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Robbo Robson | 11:45 UK time, Monday, 7 September 2009

I've become indifferent to friendly internationals. The only one I can remember enjoying recently was that 3-2 v Argentina when Michael Owen (remember him? Forward, one-paced, goal-shy, Newcastle used him as a couch-warmer in the physio's room?) scored late-on to nick the win.

Still, at least England's win over Slovenia was a bit of prep for the Croatia game - but I'm not sure I'd be entirely happy with the first 11 players Capello put out.

Rob Green doesn't inspire confidence. He's not actually a country bumpkin (born in Surrey) but every so often he has a dopey moment (aka a 'Rio') that makes him look for all the world like he should be wearing a floppy straw hat and a peasant's smock. "Arrrr... did I dawdle out o' my box there, boy? Oopsy."

Course David James's career's had more clangers than Salisbury Cathedral, but I'd still trust him as top dog. He's 39 but then I saw a programme on Pat Jennings the other day and he was still going strong at that age, leaping imperiously to take a dangerous cross one-handed like a nonchalant apple-picker.
Pat JenningsA rare sight as Jennings lets one in
The only difficulty with the prog was Jennings's voice; not his Ulster accent but its depth. I swear the man's delivery comes out of some subterranean echo chamber. It was almost outside the range of my hearing, although I reckon your average blue whale should be able to pick him up comfortably.

Glen Johnson is a big worry. Defensively he's as easy to step around as a lamp-post. It looks like teams will have him fried like morning bacon before a game's halfway through. Wes Brown looks a safer bet, though Johnson is good going forward - and when I say 'going forward' I don't mean in the current parlance, as in 'surely this bronze medal will stand you in good stead going forward'. Or 'in the future' as we used to say.

I've even heard the phrase used to or by Liam Tancock - 'this can only help me going forward'. You're a backstroker, son! You go forward off them blocks and you'll be headbutting your Speedo sports bag!

Apart from keeper and right-back all seems well. The left-side of midfield still lacks a left-footer, but Gerrard hasn't been bleating about a central role for England since... ooh, since Steve 'can I have your autographs before you take to the field for your national team' McClaren departed.

Right side looks like a toss-up between Lennon and SWP and I reckon Aaron's the lad at the mo. He fascinates me, Lennon, cos I swear his legs move three times as fast as everyone else on the pitch. Run him up against Usain Bolt and I reckon he'd do 23 paces for every one of the Lightning's.

When he really gets a lick on, the legs turn into a blur and it looks for all the world like Sonic the Hedgehog is patrolling our right flank.

Centre-forward still looks a difficult one to pick and the regulars were having a right old slanging-match. Heskey's won me over since his return, but in a reliable old seven-seater MPV sort of a way. Carlton Cole is your classic big No 9 - to borrow from the London Almanac Of Footie Cliches as delivered by ITV's cockney pundits. Carlton's a 'big lad' who's 'a handful' and can 'really put himself about'.

Me, I think he's a Volvo estate to Heskey's MPV - does the same job, is a bit livelier but can't carry quite so many passengers.

Jermain Defoe is the form horse. It's good to see. I've always thought the lad's name was appropriate given that a bloke called Defoe wrote Robinson Crusoe. Jermain often seems a lonely, self-interested survivor cast adrift from the rest of his team-mates by his single-minded focus on the old onion bag. Of course when Defoe's good, he's a match-winner and when he's bad he just looks like a brainless and selfish little terrier. A goalscorer, in short (in very short, really).

Me, I'd keep him on the leash as much as poss. If he comes on and scores every time then why spoil it by starting with him? With Crouchy towering threateningly on the touchline too there's a nice set of options for Il Maestro should the Heskey/Rooney thing not come off.

Are we up there with the best at the moment? Peter Drury seemed to think so. After Slovenia scored we had the usual rank bit of patronising flannel: 'Slovenia have their moment' and apparently Ljubijankic will spend the rest of his life telling the world about 'the day [he] scored at Wembley'.
Wayne Rooney and Slovenia playersRooney makes some new friends at Wembley
Presumably there'll be a Ljubijankic Museum of Football in Ljubliana within a month and all Slovenes will be queuing up patiently to kiss the lad's fabled forehead for the rest of eternity.

Of course, the big question has been avoided so far. No, not 'why has John Terry got the turning circle of a Queen Anne wardrobe?' - but did 'Wazza take a tumble to win that penalty?' Well, there's a bloke in our boozer who's just come back from a holiday in the Red Sea and he only just pips me as the Blue Bell's resident Diving Bore.

Rooney didn't take a dive on Saturday. He had a lash out at the defender, fell on his backside and should've been booked. I dunno why the ref gave a pen. Maybe he fell for Honest John's pre-match blather.

But just to put the subject to bed, with a cookie, a nice cup of hot cocoa, and a cotton blanky, Rooney has dived. Gerrard has dived. Drogba has dived. Eduardo dived and got it in the neck. The world has changed. From here on in, domestically or internationally, a proven dive gets you the week off and a tiny dent in your bank balance. Fair enough.


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