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Capello unlocks Rooney gifts

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Phil McNulty | 21:48 UK time, Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Fabio Capello has done many things to be admired in the early months of his England reign - winning his first four World Cup qualifiers being chief among them.

The Italian's other major achievement is that he looks like he might have finally pointed Wayne Rooney on the path to true fulfillment at international level.

Rooney has been the glorious, untamed talent England has waited to build a team around since he took Euro 2004 by storm just before making his move from Everton to Manchester United.

And with five goals in his last three games for England, the signs are that all Rooney's promise is finally threatening to realise its true potential.

Even before the landmark win against Croatia in Zagreb in September, there was a lingering feeling that Rooney had not quite become the player everyone had hoped for when he arrived on the Premier League scene in such sensational fashion as a 16-year-old with his famous winner for Everton against Arsenal.

But England's best player is now showing that he is developing into their most important player, with his two goals in the excellent win in Belarus a fitting follow-up to his double in the victory against Kazakhstan.

And while it is always tempting fate when you are dealing with a talent and temperament as incendiary as Rooney's, even the tantrums that scarred previous England appearances - remember Windsor Park and the Bernabeu? - have currently disappeared.

As well as Capello's experience and guidance, which clearly has Rooney's total respect, he also owes a debt of gratitude to Emile Heskey.

Once again a player who has been scorned in previous times - not without reason on occasions it must be stressed - was the tireless workhorse who provided the perspiration to complement Rooney's inspiration.

Heskey set up Rooney's opening goal, but the latter's second was a masterwork almost all of his own making, fooling a Belarus defender before lifting a beautiful finish over keeper Yury Zhevnov.

Capello has recognised Rooney's importance, but has also determined that he works best alongside a powerhouse like Heskey. He is the perfect, if unsung, foil to Rooney's mercurial talents.

Rooney's goals were the highlight of another satisfying night for England and Capello as they continued their so far untroubled path towards South Africa and 2010.

They overcame first-half uncertainty, when they allowed some gifted Belarus players too much time and space, to end as convincing winners.

And another high point was Steven Gerrard's first-half goal, struck with ease into the bottom corner from in excess of 30 yards.

wayne rooney

It was a mark of his class, which he also demonstrated with a lovely slide-rule pass to Rooney for England's third goal.

They were moments of pure quality that only strengthens my unswerving belief that if he is fit a place must be found for him in England's team. This is a point I know many on this blog disagree with, but I will not be changing my opinion.

Capello's astute tactical approach suggests he may yet be the man to solve the painful conundrum of how to play Gerrard and Frank Lampard together, although the jury remains out on the pair as a central midfield partnership.

Gerrard was tucked in on the left in Minsk, not a long-term proposition, but it could still not disguise what he can bring to England.

The performance and whole mood around the England camp reflects the competence and business-like approach Capello has brought.

He does not deal in false promises or easy sound-bites. He has been a consumate deliverer of results throughout his career in coaching and his current record in competitive games with England is flawless.

And if he continues to inspire the best in Rooney, the road to South Africa in 2010 will continue to be smooth.

Capello and England now have a six-month break before their next qualifier, away to Ukraine. It will give the coach and his players time to fine tune further in friendlies against Germany, Spain and Slovakia - and reflect on a job well done.


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  • Comment number 1.

    It's been obvious for years England have 2 great talents who the team should be built around - Rooney and Gerard.
    Rooney is now playing in his right position. But Gerard MUST play in CM with a Hargreaves type doing his dirty work alongside him. Lampard has to be sacraficed from the starting eleven - there is no way both him and Gerard can play their natural game while in the same team - just not possible.

  • Comment number 2.

    Wayne Rooney is world class there is no doubt about that and I can see him bringing the World Cup home as he is that good of a player- however the team must play to his needs and play around him- he is a match winner and a definite captain of the future. Im an Arsenal fan and I dont like saying this BTW, I just wished Wenger took out his wallet and bid for him- imagine Rooney's technical ability now if he was at Arsenal- frightening. Finally the Walcott hype has died down so hopefully he can just concentrate on his game and do his magic from time to time- the World Cup will depend on Rooney, Walcott and Jack Wilshere- who I guarantee to all England fans will burst onto the scene by next year.....

  • Comment number 3.

    Where have you been Philip?

    I find it interesting that England are looking most convincing away from home. We have won some of the tough away games but I'm dubious we can repeat it in front of a difficult home crowd.

  • Comment number 4.

    Is it just me or does anybody else think that we are looking at the golden generation now with the likes of Theo and Wright Philips taking over from the glamour (call) boys of the past decade?

    One thing is certain, there is a hell of a lot of talent and no reason on paper and looking at club form why England can’t be world beaters.

  • Comment number 5.



    -Walcott---------Hargreaves----------Gerrard---------J Cole


    top performance in the 2nd half today! much more like it from england, we seem to know exactly what positions were playing in and look alot more confident, gerrard was great, heskey the perfect foil for rooney and rooney...........phenominal! what a player!

    come on england!

  • Comment number 6.

    One more thing, why does this blog not like apostrophes? Clearly it doesn’t like grammar, lol.

  • Comment number 7.

    the problems with the midfield are about their defensive qualities as well.
    against kazakhstan ashley cole had too much of an attacking role and had little assistance when in a defensive was little wonder he made an error.
    against belarus brown was missing at right back for the goal and walcott a little lacking in support.
    i worry that against better opposition the left flank at least is vulnerable if not both.even barry was guilty of losing possession to often this evening.i8 think the side would benefit from the return of either hargreaves or carrick at barry's expense at the moment.and then we have the joe cole situation?
    of cole,gerrard and lampard, joe cole is the one who most consistently captures his club form when playing for england.
    both lampard and gerrard suffer from the restriction that their england roles dictate.they both flourish at club level because they have more freedom across the pitch and have the skill and ability to be in the right place at the right time to change games score goals and win games.
    so if we need heskey as a foil for rooney and joe cole starts on the left,wright phillips or walcott on the right.

    so who goes gerrard or lampard????????????????????????

  • Comment number 8.

    sorry bicycle crouch hadn't read your post before i added mine.

    that's the line up as i see it when all are fit.
    maybe hargreaves/carrick depending on the opposition.

    and for ciapryna
    we've just got the england squad winning - perfection,the world cup and apostrophes will all have to come later.

  • Comment number 9.

    i think you need wright phillips on the right as he is a far more complete player than walcott. the only thing that walcott has over shaun is his pace, but still shaun is quicker than most. shaun also defends excellently to provide cover for brown or micah richards.
    finally i think joe cole should certainly start on the left
    and gerrard and hargreaves/carrick in the middle. lampard can always be brought on as an impact sub later in the game.

  • Comment number 10.

    I think its funny that the same journalist who has criticised Capello and judged his abilities as a manager in the past is now getting onto the bandwagon for praising him. I mean look at what you wrote last week:

    So can Fabio Capello do things differently and transform an unexpected victory into tangible success?

    Of course he can. Its not criticism exactly but you are questioning his abilites as a manager. Capello has won championships at every club he's been at. He's one of the very best managers in world football - up there with the likes of Ferguson, Wenger and Mourinho. You journalists here in England write such rubbish about things you know nothing about. You should go aboard and see how real journalists in Spain, Italy and elsewhere in continental Europe write. Chief football writer means little in my mind about the quality of your journalistic and writing skills, which, to put it politely, are as good as a amateur blogger.

    Its the same with the commentators. I was listening to the game against Kazakhstan on Five Live and I can not believe how idiotic and pathetic Alan Green is when, regarding Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard playing together, he said "pass and move - its not rocket science". Well if its that easy why doesn't Alan Green put on a England shirt and go and play in England's midfield? The guy is a complete and utter couch potato who couldn't play football to the professional standard in his day and instead enjoys critising highly talent professionals at the top of their game. How can you criticise Steven Gerrard? He plays with his heart on his sleeve, but he can't be on form in every game.

  • Comment number 11.

    Agree with both of the first couple of posts, and the tone of the blog, Phil. Get rooney and gerrard in their best positions with the correct foils and watch england go. Add in quality width and pace on the right in SWP and Walcott, and Cole & Cole down the left, plus a solid defence, and it's a strong side. Just hoping Foster etc come good by 2010 in goal.

