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Capello not cheating England fans

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Phil McNulty | 15:59 UK time, Monday, 28 March 2011


If Fabio Capello thrives on the aggravation that is part of the England coach's package, he must spend most of his life in a state of ecstasy.

The Italian moved seamlessly from one bone of contention to another when, having decided John Terry would be restored as permanent England captain, he announced mass changes for Tuesday's friendly against Ghana at Wembley.

Capello made the move after plotting and securing a Euro 2012 win against Wales in Cardiff, a victory that gave the lie to the old claim that there are no easy games in football.

And it was inevitable he would do so.

Yet his decision to release Manchester United's Wayne Rooney, Tottenham defender Michael Dawson and the Chelsea trio of Terry, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole from the squad to face Ghana drew renewed criticism of his methods.

It is sometimes easier to criticise Capello than to defend him in the current climate but a measure of context and perspective should be applied to this latest local difficulty.

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Fabio Capello explains Steven Gerrard phone call

There is no doubt that, by playing football's politics, Capello puts himself in danger of setting a dangerous precedent. But will those inside Wembley on Tuesday really shed too many tears for absent friends?

Lampard, Cole, Terry and Rooney have all felt Wembley's discontent at various stages during their England career, while Dawson's guaranteed presence, with all due respect to a fine defender, would not have assured too many extra on the gate.

Of course, Capello and the Football Association could have headed off any potential criticism at the pass by declaring that England would field an under-strength team. But the vagaries of form and injury make that an unrealistic prospect unless they had formally made the match a "B" international.

Capello is undoubtedly attempting to maintain cordial relations with Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham, who have Champions League quarter-finals next week.

There is a danger, though. And a big one. It does not come from supporters, however, but from other Premier League clubs. The part of Capello's calculation that carries risk is if, say, Aston Villa duo Ashley Young and Darren Bent, West Ham United's Scott Parker or Arsenal's Jack Wilshere pick up an injury against Ghana.

And what if Wolves winger Matt Jarvis makes his debut and is injured? Will Capello get a typically blunt retort from Mick McCarthy, who has already seen international duty claim pivotal Republic of Ireland striker Kevin Doyle?

Such a reaction would be understandable as Wolves, not to mention Villa and West Ham, would have grounds for accusing Capello of ranking the Champions League ahead of Premier League survival.

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England captaincy 'massive moment' - Gareth Barry

Capello's rationale was clear when he said: "It is dangerous for players to play too many games in a really short time and this is why I decided the players who played against Wales and have games next midweek could go.

"I still have Tottenham players here but they didn't play. The players here will play three games in eight days and not four games in 10 days."

In other words, those Champions League games were central to his reasoning, although such reasoning will not spare him should an injury strike on Tuesday.

It will be an England side with an experimental look for the game against World Cup quarter-finalists Ghana, so some supporters may be disappointed, but it is dangerous to suggest Capello has somehow pulled the wool over their eyes by releasing players. This was always going to be a line-up with an unfamiliar feel.

There is still plenty of intrigue to unpick from those on show, however, and the bigger danger for Capello may yet come from Premier League clubs not involved in the Champions League rather than any disgruntled supporters at Wembley.

Capello was keen to refute suggestions that he had somehow misled fans by making so many changes, although it was interesting to note that he had cut his planned number of alterations from 11 on Saturday evening to seven by Monday lunchtime.

"I respect England's fans but it will be interesting for the fans to see some players they know very well and some they don't know very well," he said. "The players that play will be really good players. It will be interesting for me and for the fans."

And he is right.

Liverpool's Andy Carroll starts, so it will be fascinating to see if it is in the 4-3-3 formation that worked so well against Wales. After the success at the Millennium Stadium, the formula should be tried again - and how Carroll fares will be a pointer to its possible future use.

In some respects, the system will be as interesting as the personnel on show after Capello shed his beloved 4-4-2 in favour of the fluidity and pace that wrapped up victory against Wales in 14 minutes.

While Capello, who has chosen Gareth Barry to lead the side in Terry's absence, was in the mood to tackle thorny subjects, he stood firmly alongside England Under-21 coach Stuart Pearce in his desire to have Arsenal youngster Wilshere and Liverpool's Carroll in the squad for the European Under-21 Championship campaign in Denmark in June.

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger and Liverpool counterpart Kenny Dalglish are likely to want the pair to rest but Capello was not taking a backward step as he said: "Of course, I will support Stuart 100% if he wants to take them. I think those two players will be really important for the under-21s. They can make the difference."

