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Crouch Makes Emile of Heskey

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Robbo Robson | 14:16 UK time, Thursday, 4 March 2010

Not a bad night for England then, but I was reminded why I'd rather watch the Beeb for me footy - I can't stand commercial breaks

During Countdown, you always get adverts for false teeth glue, stairlifts, baths for backs that don't bend any more and more often than not, ways to speed up and/or slow down what my mother-in-law would call 'your intimate functions'. Fair enough.

Put the footy on and you get to hear a sentence like 'We think it's the best 4-door coupe in the world'. Hold on! We're not all wannabe Clarksonettes. Some of us have never worn a jacket with jeans in our lives and I don't give a flying key fob what the candidates for best 4-door coupe are, to be frank.

As for chunky crisps, men's toiletries and covering up your grey hair like a flaming woman - get lost the lot of you!

Where was I? Yeah. The footy.

Crouch has now scored 20 England goals in 37 appearances. Photograph: Getty

Well first off, how the heck is England going to host a World Cup if we expect teams to play the final on a ploughed field? The pitch at Wembley has more bobbles than a three-quid jumper. Can't the numpties who built the stadium not get it into their heads that the most important bit is not, actually, the catering department for the executive boxes but the grass.

Having said that, here are some conclusions I reached after Wednesday's match.

1. Well done Fab for treating the match like a competitive fixture and not some glorified pre-World Cup beauty contest a la Sven. (I sometimes expected Eriksson's team to stride out onto the pitch for the second half with Bruce Forsyth's voice over the PA saying 'can we meet the next eleven contestants who are trying to win... A Place on the Plane!')

2. Crouchy's a cert. I'd put him there ahead of Heskey, regardless of what Emile adds to the team. Besides, young Peter's link-up play is as good as Emile's, if you ask me. Defoe looks like good quality bench fodder to me - more of a threat when fatigue kicks in.

3. Looks like the keeper's spot's been decided. Rob Green it is. Not Joe Hart and not the other goalie on the bench last night who I think was Macy Gray.

4. John Terry did OK. The worry is not whether he'll be booed by England fans - I mean the bloke's wearing an England shirt so get over yourselves, people - but whether Rio'll be back in time to cover his desperate lack of pace. At one point last night he looked like a pensioner pursuing a teenage bag-snatcher.

5. The Lamps and Gerrard debate still lingers. Gerrard played infield from his left-side post, Lampard missed a couple of sitters and neither lad pressed the ball much. England looked better when Carrick came on - and better still with Milner keeping to a left-sided berth and cutting in. Neither Lamps nor Gerrard look indispensable at the mo and that can only be a good thing.

Terry made his first England appearance since being stripped of the captaincy by manager Fabio Capello. Photograph: Getty

6. The right-wing berth is still up for grabs. In his absence, Lennon gets better and better. Cul-de-sac King SWP did well last night, mind, while young Theo's Croatian hat-trick continues to fade into the memory like Barnesy's Brazilian wonder-goal. They used to say Ossie Ardiles dribbled at pace like the ball was tied to his foot on a piece of string. Currently Walcott dribbles like he's forgot about the ball and tied that string to the other foot instead. Thing is, he's probably got more talent, and greater finishing power, than the other candidates put together but I wouldn't pick him right now.

7. Full-backs. Johnson and Cashley are good, aren't they? Wes still looks like he's feeling his way around a darkened room for the light-switch when he crosses the halfway line. Baines was understandably a bit timid - he looked tiny and exposed like a toddler in a hurricane at times. If they're fit, everyone knows what England's back four will be. Let's hope the backs, ankles and medial collateral ligaments will get fixed up by June. Cos whereas the midfield has options aplenty, the defence looks as sturdy as a snowdrop in a cowfield without the regulars.

So in the light of all that here's my revised 23 for South Africa:

Goalies: Green, Hart, Macy Gray

Defenders: Johnson, Cashley, Terry, Rio, Lescott, Brown, Jagielka, Richards

Midfielders: Lampard, Barry, Gerrard, Milner, Beckham, Carrick, Lennon, Joe Cole.

Forwards: Rooney, Crouch, Defoe, C. Cole, Heskey.

Now I realise that's 24 but I figure you take out one big lunk on the toss of a coin - Heskey or Richards.

You folks may question Beckham's inclusion but there's always one midfielder who never gets a kick in the whole tournament and I'd rather it was him than Jermaine Jenas. Think of him as a kind of bearded tattooed team mascot rather than a player.

You'll note that my reserve defenders can all do more than one job in the back four, which is sound managerial thinking.

Naysayers, I'm all ears. But make no mistake we're in with a shout this summer.


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