  • Comment number 12.

    I agree that Gerrard and Rooney are our two best players.

    I like Lampard and he is a good player, but perhaps what with him being 32 come the next World Cup, he should ultimately be sacrificed in midfield for Gerrard who can be paired with Barry/Carrick/Hargo.

    Walcott will only get better, and I would like to see Leighton Baines challenge A.Cole for the left back slot. Richards could provide competition for Brown by 2010, and I dearly want Kirkland or likely Foster to replace the slightly error prone James.

    Get all this right by 2010 and we will be challenging for the World Cup Trophy! The hype starts here!

  • Comment number 13.

    "As well as Capello's experience and guidance, which clearly has Rooney's total respect, he also owes a debt of gratitude to Emile Heskey."


    I don't think I'd over-credit Capello and Heskey, but there are certainly 2 people responsible for Rooney's incredible leap in form:

    Sir Alex Ferguson, and himself!

  • Comment number 14.

    Shaun Wright-Phillips shouldn't be allowed anywhere near a football game. never mind and England game. He is beyond awful, worst touch of a footballer I have ever seen.

    As for Heskey, I have constantly championed his worth or England and actually think he is indispensable. Put him up front with any striker and they will inevitably score.

  • Comment number 15.

    "there is no way both him and Gerard can play their natural game while in the same team - just not possible."

    What game were you watching today ?
    They did.............and we won 3-1 !!

  • Comment number 16.

    And I fully agree with the team in comment 5. Except the right-back position seams to be a weak link for us at the moment - I'm not sure I'd trust Wes or Johnno in there full-time.

  • Comment number 17.

    Phil not sure I completely agree re: "there was a lingering feeling that Rooney had not quite become the player everyone had hoped for..."
    Immature (but improving) and petulant at times, yes, then injured at others... However there is no doubt still that Rooney offers a strength and technical brilliance that is unsurpassed in our current squad. He proves this week in week out when he is fit. Not saying we should 'build a team around around him'. But ever doubted his ability? I don't think so.

  • Comment number 18.

    What does this say about English coaches. England hardly lost important games with Erickson, looked clueless with McClaren and now look to be what they should be.
    IMO English coaches put pressure on players to do well, but foreign coaches put responsiblity.
    After the last game I wrote here that Walcott was a passenger, today I think he was a handicap. Being quick does not compensate for a complete lack of footballing basics. Being young is no excuse for getting better soon. You're either good enough or you're not.

  • Comment number 19.

    .....I still cant believe that people dont get the whole Heskey thing........yes, he is a poormans didier drogba, but he works a damn site harder than him, and is true and honest.
    Prior to our best ever result over germany the 1 - 5 thrashing in Munich, a few years ago, Michael Owen said that there was one man who he would love to play with........a Mr Emile Heskey............that says it all for me. U dont need two goal scorers, just one that unselfishly provides, and one that can put away.............thats what we have with Emile and co.....

  • Comment number 20.

    Totally agree with sandcastlejim. Its cruel but Lampard has to be sacrificed.

    I am a huge Lampard fan it is just unfortunate for him that he plays the same position as one of the most complete players that england have ever produced. Gerrard has to play in a four man midfield alongside Barry. England will be stronger going forward and possibly defensively, there will be a more defined shape to the team and none of the confusion over midfield roles that we're seeing at the moment.

    The bench looks stronger with Lampard there and it gives Capello more options to change things. All makes perfect sense to me!!

  • Comment number 21.

    It's good to see you complimenting Heskey - albeit fleetingly - in terms of Rooney's apparent 'fourishing', Phil.
    I say "apparent" as I don't think Wayne's goalscoring record is what does and will define him as a great footballer. His movement, skill, speed and eye for a pass however, I think will.

  • Comment number 22.

    jaysarollia - Spot on there. The journalists here in England are ignorant - to put it politely - to football outside these shores, and the level of punditry and their tactical 'insight' into the game is no better than mine or yours at best.

    I try to watch all football around the world; Italian, Spanish, Brazilian etc, and it always strikes me how little our pundits and media sports writers seem to know about foreign football. What they say is constantly embarrassing and clueless, and to make it worse they are almost always proved wrong. One random example - Hargreaves and WC 06. A man who was lambasted as average and who shouldn't be in the squad before the tournement by Hansen and Wright, turned out to be England's best player by a mile in Germany 06.

    Perhaps as Hargo plied his trade in Germany at the time meant he wasn't good enough, as the motley crew of pundits on BBC had not seen him play.

  • Comment number 23.

    Great to see our two best talents actually perform like our two best talents today - Rooney has been playing well these last few games and Gerrard finally woke up from his lethargy.

    I agree that constructing a team around the two Scousers is, going forward, the best approach. In 2010, both will be at or near their peaks.

    GK is still a big question mark, though. James is a fine keeper, but at his age ...

  • Comment number 24.

    Gerrard looked good today because he either had no responsibility or he shirked it. When Joe Cole returns, lampard and hargreaves will be the best central partnership.

    Gerrard will be the impact substitute.
    He is way too indisciplined to be one of a two player central midfield and has too much of a hero complex. (His open goal outside of right foot miss is almost a metaphor for this... could have done the simple left foot tap in, but decided to try and stylishly flick it in; a horrible miss).

    Even today, his rambling forced Lampard and Barry to both be the holding players. However, i'm not saying that this was not part of Capello's game plan.

    The problem is, it wont work against higher level teams because lampard is not really a brilliant holding player.

    Gerrard is a good player, and sometimes brilliant. But not an essential starter for England, unless we want to build the team around him. Which would be a suicidal error.

  • Comment number 25.

    Lampard and Gerrard play about as well at each other for England in my opinion. But like someone said, Lampard will be 32 at the next world cup. Surely we need a midfielder still at his best to be in the centre?

    He's the most complete player in the world. Perhaps not the best in any position, but you could play him anywhere in the outfield, and he will do a good job. He needs that CM berth to show his best.

  • Comment number 26.

    This blog is 100% correct in everything written. Well done for putting it all in perspective. At long last we have a manager who is tactically astute and finely tuned in to which players to use and where and how to use them. I do not believe that Fabio can be faulted. He is taking his job very seriously of making England winners. Terry Venables was a great guy and got England playing well, but Fabio is going to exceed Venables with his ultra astute tactics and team selections. Am I happy? You bet! All England supporters should be down on their knees saying "at last, thank God, we have a great team manager".

  • Comment number 27.

    A reactionary, profoundless blog.
    What has been England's only defeat under Capello? France. The only decent side England have faced since Capello's reign, and the kind of side England will be faced against if they want to make serious progress in South Africa. After the weak oppositon of the Kazacs and Bellorussians, how can this blogger be so blindly optimistic? Both Rooney's goals tonight were aided by a shocking Bellorussian backline. Moreover, Walcott constantly lacked support when going forward, there's still a cunundrum as to who occupies the left of midfield, let alone the centre, and lest we not forget the consecutive concessions.
    On a personal level, it pleases me to see an England team hitting the back of the net on a regular basis, but there is a danger of getting carried away, something which bloggers like this do not help prevent.

  • Comment number 28.

    Why can England perform so much better away and not at home? The answer is simple. The fans in the south are very fickle and will boo the team at even a slight error (Gerard get over it!! Just because they pay doesn't mean they have a right to boo!!). The players are under too much pressure at Wembley, not from the opposition but from the fans.

    I say forget Wembley and move all games to the North - At Old Trafford, they will perform like artist in the Theater of Dreams; at Anfield, they will never walk alone, At St, James' Park, they will be cheered to no end; at the Stadium of Light, they will illuminate England.

    North is where the true supporters are!!! Not the south!! Move away from Wembley!! Use it to host concerts!!

  • Comment number 29.

    To say the only decent side England have played under Capello is France is a lie. Croatia away is 1 of the toughest games in europe (as is proven by their home record), and we won that by the most convincing of margins. also to say that that the bellorussians are a weak team is also not true as draws with argentina and holland testify. get behind england and stop being a negative ****. to win anything we need optimism n not blind, anti nationalist ****'s trying to put a finally slightly successful side down (even if only after4 games).
    cmon england!!!

  • Comment number 30.