As for his "failure" to remind Rooney that he was on one yellow card before his rash hack at Wales midfielder Joe Ledley brought a second and a suspension for the qualifier against Switzerland, well, this was a simple sum that Rooney should have been able to work out for himself. This was folly on the player's part not the coach.

There is still the potential for more aggravation should fate strike blows at Capello on Tuesday. He has made misjudgements in recent weeks but the temptation to hit out at every move he makes must be avoided.

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  • Comment number 1.

    I think as an England fan you run that risk anyway, if the players mentioned would have been injured against Wales would their be this sort of enquiry? I'd guess not.

    People are crying out a lot of the time for the old guard to be dropped and now its happened there's media up roar. We all know clubs hate international games and for those clubs participating in the Champions League that holds the most importance.

    It's unlucky but not unexpected, and if the debate is 'Do England fans deserve better?' Yes but that's not just the case of recent times.
    Nice piece all the same Phil, an enjoyable read.

  • Comment number 2.

    Hello to hear your various thoughts on this one.

    If you've got a ticket for the game join the debate and let me know how you feel. Do you feel short-changed or are you perfectly happy with what you will see tomorrow?

    Also, if you support Wolves, Villa, West Ham (and Arsenal because Jack Wilshere is still there) do you feel Capello is showing favouritism to those clubs still contesting the Champions League?

    I hope I've laid out my argument rationally and reasonably - no laughing at the back - so I'd love to hear from as many of you as possible on this one. Always a thorny issue.

  • Comment number 3.

    Lots of England 'stars' do very well for their clubs because they play in their most favoured positions and often the clubs play in a way which brings the best out of them. (Villa is an exception, of course). So it will be good to see how these lesser 'stars', playing on Tuesday, play when they are part of a squad and not the central piece of the jigsaw. Some will rise and do well in a less familiar role, others will show that they can do well in their favoured position, but not in any other. Capello needs to find this out in friendlies so he can assess future potential. For instance Carroll seems a great prospect at Centre Forward, but can he also prove to be a provider for a one trick poacher like Bent. Capeelo needs to know about combinations so that if he has to change something or take a gamble it is not a shot in the dark.

  • Comment number 4.

    England fans are not be cheated, its a FRIEDNLY against Ghana 3 days after an important Euro Qualifier, plus there are important Premier League games in the weekend coming, as its at the business end of the season. And as mentioned by Ben, Champions League is next week which is way more important for clubs and football than a International Friendly. England supporters who bought the friendly tickets obviously had no thought as to the busy football fixture list ahead.

  • Comment number 5.

    Le sigh.

    An interesting blog, but still I have to wonder why it is that BBC Sport can only muster two occasional blogs that actually cover football and not the political intrigue that surrounds the important part of the game: what happens on the pitch.

    Anyway. *sighing*

    I suspect anyone bleating about having bought tickets has, in effect, done a Rooney. IE, Rooney not being aware that picking up a booking was unwise - what fan with several braincells to rub together vigorously couldn't have noticed that the game against Ghana is, you know, a friendly. Friendlies don't always involve the "best 11", and even if it did, not for the entire 90 minutes.

    Whining about the bleedin' obvious ought to be a criminal offense.

    Then again, I think being a Tory ought to be a criminal offense, so what do I know, eh?

  • Comment number 6.

    In terms of the players returned to their clubs.
    3 of them are defenders so attacking wise (with the exception of Cole) shouldn't make much difference to the result.
    Lampard in recent months has faced quite a bit of criticism and calls to be dropped so this gives England a chance against good opposition to see how they do without him (and Rooney)
    Rooney - we have to do without him against Switzerland so why not use the game to find out how we will play without him?

    This gives England a good opportunity to test the fringe players and see how they do (get them accustomed to) playing in the England 1st team. This is surely better than coming into a tournament and one of the main players (Rooney/Gerrard/Beckham - thy've all done it) gets injured and suddenly we realise that the formation that works with them doesn't work with their replacements.

    I think this is a very useful way to use these friendlies. Though I would normally advocate bringing in 2 or 3 players to see how they fit in with the actual team rather than change the whole team. However most of the midfield/attack that played on Saturday are new (relatively new) to the England set up so in this case the disruption to the team should be minimal if Capello makes more changes.

