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Give me a call, Cap!

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Robbo Robson | 12:31 UK time, Thursday, 12 November 2009

I can't help feeling sad for the lad Luke Young, having revealed that he doesn't want to play international football anymore at the age of 29.

Undoubtedly these are difficult times for him having lost a much-loved brother over the summer. Nevertheless he apparently made his decision in February. Aston Villa are said to be annoyed by the enquiry as to his availability but I am not sure they need to be.

Speaking as someone who still occasionally wakes from a euphoric dream in which a fit and fleet Robbo has been plucked from obscurity to replace a shot-shy Lampard or a groin-tugged Gerrard during a vital World Cup fixture - and gone on to curl home the winner from 25 yards - I find it right difficult to understand why any player wouldn't want to pull on that jersey.

(Obviously the dream ends with me pulling me shirt off, getting booked, telling the ref what a petty little so-and-so he is, getting my marching orders, bursting into tears and being consoled by a pitchside Garth Crooks...)
Ron 'Chopper' Harris and George BestWho would have told Chopper he wasn't playing
Young himself has expressed his delight for fellow full-back Stephen Warnock at his call-up. I don't know anyone else who could've resisted playing for England against Brazil, although football is perhaps understandably not a priority for the lad at this time.

Indeed he hasn't played for England since 2005. The fact that he played for Boro for much of that time is surely just a coincidence.

Course, back in my day if you were a full-back it really meant you weren't much good anywhere else. Think Chopper Harris, Phil Neal, Danny Mills, that thick kid at school who was committed to an almost psychopathic degree and could be relied upon to reduce the other team's tricky winger to a cowering kitten. I played there for a while. I've had more fun playing scrabble with just the vowels.

In the late 60s the overlapping full-back was unimaginably daring - like a mini-skirt or a naked musical. Nowadays, your full-backs are your major attackers. They even have their own verb: only full-backs can 'bomb on'.

England aren't blessed in the right-back department when Johnson's not there. When Wes gets close to the opposition by-line he sometimes resembles a toddler running back from the incoming waves of the North Sea.

Young's reasons may well differ from two other recent voluntary retirees: Messrs Scholes and Carragher. The argument that they want to extend their club careers is all well and good but I happen to be old-fashioned enough to believe that a World Cup appearance, potentially in the final, is the pinnacle of a footballer's career.

Both these blokes have suffered from their versatility, mind you. Carragher rarely played at centre-half, Scholes was often shoved out on the left to accommodate less flexible numpties who didn't have the brains to play out of position for a bit. But you can't help thinking an element of their decisions was down to just being a bit narked.

And frankly both of them could've been invaluable to the Fella with the Umbrella as he tried to deal with an untried back four and a misfiring midfield during the qualification matches for Euro 2008. (Always of course allowing for the inevitable sequence of bookings that Scholes would've picked up due to him still tackling opponents with all the finesse of a runaway shopping trolley).

I suppose now Schmiley Schteve is perfecting his Dutch while Capello talks more sense in English than he ever did is a blessing, so perhaps we should thank Paul and Jamie.
Still at least they retired as genuine contenders to the full squad.

Chris Sutton's refusal to turn out for England B a while back was the most self-deluded abstention by any footballer since George Best last turned down a glass of chardonnay. Sutton didn't exactly become the indispensable commodity he imagined did he?
Pele in 1960 It's not like the good old days
Still, I can't say I'm looking forward to this weekend's friendly that much, despite the opposition. Brazil, under Dunga, seem to have replaced the Samba football with something approaching a military two-step. The two holding midfielders seems right cautious to me, given the talents at their disposal, like wearing two coats in a light shower.

There's no Pato, and Kaka seems to be the only creator left in the side. They've got hulking defenders and the set-piece is their best chance of goals. In fact if Big Sam Allardyce replaced Dunga the only noticeable difference would be the sudden surge in the chewing gum budget.

Even Ronaldo fancies a return to the national team. Seriously, I've nowt against giving a porky lad a run-out, it can't do him any harm, but after the last World Cup, when it looked like he'd been spending too much time with Ronaldo McDonaldo and you could hold a good-sized folk festival in one of his jerseys, he'll just be sending Kaka gaga.

In the meantime I'm quietly encouraged by the number of injuries England regulars are suffering at the moment. In an ideal world Gerrard, Johnson, Lennon, Cashley and Rio will be running into their best form come March and we'll have a squad of revitalized lads taking on the world's best in June. Of course, a niggle in the Wazza metatarsal before Christmas'd be a bonus, not least 'cos United's chances of lifting the Premier League would vanish.

The last thing we want is Capello wading through a sea of crocks come April and Rafa Benitez ringing him up to tell that he thought his injury list was bad.

Of course, if Il Capo is still short of a fully-fit full-back come May, he knows where I am. I may be a holding midfielder by trade (and I hold on for grim flippin' death some Saturday mornings) but I'll answer the call, mate. Any time.

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