    I must say Phil that i have agreed with you on the Gerrard must play thing for a long time now- although i had wavered on the issue slightly just lately- but as is usually the case, sheer class always shines through when pressure demands. Rooney and Gerrard are the creative forces AND the future of this England side and ultimately must be played in their natural positions. A strong spine is the nucleus of any good team and with Rooney, Gerrard, Barry, Ferdinand/Terry( although i'd rather see Woodgate ahead of JT) we're looking pretty solid. Throw in Walcott's pace, Joe Cole's creativity and Heskey's physical presence and we're looking the most balanced we have in years....the same old Lampard connundrum will no doubt remain though, but at the very least surely the pens lids are off in preparation for the inevitable writing on the wall for poor ol' Frankie......

  • Comment number 31.

    I agree with the Blog, and think Phil has done a good job...not for the first time I might add....although some dodgy bogs have been done also ...

    Anyhow, I agree with the post of bicyclecouch...I aint no Chelsea, Arsenal, Man Utd or Liverpool Fan..I support a team in the 2nd Division..Yes I am a sucker who watches my team in the good ole mud and know the name of the Fat bloke eating all the pies infront of me.

    I am England through and through and just want them to win...although it does seem I am convinced that AGAIN we should qualify for the SA2010..I do worry when we actually meet the likes of Italy, France, Holland, Spain, Brazil, Germany, Portugal...or yes Argentina too..

    But with Capello my hope is rising again, a man who does not take crap...who does not allow stupid girlfriends who if you ask to name a team outside of the top flight would probralry ask what colour do their play in.

    Will he tame Heskey a good foil...yes (hate to say it - Hey he is 10ft tall 400lbs and still falls to the ground like he was hit by a train).

    So the dreaded Midfield question...Stick with Walcott (Beckham for the last 5 mins until he gets his 300th Cap) and have Joe Cole one of the most players I like to see playing for both Chelsea and England..

    So Gerrard or Lampard or Both...You know Lampard works well for Chelsea and will continue to do so and same with Gerrard for Liverpool...but for England...No I would keep Gerrard...the Stats do add up with Mins on the Pitch, Passes, Area Covered....and some I would if possible..if Not injured go for Hargreaves...I watched this guy and he was actually one of England's better players in the last tournement we got to...

    In Defence..Terry and Ferdinand, Rocks....Goalkeeper I still have nightmares about still...not confident.

    Anyhow...that's my view...I know it's my view, some people may agree some def will not but that is the beauty of the game.

  • Comment number 32.

    Joe Cole left, Walcott right, Hargreaves alongside Gerrard in the middle. With Heskey as a target we should get goals from Rooney, Cole and Walcott. I really want to see what that side could do. With Barry, Lampard and Owen on the bench we'd have a lot of depth.

  • Comment number 33.

    gerrard's goal was another moment of brilliance from england's best midfielder. nothing against lampard, but when it comes to making something fantastic happen, there is no one like stevie g

  • Comment number 34.

    lampard is key to england. his performances has been disciplined and his passes have been far more accurate than any other english player in the last two games. he has spoilt england supporters who think if he does not score a goal that he played rubbish.this is not club football and definitely not chelsea.thank god he has been consistent over the week unlike gerard one day good one day bad

  • Comment number 35.

    ruby soho's remarks about gerrard are frankly a joke! not only is gerrard an essential starter for england but he is the most likely player to drag england to the brink of something special. its easy to get carried away when we're playing well but who's the 1 player running the show when things arent going so well? rooney on current form is irreplaceable, heskey works hard, ferdinand is a rock at the back, walcott is exciting but lacks concentration and defensive awareness, lampard will always pop up in the danger zone and his dead ball delivery is second to none, joe cole has the creative flair and dribbling ability of a samba maestro BUT gerrard is one of a kind! a football genius who,whether 4 england or liverpool, puts his all into the game. fair enough he's not always going to perform 100%-he's human after all but more often than not he will and i agree completely with phil(who in fairness gets alot of stick when his blogs are usually very decent) gerrard is key to england winning another major trophy. fingers crossed its in 2 years time!

  • Comment number 36.

    While I agree with most of the comments in this blog, I noticed that those who praised
    Walcott's contribution in the England team failed to notice that he is not helping much in defence. The goal that was headed in by Sitko could have been foiled if Walcott had moved in closer to Sitko instead of staying yards from him. Brown could try heading the crossed ball away instead of avoiding it allowing the ball to reach Sitko who was left with Walcott.
    Nonetheless, kudos to the English team and the fans who were singing their national anthem ceaselessly.

  • Comment number 37.

    While I agree with most of the comments I noticed that those in praise of Walcott's contribution in the England team failed to notice that he is not helping much in defence. The goal that was headed in by Sitko could have been foiled if Walcott had moved in closer to Sitko instead of staying yards from him. Brown could try heading the crossed ball away instead of avoiding it allowing the ball to reach Sitko who was left with Walcott.
    Nonetheless, kudos to the English team and the fans who were singing their national anthem ceaselessly.

  • Comment number 38.

    Now all the cradit goes to Capello,can't it be just a coinincident that Rooney scored many in his past few games,can't it be coinicident that Rooney worked well with Heskey.
    It is a players own choise whether to sacrifise himself for the other one or not,Heskey is doing that,Capello can take this cradit that he saw Heskey is willing to work for Rooney and make things Easy for Rooney so that he can finish the job but other than that i believe it is all about Heskey that he is willing to just work hard for Rooney and doesnt care about himself whether he scores or not.
    This is as well a worring thing because if Rooney doesnt get someone who works hard for him he wont be able to perform well or maybe not score as well.
    If you really want to know what Capello did untill Rooney started scoring goals you should ask Rooney and Capello.
    Rooney said when he started scoring goals in his last few games that he did nothing special to make it happen,he just played his usual game,this means there was no any special change that made Rooney score goals,its more like luck and coincident then master planning.
    I will want to see what Capello does when his team meet big guys.
    I dont believe Capello unlocked anything but he did master the right man to play on the field,he can take that cradit,his few changes off the field helped as well and it worked when he told his players that they are not supermodels.

  • Comment number 39.

    Gerrard is NOT a central midfielder and all those who think he is are wrong!
    Positionally he is extremely poor, this is proven by the fact that he needs a holding player to play with. He needs a Hargreaves, Barry etc to play with as his positional and defensive play is just not upto it. Even Benitez has realised this by playing him behind the front man for Liverpool. I don't think people should be bothered if they can play together, they can, just not in central midfield.

  • Comment number 40.

    Some interesting views but many miss the point. England were, once again poor first half. Gerrard, goal apart, did next to nothing, Lampard as the attacking midfielder left Barry to do do the defensive work single handed.

    Result, a gaping hole on the left and acres of space in front of a somewhat shaky back 4. A really decent team would have scored a hatfull and put the game beyond England there and then.

    Capello's second half, tactical changes were outstanding. Pushing Lampard back alongside Barry gave the midfield a solidity that seemed impossible first half and deploying Heskey to the left was a masterstroke.

    England's shape was now so much better, Gerrard kept the Belorus midfield so deep it never threatened as it did first half, Rooney, not Heskey became the central focus of our attacking play and we cruised to victory!

    MOTM? Capello, by a mile!

  • Comment number 41.

    The Gerrard/Lampard situation is a major problem for England.

    1. Lampard… it has been proven on this site that Lampard for England mostly passes sideways to the fullbacks which is highly ineffective. This is largely due to the fact England play 4-4-2. Those sideways passes are not to a fullback when he is wearing the blue of Chelsea because he plays in a midfield 3 with 2 wider players just infront so those passes are to Ballack, Deco etc. With England they are to Brown & Cole, not quite the same quality which nullifies Lampards game completely.
    Unless Capello switches formation which would then lose Rooneys strenghts, Lamps has to be dropped.

    2. Gerrard is another problem in my opinion, this is largely down to him being a luxury type player who doesn't want to play in a fixed position. He likes popping up all over the pitch and again in a 4-4-2 that can leave huge gaps and cause problems. For Liverpool we can have that luxury largely down to a strong back 4 and a world class holding midfielder and tireless wide men who can took in to protect the holes Gerrard creates by marauding forward trying to create things.