    Personnally I'd keep the 4-3-3 formation with
    Johnson (wish we had someone else - maybe Kyle would have played if fit)
    Barry (captain so he will be playing. Plus with available squad only Milner realistically could replace him in a 4-3-3 formation)
    Jarvis (give the guy a go and see how he does)

    In terms of Bent and Young - I don't think they did anything wrong against Wales in particular, but I think this is the perfect time in terms of squad experience to give everyone a try from the start

  • Comment number 7.

    I'm going to be at Wembley tomorrow. And what's more I am FRONT ROW. I go to all the England home games, and while I understand it is a friendly, and players do need to be rested, I think the way it has been handled is a shambles.

    People may think Ghana should be an easy win. I say to them look at the Fifa rankings. They will be a challenge. England should be building on the weekend.

    I understand giving fringe players a chance, but by putting them all in a team together achieves NOTHING! What Capello should be doing is playing 8 or 9 of the starting 11 from Wales with 2 or 3 fringe players.

    Thoroughly disappointed that Capello is not putting out a full strength side. Arsenal state they may not play a full strength side when in the Carling Cup when buying tickets. England should do the same.

  • Comment number 8.

    I am making the trip from Norwich for the match and I can't wait. My ticket only cost £25 for a seat in the lower tier, which is fantastic value considering what you have to pay to see Premier League matches.

    As an Evertonian I'm delighted to see Baines and Jags in the starting line up. I know a lot of our fans are already complaining about potential injuries but I'm happy they're playing. They're both top quality players and deserve to be playing international football. In my, admittedly massively biased opinion, Baines has been in much better form than Ashley Cole this season and deserves to add to the 3 caps he's earned so far. It's also good that it looks like he will have a proper winger playing in front of him, as this will utilise his attacking threat better then when he's played behind Gerrard previously.

    In more general terms I think it's a great opportunity for some of the 'fringe' players to play in what will be a tough match against a strong Ghana side. A good performance here will do the players no harm at all. Come on England!

  • Comment number 9.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 10.

    Even if all the players were available he wouldn't pick the full strength team would he? What would we learn from that? That the 11 who played against Wales can will/struggle against other opposition.

    Surely friendlies are the time to try out new tactics, blood new players etc? Isn't it better that a nervous newbie makes a mistake in a friendly than a qualifier or in a tournament?

  • Comment number 11.

    Do you agree Mr Mcnulty that Jack Wilshere is now a nailed on starter for England... already?

    I think it would be amazing to see a midfield trio of Wilshere-Parker-Gerrard in the 4-3-3 system. Obviously, we're going to have to wait for that as stevie G is injured, but looks really exciting.

    Lampard and Barry's days as starting for England are over now I feel. The anchor man role must be given to parker, and don't forget wilshere doesn't mind staying back if parker does break forward from time to time, as he did against wales.

  • Comment number 12.

    Medium term (euro's QF and tournament) I'd go with the following 1st XI dependent on fitness/form

    G. Johnson (though if we can find a better defender then I'll be happy)
    Ferdinand (providing can get himself properly fit. If not then Jagielka/Dawson/Cahill)
    Parker (provided he keeps up the good work)
    Wilshere (ditto)
    Two from A. Johnson/Young/Lennon/Walcott (whoever are playing the best for England. From what I've seen I favour Johnson plus one other)

    I'd play Rooney as the centre forward but Carroll/Bent can be brought on and Rooney shifted to the left/right of the 3 if things need to change due to form/tactics)

    Long-term (leading up to Euro's or at latest immediately after) we need to replace the following due to age (think ahead to ages in 2014)
    Ferdinand, Terry - replace with the 3 above (though Jagielka will be getting on by then too) or Smalling/other good young central defender at the time
    Parker/Barry (note that no matter how unfair it is on Parker that he never got a chance before - he's the same age as Barry). Maybe Rodwell of Everton?
    Lampard and Gerrard - we need to find their replacements and get them into the team and playing (wilshere will be one - not too sure who'll be the other)

    Striker wise we should be OK with Rooney/Bent/Carroll/Defoe until after the next world cup. Especially as the 4-3-3 might only utilise 1 at a time (unless Rooney plays wide)

  • Comment number 13.

    I don't think the public are as dumb as they think we are. There's a blatant campaign to get Capello out of the job and a press friendly man in (wonder who). I don't think they represent their readers at all. Just look at the tweets Henry Winter gets telling him to stop all this captaincy obsession and trivia. But they arrogantly pursue they own agenda to the detriment of England. Phoney patriots indeed.

  • Comment number 14.

    When any of the premier league clubs play their pre-season friendlies the fans don't expect to see a full strength team everytime but should look forward to seeing which players work well together or how well they can play at that level.

