blackburns best player last season. Is first choice left back for Villa and has been playing first team football for a decade.

    Baines was outstanding for Everton. Came up through england u-21 and is also first choice left back for Everton.

    Both Baines and Warnock are miles ahead of Gibbs but it can only be top four/Arsenal hype that suggests an inexperienced fledgling youth who hasn't been amazing in every game he has played be put forward for England.

  • Comment number 93.

    We only need one big man up front - whats the point picking Crouch when Cole is just as good in the air, better on the deck, quicker and just as good a finisher? Dont even get me started on Heskey! Yes he does a great job for the team, but so would all the other - shall we say, less gifted strikers that could be picked.
    Squad in my opinion should be:
    GK:- Robinson, Foster, Kirkland

    - Green and James are too unreliable. People will say the same of Foster, but he has not put a foot wrong in his brief England outings.

    DF:- Brown, Rio, Terry, Upson, Cole, Johnson, Richards, LB -

    -couldnt decide who at spare LB, depends on form at the time.

    MF:- Beckham, lennon, Lampard, gerrard, (Cole, Hargreaves), Carrick, Milner.

    -Hargreaves and Cole in brackets due to dependence on recovery in full. No place for Barry you'll notice, and tbh I was tempted to leave out Carrick and pick another forward, but picked Carrick as he has more experience in big games than Barry due to CL appearances. Although his form would have to be found again. Wouldnt get in at the minute.

    FW-: Rooney, Cole, Defoe, Owen/Bent

    - depends on how Bent does with the chances he gets - Owen is ahead of him at the minute again for experience reasons. And he is playing games and has 4 goals to his name too. If he gets 15-20 goals this season, then he HAS to go to SA unless Bent produces in the England shirt.

  • Comment number 94.

    I felt compelled to give my 2 cents worth of input on this whole Beckham enchilada. Beckham deserves to be in the squad, not only does he deserve it, he has to be in the squad.

    My one and only point: When Beckham was at Real Madrid during the time Capello was manager, he had a brief spell that didn't go all too well and some questioned his worth to Madrid's cause. Capello also had his doubts and banished him from the first team, and making it clear in no uncertain terms, that he was not part of his plans. Beckham vowed to fight for his place, and Capello reluctantly accepted his stance. He was putting in the extra efforts in training for the next few weeks, some media outlets even reported this, and Capello thought to himself along the lines "this guy is for real, we will see how long this guy keeps it up".

    And guess what; injury starts crippling Real's midfield and Capello gave Beckham his recall. After that, he was never dislodged in the last 10 or so games of that campaign. He was playing magnificently, and even Capello admitted it was a mistake leaving him out. And believe me Capello hardly EVER admits to mistakes. On that basis Capello knows what he is getting from Beckham- absolute pure professionalism and dedication as well as a great passer who can put some impetus in the team when the chips are down. I think he is far more qualified to assess Beckham than any other pundit or journalist watching football from the comforts of his sofa.

  • Comment number 95.

    94: İ think Beckham had 4 years at Real Madrid before he had any success,and then left for the U.S.A. pub league.Beckham has done nothing for England against quality opposition since before the the 2006 world cup and he won't do anything now against the good sides in the world cup,why would he it's 4 years later.

  • Comment number 96.

    First of all, it was 2 years ago when Beckham performed so well for Real in the season that I had illustrated so vividly in my previous post.

    Also, wasn't he awarded with a man of the match display a few weeks ago for England after only being 30 minutes on the pitch? Here we go, we have another Beckham basher on our hands!! The MLS is not a league that motivates him enough to play well for Galaxy, and that is the sole reason for his mediocre performances. Come Milan, he will make you eat your words.

  • Comment number 97.

    How many of you people are professional or ex professional footballers and that includes the BBC correspondent?

    If you are, then you are qualified to pass comment. If you are not, then on what basis do you all consider yourselves to be qualified to question the England Manager who was an Italian international footballer and who has more knowledge of football than probably most of you all put together.

  • Comment number 98.

    good blog, but I have to disagree with you on the question of Paul Robinson. Robinson is too short and unathletic to cover his goal properly, and regularly makes routine saves look spectacular, rarely holding the shot, but palming it away. for sure he has good reflexes and is a good shot stopper, but his range is pitiful. i remember last time i saw him in a shoot out for england i knew they couldnt win, cause he couldnt get anywhere near the penalties put into the corner. for all his inexperience, Ben Foster is a much better keeper all around, as is Green,James, and many others

  • Comment number 99.

    I will skip the player profile opinions .

    hi all.

    the headline that drew me to this blog concerned Terry having an ankle knock and may thus miss the game.

    WOW! as the game is played with feet and somewhere within the region of the feet there is an ankle or two i am surprised he should get knocked in this region, however as they say, you learn something new everyday.

    i am right to assume its a friendly? as such wether terry or batman takes the field it matters not a hoot, but to be fair to batman he would turn out regardless as he puts his country before club and money also batman unlike cappello is realy his " own man " and dosent take orders as to who will play and who will not in such a meaningless fixture.

    rummour has it cappello will " experiment " thats news we have not heard before and its good to see HRH Beckham may well have a say in such an experiment and grab another meaningles cap. by the way for all those yapping about beckhams apparent loyalty to the flag and the cause can anyone explian why it is, when the bloke is finnaly put out to grass he will see his days out in the USA? as opposed to these shores? Ive always said there should be a spot for him on the plane, either wing will do nicely as he sure is not fit enough to actually sit in one of the seats.

    " impressive qualifying campaign "

    dont agree with the above afterall they have yet to play anyone impressive and as we all know qualification was assured due to such a very weak and poor group its what the money men wanted afterall. There is absolutely nothing to be drawn from the fact england actually qualified.

    Cometh the hour the team will be found lacking and hundreds of pubs in england will be closed for extensive refurbishment after another failure to pass the knockouts. cappello will be discharged a few million the richer and go back to coach italy. england fans will be left with thousands of asbos and englands pubs will be left with very few chairs to sit on, tables to eat from, windows to look out from. The motorway verges will be festooned with damp drab flags of st george and there will be a spate of suicides amoung white van man and bmw owners hopefully both will suffer like for like casualties as niether are wanted on the roads.

    brazil will win 6-0 and everyone will be back here saying the game had no significance anyways.

    in a nutshell.

    shine on.

  • Comment number 100.

    before i go to bed:

    " How many of you people are professional or ex professional footballers and that includes the BBC correspondent?

    If you are, then you are qualified to pass comment. If you are not, then on what basis do you all consider yourselves to be qualified to question the England Manager who was an Italian international footballer and who has more knowledge of football than probably most of you all put together."

    what an utter load of rubbish the above is.

    deluded delinquent fool, your post should be removed


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