    I think Gerrard has to be on the pitch ahead of Lampard because he is the more gifted and influential player of the two and is suited better to Englands new formation under Capello.

    But in a 4-5-1 or 4-3-3 Lamps can easily come in and play his natural game feeding off a lone front man similar to what he does with Drogba/Anelka.

    One final note, getting Hargreaves back is a must.

  • Comment number 42.

    Typical Phil McNulty - Article meant to be about Rooney but he uses it as a sounding board for Gerrard. Gerrard has one good game and he is God's gift. Lampard has been consistent over the past few games we have won and Phil does not even mention him. I just wish the BBC would employ a sport's journalist who is not so biased towards Liverpool and we could have some objective reporting.

  • Comment number 43.

    "But England's best player is now showing that he is developing into their most important player, with his two goals in the excellent win in Belarus a fitting follow-up to his double in the victory against Kazakhstan"

    I disagreee with Phil on this statement, How can Englands best player, be developing into the most important player. What makes him the best and yet he is not important. Don't mix your words Phil, it diminishes any intergrity in this report.

    In world football ranking should we really be pairing England with Belarus and Kazakhstan (No disrespect to the 2 countries)? Rooney has had good games and this should boost his confidence and hopefully Capello would help him mature faster compared to the the work of the other managers he has played for during his career.

    England are gifted with players but on know account is Rooney englands best today, maybe sometime in the future. He works hard for the team, so does Lampard, Gerrard, Terry, Rio. IMO I would credit the scoring influence in recent games to the work ethic of Hesky. This is a player who is so under rated, but whenever he plays for the 3 lions he has never dissappointed (neither has he been given the rightful credit)

  • Comment number 44.

    This is brilliant. Why are the majority of people on here still trying to argue who should be in the team???

    1. Hargreaves is rubbish and should not be in the england set-up;
    2. Why are people still going on about Gerrard or Lampard? - They both played the whole game last night, they both played well, and believe it or not, we won!
    3. Whatever we say about the team selection, it doesn't matter a single bit as we don't pick the team or set the tactics.

  • Comment number 45.

    Newbald wrote:

    "A reactionary, profoundless blog.
    What has been England's only defeat under Capello? France. The only decent side England have faced since Capello's reign, and the kind of side England will be faced against if they want to make serious progress in South Africa."

    Bottom of their group with 1 point at the Euro's, beaten by Austria, drew with Romania, in fact they will be very lucky to be in South Africa at this rate, hardly a decent side. Beating Croatia at home is a far more recognisable achievement right now and four wins from four is no mean mean feat as i'm sure France would testify to right now....

    And while we're on the topic of profoundless, is the left side of midfield really such a problem for England Newbald? Isn't the general concensus that Joe Cole is a more than adequate solution to this mysterious cunundrum you speak of???

  • Comment number 46.


    Part of the 'superstar' obsessed media style I'm afraid. Their favourites get all the plaudits when they do something decent, but it is always someone else's fault when things go wrong.

    Gerrard's goal was well placed, but should have been saved, a side footed shot from 30+ yards FFS! His only contribution first half. He was much better second half but credit should go to Lampard who dropped back to give Barry some much needed support and allow Gerrard and Rooney the freedom to get at the opposition.

    Also shifting the focus of the attack from Heskey to Rooney worked very well indeed. With Heskey operating mostly on the left there was ample space for Rooney and Gerrard to burst through the the middle to great effect.

    Makes me wonder what would have happened had we deployed a 'proper' left sided player from the outset!

  • Comment number 47.

    Oh no not another "comes of age" article.

  • Comment number 48.

    I think it's good that we're all still talking about Lampard v Gerrard as it helps keep feet firmly on the ground about the fact that - for the first time ever - England have won four World Cup qualifiers in a row.

    If that had happened two years ago, there would be discussions of the route through London for the open top bus.

    It reminds me of the old Clemence v Shilton debate when England ended up playing one then the other ad nauseum. We should pick one of these guys and stick with them. The general consensus is that Gerrard is better - particularly when he is in barn-storming mode - so I'd pick him next to Barry, Walcott on the right and whoever on the left (still unconvinced by Joe Cole because he's right-footed).

    It was worrying last night when the central midfielders looked to go left and Gerrard was Awol so reaching a compromise is not viable. Pick one and stick to it.

    As to the Steven-Gerrard-isn't-a-central-midfielder point, I'm a bit baffled. Where the Hell do people expect him to play? He plays off torres at Liverpool, but even Benitez doesn't seem to be an evangelist for that arrangement - twenty million for Robbie Keane. And - lest we forget - Liverpool are doing pretty well this season.

    It's hard on Lampard - who is brilliant - but he happens to be a central midfielder at a time when there's a better option.

  • Comment number 49.


    What do England need to do???... we have just won 3-1 away from home against a country that in the last 12 months have beaten Holland and drew with Germany and Argentina!... and all the talk from comments on this blog is about Gerrard and Lampard can't play together and/or people are worried what will happen when we play "a good side".....

    Look - we are doing well... we are beating sides - we have just had our best start to a world cup qualifying campaign ever ... PLEASE CAN SOMEONE BE POSITIVE!

    In my eyes Capello proved last night that Gerrard and Lampard CAN play in the same team.... he played them in a way that no one else has up until now (Gerrard was not just on the left/central but very advanced - almost up alongside Rooney...

    Capello is a legend - people on this blog continue to amaze me with wanting to churn out old and tired arguments...
    Can people not discuss how good a result it was... without then trying to make it seem like they are some sort of tactical genius that Capello should attend a training course from and learn something from them!

    Also ... as for the "what happens when we play a good side" argument... get your heads out of your backsides and look at what actually happens in the world of international football..... Belarus beat Holland and drew with Germany and Argentina - these are 3 "good" sides.... and we have just done better than them... if you also look at last nights results you will probably see that of the "big sides" England have arguably had the stand out result... Portugal drew at home with Albania, Germany struggled to a 1-0 home win against Wales, and WORLD CHAMPIONS Italy only scraped a 2-1 home win against the mighty Montenegro - a side who are probably very similar to Belarus... so please realise that "the good sides" don't simply beat everyone 5-0 every time they play... that is not how football is in reality!

    please be positive guys - or if we can't be positive please be realistic... and if you can't be realistic please understand!

    But to actually comment on the subject of the blog Rooney was awesome last night - his second goal was quality!... and I think it is simply because he now has a manager at international level that has the same gravitas and ability as he does at club level... hence his performances are now a more similar level for both teams!

  • Comment number 50.

    How does talking about Gerrard and Lampard keep our feet on the ground? That is a debate and has nothing to do with the fact that we have won 4 out of 4. Surely we keep our feet on the ground by taking one game at a time and not getting ahead of ourselves, or is that too complicated???

    And on a side not, Gerrard was excellent last night scoring a great goal. I am pretty sure everyone saw the same game as me, and did Lampard not play well as a holding midfielder? If you listened to the commentary on the television and radio it was clear that he was under instructions to be more disciplined than usual. Barry had a poor game and it is clear that he feels under pressure that his place is not so secure anymore.

  • Comment number 51.

    sorry to post again so quickly ... but i can't help myself....:)



    "general concensus" doesn't mean sweet Football Association!... luckily the man who picks the team doesn't listen to "general concensus" otherwise he would be sat in some rubbishy office doing a rubbish job like the rest of us rather than being arguably the best manager in the world! (SAF, Wenger, etc can argue - but not us plebs!)

  • Comment number 52.


    Thank you. I agree whole heartedly with your comments.

    Isn't there a footballing cliche of 'There are no easy games in football'?

    Argentina lost to Chile and Brazil drew to Colombia. Should they not be beating these sides?

  • Comment number 53.

    I'm glad that now the unwarranted criticism over Rooney by many people is finally over. People had a lot to say about Rooney when his form suffered a bit, but now they can see just how special the boy is.

    It was going to happen that at some point Rooney was going to have a spell of poor form. However, even the time the boy had a poor form in terms of goals he was still a very important player for both club and country.