    How will the squad ever improve if we are not going to see and test what the future will hold? Playing the same players in every match won't help the manager with any selection decisions should anyone get injured or if we need something different tactically during a game that matters.

  • Comment number 15.

    Why are people moaning at Capello, really? I'm sure if Rooney or Cole got injured, we'd be moaning that they got injured in a pointless friendly. It's a good chance for fringe players to state a case to be included and is good for the squad in that respect.

  • Comment number 16.

    Capello is damned if he does and damned if he doesn't. There is an underlying theme to this blog, which unlike Capello leaves Mr. McNulty in a win win situation. It is entirely right that Capello uses friendlies to look at different players - how else is he going to know what they can do or more to the point what they can't do? Rooney is a shadow of the player he was last year and I'm glad he has been sent home. Jagielka; Carroll and the way Baines has been playing this season - one could hardly call them "reserve" players - Jagielka and/or Baines could quite easily have played against Wales on Saturday. I only hope we don't "hump" long balls now we have Carroll up front, we need to feed him from wide positions. I'm not a Capello fan but surely it is time to give him a bit of slack?

  • Comment number 17.

    Re my post #6
    Just read on FA website that Lennon has returned to Tottenham so I'll replace in my team for Tuesday with Downing (give him a chance in this formation - if he doesn't seize it then bye-bye)

    H2k (#7)
    Not sure if you saw my post just before you posted your one but as I said most of the starting 11 on Saturday were fringe players (in terms of caps). Only 5 players had more than 10 caps (Rooney/Lampard/Terry/Cole/G. Johnson and 3 of those are defenders) For me it is the perfect time to make these sorts of changes.

  • Comment number 18.

    Forgot about Young who had 12 before Saturday's game

  • Comment number 19.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 20.

    the only way he is cheating the fans is by giving Barry the captaincy!! unbelievable. the guy shouldn't be near the squad let alone leading out the team

  • Comment number 21.

    Oh Dear! Another pointless blog!


  • Comment number 22.

    Whilst I am not Capello's biggest fan, I think he is completely within his rights to pick whatever team he chooses for this game. The players he has released back to their clubs have already played several games already this season, so another game this close to the end of the season seems quite a lot to ask, especially as there is nothing riding on it. It wasn't so long ago that people were calling for the traditional big name stars to be dropped in favour of new blood, and now he's doing just that people start complaining.

    It'll also provide a very good opportunity to see some of the players pushing to get in the team given a go. If some of them have an amazing game, against what is a very good team, then they could force their way into the first team for future games. International teams need strength in depth so it'll be interesting to see who can cut it at international level, even in just a friendly.

    I also back his decision to say players such as Wilshere and Carroll will play at the U-21 championship. Whilst it is extra games, it will provide these up and coming young players who are likely to provide the core of our team in future years much needed competitive games in a big tournament. Hopefully they'll get to the latter stages and it will provide them with the experience. Germany's young players who performed so well at the WC played in the last U-21 tournament, and Italy often send out their strongest U-21 teams. We should follow their example. Time will tell if he sticks to his guns, unlike the Terry captaincy issue.

  • Comment number 23.

    someone please tell me i am not the only sports fan that feels they are being ripped off to pay for an over priced national stadium.. oh and also an overpaid national coach!

  • Comment number 24.

    I do feel that the fans and Ghana are being short changed and cheated. I have tickets for the game and with the associated costs of travelling to Wembley from a hundred odd miles away it will have cost approx £150.00 for my son and I.

    We do come to watch most England games at Wembley but in this case, especially as it's Ghana's first game at Wembley, I think it's being disrespectful towards the Ghana FA and the fans of both teams. I can't help taking a cynical view that Capello and the FA wouldn't be doing this if the tickets hadn't been sold out.

    Fair enough if it had been announced before the tickets went on sale that England would play an understrength team.

    It's always the fans who are treated poorly. It is just like how matches are put on in the Premier League/Football League at ridiculous times without a thought as to how fans are going to travel to/from the games.

  • Comment number 25.

    What an extremely good article, exposing a large number of perceptions to the issues raised. It also allows us to contemplate the true value of international soccer. This is a very thorny problem for those who are dauntless fans of specific clubs but much less of an issue for fans of soccer generally. To the latter, international soccer is the ultimate level for viewing the beautiful game.

    The potential for injury has always been the chief threat for the clubs and players 'on loan' to their national teams. It is, of course, a valid concern because, at this level, a club can never be compensated for the loss of a player of such high quality. However, if international competition is to continue, it is a condition which simply must be faced.