    I think there are several things that have contributed to Rooney's comeback and one of them is the coming of Berbatov at United. I think Rooney was in a comfort zone for sometime at United when the front line only had him and Tevez as the real forwards, but now with the presence of Berba and Manucho in addition to Tevez and Ronaldo who has also been used there in some games Rooney wants to show everybody that he deserves being in the starting eleven. He only needed sitting on the bench once and that was it!

    Credit to Capello too for being able to see Rooney's abilities and finding him a perfect foil in the form of Heskey. I mean, whoever thought Heskey would come back to the England frame? Also having Theo in the team has helped because Rooney now has few guys he can rely on when it comes to making great runs and creativity.

    I think also the relationship between Capello and Sir, Alex Ferguson is very important. You can see that the two are of the same mind as Wes Bown mentioned. They both knew what Rooney needed to get himself back to the groove and were in an agreement that he needs to stay up front more.

    I wonder about Steven Gerrard and Lampard though, should both of them play in one game? Well, when Carrick and Owen Hargrieves return it will be very interesting to see what Capello will do, but for me Gerrard is 1st then use Hargrieves when playing a 4-4-2 formation.

    If you want to visit Swaziland, go to Tour Swaziland -!

  • Comment number 54.

    Amen Boomshakalak!!!!!

    Great blog Phil.

    The win last night was an Excellent result.
    And like Capello says, thats whats important right now!

    Rooney was excellent and took both his chances really well.

    The positive thing is that he can still play better :)

    What i am liking about Capello is that he has the ability to make not only substitutes at the right times, but he changes the way we play during the game if its not working.

    We did not play well in the first half and he didn't wait till the 80th min to get it right.

    Still a little dissapointed with Lampard, as when i see him play for Chelsea, the guy is amazing.
    And i know that he has a different role there, but he seems to play on first gear for England.

    If anyone can get the best out of the players though, Capello seems to be a good bet right now.

    Its gonna take time and hopefully some patience from the England fans when sat in Wembley!!!

  • Comment number 55.

    England appear to be playing with far greater tactical awareness than previously and this is down to Cappello. It was also refreshing in the second half to see England keep the ball for long periods. If both are fit I believe it must be Gerrard rather than Lamaprd in midfield with a Barry or Hargreaves sitting behind. He is more dynamic and appears to have a better understanding with Rooney.

    It is also great to see the abundance of quality young players coming through, I agree with the earlier post that Jack Wilshire will burst through soon, but also keep an eye out for Fabian Delph at Leeds a two-footed creative centre midfielder who has won 6 man of the match awards this season already.

  • Comment number 56.

    Much better performance 2nd half when our players actually defended properly, closed down and didn't give Belarus any space. In the first half they outplayed us, moved better and we were given a lesson. I still feel our players are too static in midfield when passing the ball and too many balls are picked up by Lamps, Barry, etc.. and instead of looking to play forward are laid back to the defence who hoof it long. Plus the passing of the so-called "brilliant" Lampard and Barry last night was poor when compared with the Belarus midfielders - forget club form debate - at international level time and again we don't pass as well as we should.

    As for the Belarus goal - Walcott and not Brown was the culprit - Brown had to move inside to cover the defence which had been torn to pieces by Belarus and that's his job to cover where needed - he got caught ball watching.

    On the plus side - Rooney - excellent coming back into the hole with some nice touches, lay-offs, etc.... Heskey worked tirelessly as ever. In central midfield i would certainly agree with Gerrard & Hargreaves who is one of our most technically gifted players who can keep possession of the ball, doesn't panic under pressure and has pace which Barry lacks and will be exposed against better sides in a 4-4-2.

    Overall a good result against a tough side and it's looking better but don't get carried away, we'll see how good we are when we play the top sides - remember the footballing lesson Spain gave us last time we played them!

  • Comment number 57.

    Having read this blog a lot of individuals have many valid points. Partnerships in the midfield, who to play up front and who to build the team around. Even the points about our so called pundits have fair merit.
    However I feel I must say a few things;

    The biggest floor in English football is the fans, they mock players, they boo and moan when England loose or draw a friendly. I personnally find this appauling.

    Fans don't look at the bigger picture, they pay their money and want entertainment. You could argue that that is fair, however a friendly means nothing. It gives the manager a chance to try things out, things that have only been seen on the training pitch or on a white board. They are there to give the manager the best chance at seeing what, who and when things work, so that when the vital matches come along he can pick his tactics and win the game.

    Fabio has been nothing more than trully inspirational and brilliant for England. He has restored pride in the players, it seems to me that pre-Fabio the players did not have any pride in playing for their country. There is a reason the three lions are on the left of our shirts and that is because they sit with our heart. You look now at the England players and you see them play their hearts out again.

    Now back to the fans, I agree that Wembley is a shocking place to play our fixtures but for one reason only and that is because at least 70 percent of the people in their are not fans they are corporate companies who have got free tickets for the part they played in building the damn place. I am a northerner but I disagree with the comment that Wembley is a bad place for England because it's full of southern fans, it's not. What England need is to stop filling Wembley with these corporate freebies and let the real fans have the seat allocation.

    And to our real fans remember you put the shirt on to, where it with pride and support our team whenever they grace the field. Remember the big picture, 2010 as Capello does and do not dishearten our players when they fail during friendlies. Capello has proven himself by winning the only 4 games that matter since he came to be manager.

    Once again my heart is filled with pride as I see England perform in the games that matters and my hopes are raised, this is down to one man and one man alone Fabio Capello. Sir I thankyou

  • Comment number 58.

    Mr Phil, you forgot to mention to us how you are now feeling about Owen's omission?

    For me, Owen has lost his speed and hunger and he adds nothnig to this england side that Defoe cannot match, except that Defoe has more hunger and pacier that Owen.

    In my opinion, he should be considered only if Rooney &/or Defoe are injured or out of form.

  • Comment number 59.

    The thing I find most amusing about these blogs is how bloggers themselves criticize the journalists, when their opinions change with the wind just as easily.
    Before the recent vain of form the likes of Gerrard, Rooney Lampard etc were all prima donnas, to be chucked on the scrap heap - now their world class players who are going to bring the world cup back in 2010.
    The truth of the matter is England have some quality players as they have had for a number of years. The main problem in the Erickson- Mclown eras was that they both picked what they considered the 11 best players a fudge a formation around them. The most successful club sides, Liverpool of the 80s, Man Utd of the 90s, didn't dominate because they had the 11 best players, but they had a winning formation. If there was a weakness in the formation the player was replaced.
    I’m hopeful that this is something Capello understands. Whether it's Walcott or SWP or the right - it doesn't matter now - he decides on form when the next game comes around. If Heskey and Rooney complement each other and are both in form play them. However, this doesn't mean Owen should never play again for England. My only doubt with Capello is the old Lampard-Gerrard conundrum. It will be interesting to see what he does if J. Cole Gerrad and Lampard are all fit and in form. My opinion is that he would have to drop Lampard and play the other two with Barry or Hargreaves.

  • Comment number 60.

    It is a known fact that Rooney is one of the most naturally talented English player, ask Arsene Wenger. However, strong Character or not, the lad has buckled under the weight of expectation. Pity the nation that puts its hope on the thick neck of an 18 year old. The case of Owen is instructive too, I remember him wearinga jersey number that was more than his age (No.20). Today Owen is a retired veteran at 28. We should temper our expectations with a dose of realism. With the necessary support, guidance and time the young lads like Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott and Agbonlahor will grow to be superb for England like Rooney is turning out to be.

    Lamps is a fantastic player!Gerrard is a midfielder's midfielder. I'll rather have Steve G in my team for the extra he brings to a game. He needs to justify his presence with consistency and game winning performances like last night's. Last word, the onus is on thecoach to find a way of utilising the abundance of midfielders including Hargreaves, Barry, Carrick and Jermain Jenas.

  • Comment number 61.

    Only someone who does not fully understand football will continue to say things like 'the jury are still out on whether Lampard and Gerrard can play together'.

    What game did you watch yesterday? The problems in the first half was because the players were not closing down the Belarussians in midfield.

    Football is a dynamic game now. Mr McNulty, have you ever heard that players switch positions? Ever?