    Fabio is doing an excelent job in recognising the problem and attending to it as best he can. There will always be opposition to his actions, because of bias to ones club, differing perceptions, etc.

    With his release of certain players, he has given himself, and us, the opportunity to test the qualities of other players against opponents of high rank. It is a situation that he must relish and for the fan, a chance to witness the potential of a new era. It is also a most necessary step to find replacements who will still be of an age to compete in the next World Cup as there are several of the current squad who will be well into the veteran stage by then; eg. Frank Lampard will be 36.

    Again; a very good article as it exposes the day to day issues; on and off the field; facing a coach of this magnitude.

  • Comment number 26.

    Phil McNulty argues criticism of England boss is over the top.

    Ahh the tagline is funny enough. Suddenly Capello is to be defended by straight -talking Phil!

    Well yeah letting players go is fine. Lets see how bare the cupboard is.

  • Comment number 27.

    So hold on... He's gonna be criticized if he doesn't let the Champions League Clubs' players go back, he's gonna be criticised if anyone from relegation-fighting clubs gets injured, Wenger will criticise him regardless... So by my reckoning, that means he can pick from Man City, Liverpool and the Championship. Maybe Kev Davies if Coyle's in a good mood... I can't imagine that the likes of David Nugent, Nathan Tyson and Paul Konchesky are gonna boost gate numbers much...

    Leave Capello alone- enjoy seeing some different players in the shirt- maybe we'll find some who actually give a damn!

  • Comment number 28.

    To Mr means we can get the debate started tonight. The blog will still be here tomorrow morning so it can carry on then and hopefully you will still get involved. Thanks for making the point though.

    To verminator_05 I WILL BE BACK...I agree Wilshere is now a starter for England and I think Parker has staked a huge claim to be the same. Once Gerrard is fit, he may well have to fight with Lampard for the other place in that 4-3-3. Go on, let's hear who you would have. Who would I have? Gerrard.

    As for people complaining about Terry, Cole, Lampard and Rooney being released - I have heard England fans at Wembley giving stick to all of those players in the past. Will they be that badly missed against Ghana, even by some of the same people who have jeered them?

    I am looking forward to the game, hoping Capello will stick with 4-3-3 and very interested to see how Andy Carroll plays in that system if he persists with it.

    Let's hear all your thoughts, not just on the squad selection but the possible team (let me hear your pick) and all matters England and Capello. The floor, as I always insists, is yours not mine.

  • Comment number 29.

    with or without the champions league players, I fully expect Ghana to beat England tomorrow night. England for me are in the 3rd tier of European national teams. Id rank them alongside Ukraine, Serbia, Russia

  • Comment number 30.

    As someone who is attended tomorrow (although I will be in the Ghana end, free ticket!) I am more than happy for Capello to make these changes. However it is more of the travelling Ghana fans, some of whom have planned this trip for months, who should feel a bit more cheated by this move, no matter how understandable it is.

    Still any England fan who really thought Capello would play a full strength team in what is ultimately a rather pointless friendly should probably get their head tested anyway! Seeing the likes of Caroll, Jarvis and Co play will be a refreshing change in my opinion.

    Anyway I won't be cheering if England score, I would prefer to get out alive!

  • Comment number 31.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 32.

    The idea that England fans should feel cheated that Capello is not rolling out the same tired overrated has-beens is so preposterous, I really don't know what to say in response.

  • Comment number 33.

    I would take Capello at his word; he's not doing the clubs a favour in not playing these players, he's just being realistic. Its not just the respective managers who have to balance the number of games, its the players themselves. If Cole Terry Lampard Rooney played, would they be giving 100% knowing the games they've got coming up? To me, and save the argument for a different day about fixture congestion, he's making the right decision for the team. If he felt it was necessary to play these playes for the team, I don't think Capello is a push over- he would play them.

  • Comment number 34.

    i have bought tickets for the away end, and i am annoyed. not at capello, he has no obligation to play his first XI, but the FA could've said it would be a B team playing as I am now not going to be refunded for my ticket/plane travel/hotels/expenses even though i was seriously misled

  • Comment number 35.

    Pretty simple people, look at the ticket, I believe it says 'England v. Ghana' not Wayne Rooney or JT v. Ghana.

    Really, if you have to be told that a given player may or may not appear, I wonder why you even bother to buy the ticket, after all, it's clear you don't understand squat about football.

  • Comment number 36.