    What Capello is trying to bulid is an intelligent, dynamic and compact unit who use their intelligence during a game and not stuck into some ancient 4-4-2 or 4-5-1 mould. No, no and no! That is exactly the wrong approach to things. Please study the way Man. United and (now) Chelsea play, it's fluid and its dynamic. The argument that England players werenot good enough or did not have the 'technical' qualities is obviously utter gibberish

    I can't balem you too much though, how do they say it? You can't teach an old dog new tricks...

    We needed a proper manager and now we have one.

  • Comment number 62.

    Not wishing to dampen the spirit here, but beating the mighty belarus means nothing in terms of the success this team should be achieving.

    However, from last year's disappointments, this is wonderful and Rooney was disciplined, created, and more importantly, played up front recovering his composure in front of goal

  • Comment number 63.

    Am I missing something here? I have read most of the comments here argue this way and that, but for me the solution is simple - aside for between the sticks and right back - here goes:

    1 James - for the moment, need someone to consistently put pressure on him, but he's fit enough to carry on
    2 Brown/Richards - I think I prefer Richards here as he has the engine to work at both ends of the pitch.
    3, 4 Rio and JT - some concerns over JT, but they work well together and can't question his ticker
    5 A Cole
    6 Hargreaves - just feel he is the best in the holding role for now
    7 Lampard - I am not a fan of his really, but he showed last night that he can temper his attacking instincts when needed and deliver a solid performance, with the ability to hopefully pop up right time right place as at Chelsea, if not so often.
    8 on the RIGHT J Cole - he can play either side of the park and has been Englands most consistent midfielder for the last 18 months
    9 Gerrard - on left/behind Heskey as per last night - needs more freedom to deliver the goods, but when he is given that, clearly he is more creative, dynamic and incisive than Frank in this role
    10 Rooney - course!
    11 Heskey

    This format allows the likes of Walcott, SWP, Crouch, Defoe/Owen (Owen a preference when fit), Barry, Carrick etc... to provide a bench of similar depth and class as the great teams in the last 15 years have had - Spain, Argies, Brazil & France

  • Comment number 64.

    Am I missing something here? I have read most of the comments here argue this way and that, but for me the solution is simple, aside for between the sticks and right back, here goes....

    James for the moment, need someone to consistently put pressure on him, but he's fit enough to carry on

    Brown or Richards, I think I prefer Richards here as he has the engine to work at both ends of the pitch.

    Rio and JT, some concerns over JT, but they work well together and can't question his ticker

    A Cole

    Hargreaves, just feel he is the best in the holding role for now

    Lampard, I am not a fan of his really, but he showed last night that he can temper his attacking instincts when needed and deliver a solid performance, with the ability to hopefully pop up right time right place as at Chelsea, if not so often.

    On the RIGHT J Cole, he can play either side of the park and has been Englands most consistent midfielder for the last 18 months

    Gerrard, on left/behind Heskey as per last night, needs more freedom to deliver the goods, but when he is given that, clearly he is more creative, dynamic and incisive than Frank in this role

    Rooney, course!


    This format allows the likes of Walcott, SWP, Crouch, Defoe/Owen (Owen a preference when fit), Barry, Carrick etc... to provide a bench of similar depth and class as the great teams in the last 15 years have had: Spain, Argies, Brazil & France

  • Comment number 65.

    Sorry about the double post!

  • Comment number 66.

    I've noticed that a few of you have expressed concern about ...our first half performances...Gerrard or Lampard...Hargreaves or Barry or Carrick... Joe Cole or SWP.
    If history has taught us anything, we should be used to the idea that all these players are rarely all available at the same time. The last few games - as well as Capello's CV - should have taught us that we, at last have a coach who will go for the best team at his disposal. I know this is a rare phenomenom for English fans, but can't we just enjoy the ride Capello has put us on. At last we have a squad with sufficient depth to push for world domination. Notice I only said "push". Capello will only have dedicated workers in this team - even the talented must work.
    As for Heskey... I refuse to consider any other foil for Rooney at the moment. So he doesn't get many goals. Neither did Beardsley (59 games 9 goals), but look what he did for Lineker (80 games 48 goals)!
    Capello has got the balance right. I feel another "at last" coming up.
    At last we have a completely unselfish forward who is willing to give the plaudits to his strike partner to guarantee team success.
    It is amazing that it took an Italian to "at last" instill that team ethic in the English.

  • Comment number 67.

    Dazzlin Dapsy.....

    The jury is still out on whether Gerrard and Lampard can play together.
    And i understand football.

    One performance does not mean that they can.

    And to be honest.

    Lampard did not have a great game!!!

    But you're right in that the first half we did not close down early enough, somethign which Capello put right in the 2nd half.

    I think Lampard is a fantastic player, but his problem last night was the speed with which he does things.
    He needs to move the ball more quickly in an England shirt.

  • Comment number 68.

    Isn;t the next competitive fixture at home to Ukraine, not away with a couple of friendlies (Germany, Slovakia) in between.

    I thought the performance showed very little we didn't know. Gerrard lined up wide just means he will drift in losing the team width, forcing the other mdfielders deeper to avoid compressing space and leaving the left of defence exposed. When Joe Cole comes back, Gerrard will be 2nd or third choice for the LM role.

    It showed that Barry and Lampard can work together as a partnership, but if Gerrard it to be played CM he cannot work with a partner but rather two deep lying midfielders behind him. That means you don't get the best from Lampard. Whether that matters depends on the result. If we win, probably not.

    I would still prefer Barry(or Hargreaves) partnering Lampard in midfield because the Gerrard option (with one of Hargreaves, Lampard or Barry) is too dependent on one player having a good game.

  • Comment number 69.

    Overall after a dodgy 20 minutes in the 1st half a very good all round team effort. I hope Lord Triesman reads this next bit. Please for the love of God put England back on the road. I understand that there are England fans down south however there are just as many across the rest of the Country. Why is the England team the exclusive right of the south or those rich enough to be able to trapse to London. The likes of Old Trafford and Anfield and St James are great at bringing out the England fans. Big Big Cockup Wembley now it is time to bite the bullet and bring England back to the masses. Interesting to Read Ian Wrights comments echoeing mine and he is a devoute Londoner. I'm not saying throw away all wembley matches but share England matches out. Please so we can all marvel in what promise to be a golden period.

  • Comment number 70.

    I agree with bicyclecrouch's team except.

    I'd leave out Terry and Cole. Both highly overrated for the players they are.

    Cole has been crap ever since he went to Chelski, and deserved all the booing he got at Wembley for the simple fact that he earns 80k a week and couldn't give a *hit about playing for his country he has no passion.

    I'd replace Terry with Michael Turner whose been immense in Hull City's start to the season and is a footballer with a excellent brain and has passion flowing through his veins.

  • Comment number 71.

    i think capello is doing a great job but............. it beggars belief that ashley young and micah richards aren't in the squad!!!!! micah richards is a better full back then wes brown and a better centre half than matthew upson!!!!! what do these guys have to do to get in the suad at least. ashley young bangs goals in for fun and is so much better than stuart downing its unbelieveable, he gets me loads of points on my dream team- what has downing done to merit getting in the squad?!!! jack is the answer

    good win though and rooney was quality!!

  • Comment number 72.

    i agree with comment number 28..great idea!! Would be a packed house every game too up north an much cheaper

  • Comment number 73.

    "As well as Capello's experience and guidance, which clearly has Rooney's total respect, he also owes a debt of gratitude to Emile Heskey."

    Give over, Rooney is playing well for his club so he's playing well for England.

    The only thing Cappelo could do is mess it up; he hasn't, which is something I suppose.

    His current form is no great revelation to United fans. Even when he's bad he's good!

    He's gone through a bit of a transition, that I'll grant you, but even when he's been played as a lone striker - or out wide - he's always been good value.

    You make a good point about his strike partner though; Rooney has to be the main man, players have to be looking for him. And Rooney will reciprocate - greedy he's not. He just has to continue this at club level though, because Ronaldo is coming back to full fitness and he'll be only too happy to take the reins in United's attack - Rooney scoring puts pressure on Ron to provide. Berbatov's presence should help with that too, there's no way he'll kow tow to Ronaldo.

    As for Gerrard and Lampard; there has to be a passer in midfield, someone who can pick up a lose pass from lesser players and extrapolate himself from danger. Lampard would appear to be that Scholes, I mean man...

    After that I don't really care where Gerrard plays - if at all.