    Whats the big shock, it's hardly the first time a manager has played the fringe players in a friendly now is it. I'm Irish and will be going to the Aviva tomorrow to see ROI play Uruguay. Even before the announcement of some of the more senior players leaving the squad I was fully aware Trappatoni would be leaving them out.

    I'm happy to be honest, would much prefer to see James McCarthy play behind Shane Long to see how that goes then see Robbie Keane play like I have countless times. We know what Keane offers, time to see, against decent opposition, what McCarthy and Long can do.

    Looking at England from the outside I cannot understand this big over reaction, was it not glaringly obvious Capello would do this? Is it not good to see younger English talent get a game? See how Matt Jarvis gets on at international level for example?

    And if fan's get in an uproar about it then they should not bother going to the game. It Capello's perogative to do what he want's, the fans and media called out for a strong manager, you have that now, a manager who is strong enough to make his own decisions, its a friendly afterall no qualifying points at stake, a good chance for the fringe players to get a start, see what they offer.

  • Comment number 37.

    From a related article:

    "It's the Ghanaian players' dream to play against Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard and all these players"

    Stephen Appiah (captain of Ghana)


    I'm sure it is.

    But at least this way, we stand a chance of winning.

  • Comment number 38.

    Interesting team 'ManchesterUnited4Ever' but i feel the following England team would prove a great success should it be drilled in the correct manner.

    Almost all would agree to a man that Joe Hart is the England number one and that due to his age can be for some considerable time. As for his cover I feel Ben Foster is perhaps the immediate substitute and again has the advantage of age on his side. Tournaments also tend to require a third choice in this position and for this role I would select an unproven but talented individual such as Fraser Forster. He has experience of the big stage as it were with Celtic and being involved with the national team at this stage would improve his character and state of mind a great deal.

    I would then suggest England drop the traditional four man defence and go with three instead. The centre of the three would be Rio Ferdinand providing he is fit enough. This is because he is still Englands best central defender when fit and in form and although not as fleet of foot as he once was he can still read the game. The fact he is comfortable on the ball is an extra advantage and is a vital component for a modern defender. To his right I would opt for the imposing frame of Micah Richards. His main strength is without doubt his stature and prowess which is the reason he would be suited better to a three man defence as being used as a raiding winger of sorts. His pace would be important and with someone of Ferdinand's experience alongside him he would come on leaps and bounds. Again he is also of an age which means if he can be intergrated into this side now then he has the potential to remain for the best part of a decade. The third defender would then be Cahill of Bolton. An unsung hero at times he could become a star for club and nation provided he is given more game time and his attributes would suit this formation down to the ground. As for the bench well I would go with our current captain just for the experience he can provide. He is not given a starting berth in this team however as I feel he does not fit the formation I am suggesting. What a figure to have as cover thought. I would then select Chris Smalling as the second central defender to cover. His pace would mean he could slot into either of the three roles and again it is important to get the next generation moving into the squad as soon as possible. The third defender would then be Gibbs of Arsenal. Although this formation does not suit him it would be useful to have him in the squad as he is the heir apparent to Cole and with him available it retains the option of changing the formation to accomodate a traditional four.

    Accross the middle of the pitch I would then suggest a flat four to begin with but before the bandwagon roles into town allow me to state the case for it. On the right of the four would be Glen Johnson. He is not an out and out defender and never will be so use him as Tottenham use Gareth Bale. Allow him the freedom to push on and force the opposition defenders to sit in their own half with his overlapping runs. And as a current defender he would have no problem with falling further down the pitch to help his defenders and support Richards down the right hand side. Cole would then conduct the exact same role down the left hand side. This would be such an asset to the team and provide balance when working in tandem. In the middle I would without doubt select Scott Parker. His role would be to sit and protect the defence whilst also covering the wide men when either has pushed forward. With him in the middle it would also allow the wide men to press for possesion higher up the field and pen the opposition in. Alongside him it would have to be Wilshere. He has shown himself to be a composed individual in his short time in the England side and with Scott next to him he would be able to get his foot on the ball and move it around. He would create numerous chances and the opposition would struggle to locate him as he roams around the middle of the pitch creating passing triangles and feeding the ball to the front men. On the bench I would suggest the natural choices to cover the two in the middle of the midfield would be Lampard and Rodwell. The right mixture of experience and potential both could fill either role. Imagine the having the chance to call upon someone of Lampard's pedigree from the sidelines if required. As for the wide roles well rather than going for the same I would select Adam Johnson and Aaron Lennon along with Joe Cole. Lennon offers sheer pace and having him on the bench means when the game is stretched late on he can come on and cause all sorts of problems. Johnson and Cole also provide something different as England do not have vast numbers capable of the technical abilities that both posses. Again it is a matter of options and these two provide those in abundance. All in all with those midfielders available England can switch formaion countless times with the personnel to adapt with ease.

    Further forward I would go with Theo Walcott and Steven Gerrard. Neither would start as wide men but would have the freedom to roam accross the final third. Walcott's pace would give defenders nightmares and Gerrard would be allowed to find space and shoot from distance. With Wilshere working behind them and Johnson and Cole overlapping and switching wings either side of them the movement would be non stop and confusing for the opposition defenders. Ahead of them I would then suggest Darren Bent. Some brows would be raised but he fits the role with consumate ease. The formation calls for the front man pull on the shoulder of the last defender which he can do but it also requires a predator who has the positional sense to find himself on the end of chances and Bent has proved this time and time again. As for the cover well Young and Roone would be sensational options from the bench. Both could come in to either of the front three roles and the option of switching to a front two provided also. The onus would then be on both to force themselves into the side. Carroll would have the final space in the squad as he provides an outlet of a different sort and is a real prescence up top.

    This team and infact squad has an excellent mixture of experience and potential. With the exception of perhaps Ferdinand and Lampard almost all would be available for the next two tournaments at least. With names such as Naughton Mancienne Albrighton Sinclair McEachran Delfouneso Milner Jones Chamberlain Delph Moses and Johnson all coming through also it means there are more options to continue to intergrate into what could be a succesful side for the forseeable.

    Love to see comments on the matter.

  • Comment number 39.

    Really foolish drumming up of a complete non-issue here. First of all, Friendlies are for trying out players and formations - and secondly, the England 'A' team is really no better or any more entertaining than the team Cappello is likely to field tomorrow night. If anything, Baines has been the best English left-back this year - both Jagielka and Cahill have played better than John Terry - and Jarvis has played just as well as any other English winger. You might have a case that Barry is undeserving - but his dip in form over the last year is similar to Lampard, Gerrard, Terry, Ferdinand, and other so-called 'first-teamers' since the world cup. Andy Carroll started the year brilliantly and looks like a formidable No 9 in the making - so why not give him a go. Both Bent and Rooney have been average lately - so the whole argument that the team is purposely depleted for the Ghana game is ludicrous. The best players against Wales (by far) were Parker, Wilshere, and Young - all of whom would have been in the B team column for most pundits before the game. The worst players were the woefully under-performing Frank Lampard, who despite having two defensive midfielders propping him up and license to roam did absolutely nothing (besides getting lucky with a poorly struck pen) for yet another international game - and Wayne Rooney, who is still living off his Euro 2004 form somehow and rightly hauled off on Saturday for lacking the discipline to play on the left and continually dropping deep and cluttering up the midfield. Based on recent evidence of the so-called 'first-teamers' - one would think that the ticket-buying public might relish seeing a few fresh faces. In reality, the complaint forwarded in this article is just more of the media's attempt to get Cappello out, their only justification being that he still speaks broken English and isn't one of the sexy breed of new managers. As soon as an English-born manager puts together half a good season they are ludicrously touted for the big job, despite the numerous times that we've watched this policy fail over and over again. The media have decided to conduct a witch-hunt for Cappello, who they see as the main culprit for yet another poor tournament performance - yet criticise him further when he tries to drop members of the 'golden generation' that have stunk up numerous tournaments under various managers.

  • Comment number 40.

    I'm very surprised with the amount of responses on this blog that have repeated what I was saying in the Wales blog. Clearly, the tide has turned.

    I'm more surprised at the fact that I agree with a Manchester United fan (manuforever). Only joking.

    Seriously though, anyone that moans at seeing a lack of Rooney, J.T, Lampard etc playing for England, then I suggest you go on Youtube and look back at the World Cup games. It would be a lot cheaper.

    I'm more than happy to see different faces in the England squad and I couldn't careless what their club management think. In my opinion, playing for England should be an honour and if I were managing, I would encourage anyone that had been called up to the England squad. Afterall, isn't management about player development. And surely, playing for your national team is developing your player?

  • Comment number 41.