    Clearly Cappelo's gameplan last night was to copy Ferguson's approach, have Gerrard roaming Ronaldo style, solid defence, good passing midfield with a bit of bite, attacks coming from everywhere...

    The fluidity that United and Arsenal - and even Chelsea to an extent - show up front is finally starting to be translated over to England. Gerrard is perhaps a late convert but he proved that he has the ability to go with it last night. There's a good mix of ages in that team too. Who knows? Could be the dawn of a golden age for the national side.

  • Comment number 74.

    I agree with You SuperMccall.

    Richard is better than Brown whose ball distribution is very poor.
    Brown defends well and is an excellent player, but Richards is better.

    Young is also in my Telegraph team and he gets tons of points!

    That aside, he is having a great season and is a very good winger.

    Should be in the Squad.

    Baby Teenwolf - post 70..

    You have a good sense of humour!!!

  • Comment number 75.

    Yes Frank is a top player, but what marks Gerrard as outstanding is the fact that he still the best player on the pitch when out of position. For Liverpool he has played right back, centre half, centre mid, right mid, left mid and up front. And he would make it to the england wherever he chose.

    When Joe Cole is back it is decision time and the decision is Joe or Frank. If Joe plays Gerrard goes in the middle, if Frank plays Gerrard is on the left. Whilst not necessarily optimal for Gerrard, it is what is optimal for the team.

  • Comment number 76.

    Wayne Bridge showed far more composure than Ashley Cole - I would stick with him. Wes Brown looked dodgy again. Like Lescottm, he's a good Premiership defender but not international class - ok to come on as a sub. I would play with Micah Richards in that position. You'd hope that when Carrick and Hargreaves are back, Lampard and Gerrard will not be automatic first choices - they shouldn't play together - it should be one or the other depending on the opposition. I'd go for Gerrard if England have to take the game to the opposition, Lampard for a more tactical, patient approach. Surprisingly Beckham is still good as a sub, calming things down and always one for set-pieces

  • Comment number 77.

    but what marks Gerrard as outstanding is the fact that he still the best player on the pitch when out of position.
    Too right he was out of position! If you look at at average position chart in The Times today you will see that Gerrard seems to have spent very little time on the left.

    Also, as for Gerrard's technical ability, would it be 4-1 if he could kick a ball with his left foot?

    Overall though, job done and apart from the right side of the team having a little doze when Belarus scored, it was a solid performance.

  • Comment number 78.

    No-one's saying England are going to win thw WC but if the current trend continues theres reason to be hopeful of at least a decent showing.

    Those who say England have been up against bad opposition are simply ignorant. Look at all the other so-called big nations.

    France - lost to Austria
    Italy - drew with Bulgaria
    Portugal - drew with Albania

    Only Spain and Holland have had perfect starts as well...

  • Comment number 79.

    A very good performance from England, really encouraging.

    We still hear the arguments however from the "so called" experts that English players are more comfortable in a 4-4-2 with natural width on both sides. The problem is that this is what we've always done and we've been unsuccessful doing it. There are times, particularly against better opposition where you need numbers in midfield to gain control of the ball and thus dictate the tempo of the game. What I see is that if England have a poor performance playing for example how we did on Saturday in the 1st half, that there is this pressure to revert to our favoured formation. I think the reason the "so called" experts have this view is that in most cases it is the only thing that they know and understand. The game has moved on and I see Wenger, Ferguson, Benites, Scholari often changing their formations to suit the opposition and match situation.

    We need therefore to become more comfortable with change and adapt to it rather than reverting to our comfort zone that has got us nowhere during the past 40 years. Erikkson, McLaren bowed to media pressure, I don't think Capello will and I applaud his decision yesterday to play Barry as a holding player following the positive second half performance on Saturday without him. I am still not a fan of Heskey, although I have to say he did well again last night - if only Dean Ashton could stay fit I think there is another Teddy Sheringham in the making.

    There's an old saying that there's no gain without pain. England should take heed of this, back the boss and be prepared to be more flexible . I still don't think we have the technique and inginuity of the Spanish but therein lies another debate !

  • Comment number 80.

    ....there is a hell of a lot of talent and no reason on paper and looking at club form why England can't be world beaters.


    Really? I can think of five without trying.

    1 Hype creates too much pressure

    2 No world class goalkeeper

    3 A hostile media

    4 Poor tournament temprement

    5 Other teams have better tournament temprements - Brazil, Germany, Italy to name but three

    So let's not get carried away. (Again).

  • Comment number 81.


    Surprisingly Beckham is still good as a sub
    Do caps come any cheaper than the one he got last night?

  • Comment number 82.

    That, Phil, is the problem with this country's media and inadvertently the players. 3 games, and good games by Rooney's standard, and he has come of age? Pleeease!

    The guy's talent is undoubted, and this comes from a Chelsea fan, but for me he will come of age if he leads England to at least the World Cup final in 2010. He is still too hot-headed and at times too much of ball chasing, which the media terms as selfless football. And has not come up against teams of the highest quality in these qualifiers, Croatia excluded probably. Even at club level he is very good but not brilliant, certainly not at the same level as say, Cantona or Zola or Bergkamp or even current players like Messi or Ronaldinho(?).

    Let him decimate the likes of Spain, Italy, Germany or even France and I shall join in to stand up and applaud him. Till then he is still going to be fulfilling his potential.

  • Comment number 83.

    Wasn't it the same with Heskey and Owen. I seem to remember Owen playing at his best when Heskey supported him

  • Comment number 84.

    Its ridiculous that people are still moaning, trying to find something to write to put a downer on England.

    Why don't you people just ****off. England HAVE played difficult games so far in the qualifiers and still won those games! 12 points out of 12 points, made history!

    These people that love to hate England are pathetic and I really don't know why you come on here.

    I think Gerrard and Hargreeves will work really well together, not sure Theo is the right man for the right wing. People keep saying 'he needs time to mature, he's still young'. Well mature with Arsenal and you can get your England caps when you are a complete player.

  • Comment number 85.

    At 08:40am on 16 Oct 2008, ZolaGola wrote:

    Typical Phil McNulty - Article meant to be about Rooney but he uses it as a sounding board for Gerrard. Gerrard has one good game and he is God's gift. Lampard has been consistent over the past few games we have won and Phil does not even mention him. I just wish the BBC would employ a sport's journalist who is not so biased towards Liverpool and we could have some objective reporting.


    He's an Everton fan you utter numpty.

  • Comment number 86.

    What Capello does is he gets teams functioning as teams.

    The ball retention was a lot better and not just silly passing it side to side going nowhere deep in our half - it was genuinely progressive passing and few long balls in frustration.

    The Belarus goal and the England third goal were magic.

  • Comment number 87.

    I agree with most posters who see the end of Lampard as a starting player for England.
    The midfield should ALWAYS include Hargreaves when fit and Carrick is better than Lampard any day. SWP should be first choice.Walcott will come into his own as a squad player and as he learns his trade under the astute tutoring of Mr Wenger will improve.
    Because of the ageing process.... and injuries to the lkes of Terry and J Cole, I am sure we will see some excellent young players from the under 21's being blooded in the next 6 months.
    Well done Mr Capello for instilling discipline and belief and the boys last night did an excellent professional job.
    Now we can forget the shambles of Erikson and joke of McLaren.

  • Comment number 88.

    Don't worry about England's defence. In the last 2 games we were set up to get forward and score, hence 8 goals. Against the better teams in the world cup, Capello's smart enough and experienced enough to make the midfield more defensively set up, say playing Barry and Hargreaves in the wide position's. They would provide a lot more support to help the full backs out, as we saw in the champs league final when Hargreaves played on the right ahead of Park, to help combat Cole's forward funs. Capello picks a team to win and I've full faith in him. And if he can keep Rooney happy and playing in his best position we have a chance, not saying we'll win the world cup, but we have a chance.

  • Comment number 89.

    Carrick better than Lampard!!!
    Dont be silly!

    Not even in the same league as Lampard!

    but Gerrard is the best.

  • Comment number 90.

    WHAT A LOAD OF TOSH!!!! England do well against Belarus and Kazakhstan but would they really be able to play against the types of Spain, Argentina or a a well organised Italy, Holland?

    This is the reason why England never get past the quarters they've never played against a top 10 team in a major tournament or qualifiers til the quarters!!

    England are in the easiest qualifying group around for ALL Internaitonal teams, and for a nation who think NOW they should be winning the world cup and getting their hopes up are just plain ignorant!!

    England football needed to prove to their fans and themselves that they were good enough to be in a major after missing out in the summer, so qualifiers have come in good time cos all the players are geared it for it, but now a 6 month lay off the international scene, what will happen when the next game comes at a time when the CL and PREM is in full swing and coming to the 'business end' of the season. Lucky England have been to have such a easy group, Lucky they have played the poor teams in their group and not Ukraine who is obviously the only decent team in the group.

    Alll this praise for the england team and players is pathetic, we'll see how good each individual plays for the teams come the next couple of weeks, i can't even remember a game where gerrad has done anything to produce a mentionable performance this season or this year in fact!! Same goes for Ashley Cole, Heskey, Barry, Hargreaves, Terry, Rooney.

    Ronaldo has one bad game in 10 gets slated for it - Gerrad plays one good game in 10 is branded the best midfielder in the world!! You do the math!!

  • Comment number 91.

    Gerrards class picked over Lampard everytime for me. No dispute.

  • Comment number 92.

    Heskey played really well, well done big man, not just on last nights game but over the last few months - i did used to slag him off & say he wasnt good enough - i was wrong.

  • Comment number 93.

    Nothing to do with Sir Alex then?
    I just struggle to understand the majority of English football fans.
    One day Capello is the next Mclaren, the next a god, one day Rooney should be dropped the next a god etc etc etc
    I am not being anti-english but do you lot never feel ashamed about how you support your country?
    I know a great deal of it is to do with the idiotic press but still.

  • Comment number 94.

    Wayne Bridge was fantastic last night!!!

  • Comment number 95.

    Kenny Dalglish Jr wrote:

    Shaun Wright-Phillips shouldn't be allowed anywhere near a football game. never mind and England game. He is beyond awful, worst touch of a footballer I have ever seen.

    As for Heskey, I have constantly championed his worth or England and actually think he is indispensable. Put him up front with any striker and they will inevitably score.


    Hmmm..... Lets have a look no comments about how bad Walcotts touch no actually all round game was throughout the entire game.
    1st half remember when had to take down a cross field pass he controlled it alright only it went about 10m away from him (this was when Wes Brown was running up to support and it even went behind him)
    Again 1st half the FIRST time he gets clear he tries to run down the defender attempts to clip it past him only to jump out of the tackle.
    1st half the SECOND and LAST time he gets clear of the defender he opts to shoot at goalkeeper instead of crossing for Rooney.
    THEIR GOAL, commentator blamed Brown no no no who wasnt tracking back his man (the guy who actually scored) shock horror Mr England Prodigy.


    Wright Phillips came on see how the right flank was alot more stable you know why because didnt neglect his DEFENSIVE duties, even Brown looked less nervous.

    Also dont comment back and say its because hes young and inexperienced at 19. Anyone remember Wright Phillips at 19/20 if you compared them both at the same age you'd see the latter was a much better all round player than the former (which by the way is only in the team because hes quick)

    No qualms about second comment although looking at your username Im guessing your a Liverpool fan, and from personally knowing Liverpool fans myself Im also going to say that opinion has been formed recently when the media finally stopped berating him so shhhhhh. ;)

  • Comment number 96.

    Lampard was one player who went pretty much unsung in that game, he sacrificed himself to allow gerrard to roam freely. Hats off to lampard for being disciplined and sitting in defenseive mid position, his posession keeping was top notch last night i felt.

    And no i'm not a chelski fan :P

  • Comment number 97.

    Yet again Phil, great blog.

    We are still seeing the occasional negative post which is quite annoying. Lets get the facts staright. Capello has come in and said straight away that he would do things his way. He has. People that bring up the defeat to France should realise that this game was one of his first and can't expect us to be beating the best teams in the world straight away. The performances have got progressively better, stronger and most importantly consistent. Under Mclaren we were going nowhere with no ideas and under his reign in this campaign we may have only had about 6-8 points at best.

    Where Capello has seen average first half performances he has made decisive and effective changes which show why he is one of the best in the business. He has clearly got a great understanding of the players already. This is most notable with putting Heskey on the left in the second half last night and allowing Gerrand and Rooney to roam in more free roles.

    I am an Arsenal fan but will be the first to admit that the Belarus goal last night was clearly Walcott's fault for not tracking back. He was ballwatching but he is young and he will learn. Look how his confidence has grown over the last 12 months under both Wenger and Capello. They will teach and develop the defensive side of his game. Aside from that goal, he has shown in the last couple of games that he isn't afraid to get involved in the battle and he will take his knocks for the team. That is vital in todays international game and very incouraging. I would definitely keep picking him above SWP, who I think is a bit hit and hope and times with his running and dribbling.

    Gerrard seemed to be playing with more confidence last night and if Joe Cole is going to take the left wing position then im afraid I would have to drop Lampard. Gerrard has more to offer the in my opinion.

    I don't understand why people keep calling for Hargreaves to come back when he is fit. I think that Barry's performances have been professional and he has done the job needed. Barry is certainly the better passer of the ball and has great vision, although Hargreaves does have more of the bulldog holding midfielder spirit!

    If we can get another couple of years out of Gary Neville and he is at the top of his game then we need him to make the defense a little stronger, because Brown is not foing enough for me at the moment.

    Very, very positive for me as an England fan at the moment. Whilst we are on a role, it will be good for all the players to get back their clubs with confidence and look forward to fighting for their positions in April against Ukriane. It will be interesting to see what Capello does when everyone is fit!

    It's great to see an England play tactically and patiently for once! None of that Keegan or Mclaren rubbish!

  • Comment number 98.

    I agree antisback. I love watching Scholes keep things ticking over while Ronaldo and co reap the plaudits. And I saw some of that guile and composure in Lampard's game in Belarus.

    Given that Gerrard had a better game too, you'd think that their central midfield partnership days are well and truly over.

  • Comment number 99.

    Those who say England have been up against bad opposition are simply ignorant. Look at all the other so-called big nations.
    France - lost to Austria
    Italy - drew with Bulgaria
    Portugal - drew with Albania
    true but france, italy, argentina, brazil, always struggle when qualifying for tournaments. we italian fans dubs september after every tournament a success if we draw at home. england under sven were (apart from germany who always get the luck of the draw) the best team in qualifying for 2004 and 2006.
    there players are not good enough for tournament football as they do not have the mental strength or intelligence to change there system (only after 100 years and a influx of foreign managers/players are you realising there is more to football than 442, man marking, crossing and width)
    then the media misguides the players and fans further and pundits (yes men) like lawrenson and hansen make things worse. the media overhypes players and youngsters in every country but not to the same extent as england. for every rooney there is a better player in pato, messi, aguero, lavezzi, robinho, giovinco, guiseppe rossi, balotelli, benzema, huntelaar, fernando torres, tevez, bojan krkic and many more that will come from brazil and argentina.
    wayne rooney is not the saviour and that is what capello is trying to do by downplaying the expectations. he knows if england continue the way they are then come one of the big boys they can put in a better performance and win or lose leave with their head held high.

  • Comment number 100.

    I'm feeling increasingly excited about England's prospects under Capello and thanks to the current crop of players. U21's are looking stronger than in recent times, and the main squad even better.

    With everyone fit at present, you can expect to see some good competition for places, especially in midfield.

    J Cole, Gerrard, Lampard, Wright-Philips, Walcott, Carrick, Hargreaves, Beckham, Bentley, Lennon.

    We've not had that strength in depth for quite some time, and with Heskey playing strongly up front, it brings the strength up front we need, and provides a strong sub-roll for Crouch and Defoe (which I think is more suited to them).

    I am however, a little concerned about the defence. In our last 2 games, each full back has gifted the opposition a goal. Cole looked weak against Kazakhstan, Bridge and Brown both looked weak against Belarus, and there's no real better out there.

    Fair play on Upson though by the way, He's played as well as can be expected filling in for Terry, and has shown a good desire in wanting to keep his place in the team (as unlikely as it is).


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