    I am just hopeful he will use the Barry/ Parker midfield which was very successful in the second half of the game against Denmark. I for one am not sold on Wilshere yet. His time may come and if it does I think it will be in WC 2014 rather than now.
    I must add that the sooner we get to a team, one that is familiar to everyone, a la Spain, Italy, Germany etc, the better. In 1966 everyone knew who would play in the team, and the same in 1996. Apart from those years you never knew who was going to turn up.

  • Comment number 42.

    The essence of this discussion is in one word "Friendly". This is an unecessary risk for those playing tomorrow, for little gain. This game could have been scheduled for late May when it wouldn't have any possible negative effect on any of the teams battling in the PL.
    As for Mr Chelea's comment. I would say for 6mil a year Capello ought to be giving his best and if his best isn't good enough, then he deserves the brickbats.
    Tackiest comment on here, which should have been deleted by the BBC watchdogs is the one by the guy who inserted politics into a football discussion and used this forum to make a snide remark about Conservative supporters.

  • Comment number 43.

    It's only five players leaving. Its a storm in a tea cup, a big deal being made out of nothing. It's an opportunity to see what England have in reserve anyway. Lampard is 32, John Terry and Cashley are 30. England should be looking beyond these guys and 4 years down the line.

  • Comment number 44.

    I think it would be nice if Capello could get a starting 11 formally in shape so they can get to know each other and play together as much as possible in the lead up to euro 2012. And if that means playing them in so called 'meaningless' friendlies then so be it. However I do understand that Capello is looking to rest key players for crucial champions league ties, as Phil points out. Hopefully Parker can have a leading role, he is a player I believe who can really drive this new-look england side and formation forward, particularly from his deep lying midfield position. Perhaps he should have been given the armband for tomorow?
    A couple of questions for you Phil.
    Do you feel Capello is going out of his way to try and get on the good sides of the leading premier league managers, with his policy of not playing the 'big names'?
    And secondly, what are your thoughts on an england call up for Joey Barton? A man who like Parker has been in terrific form for his club. Forget his past off the field discretions, its all about the qaulity of his performances on the pitch.

  • Comment number 45.

    If Cappello is choosing a side with anything other in mind than England winning then he isn't doing his job. I'm sure Man Utd, CHelsea, and Spurs would want their players back but that isnt the point nor is it his job to help those teams at the expense of smaller clubs who need their players. His job is winning the game. If he does so with the team he picks then fine, if he doesn't then questions need to be asked if it's right for teams owned and managed by non-Englishmen are allowed to disrupt the England team, and if a manager that picks his side on what's best for Man Utd or Chelsea or Spurs is the right man or do we need someone who should be picking what is best for England.

  • Comment number 46.

    With regards to the original topic of 'selective squad changes' I would like to make two points:

    Firstly, the match is a FRIENDLY, if Capello had not rung the changes fans would accuse him of not trying out new players (far riskier to do it in a competitive game). It gives players like Matt Jarvis a fantastic opportunity to stake his claim and keep the 'First XI' on their toes. If you want to see the First XI play, buy a ticket for a competitive fixture.

    Secondly, I do certainly think that there is an element of bias in terms of the players Capello has returned to their clubs. To see this, we must consider what they all have in common. True they are all players from the so-called 'big clubs' but this is less important than the fact that all (bar the injured Walker) have been tried and tested at international level. We know (and more importantly Capello knows) what each has to offer England- the likes of Lampard, Rooney, and Terry have played countless games and it would have been a waste to play them in the stead of comparatively less-tested players. Dawson is perhaps the only anomaly, however perhaps Capello decided that he would try out all of his available center backs over the two games. I would have preferred him to try each alongside Terry (given that as skipper he is automatically pencilled in to one of the center back slots) this would have shown whether they worked as a partnership and also would have avoided the captaincy pass the parcel.

    Finally with regards to discussions on England's future, I would like to add the following:

    Phil:In response to Gerrard/Lampard conundrum, I have and always will maintain that at club level Lampard is the superior player. Sure Gerrard has often singlehandedly carried his team (perhaps his rejection of Chelsea/Madrid means we will never know the true picture) but the statistics are vastly in Lampard's favour- goals, assists, pass % etc not to mention his superhuman consistency. Correct me if i am wrong but I believe the same is true at international level- Lampard has more goals in fewer appearances. It might surprise you then to learn that I agree with your assessment that Gerrard deserves what may be the final midfield slot if Capello sticks with 4-3-3 and Wilshere+Parker/Barry. The reason being that Lampard's playing style does not fit so well alongside Wilshere and Rooney (England's two key players) as Gerrard's. The latter enjoys a great mutual-scouse understanding with Rooney, and if as seems likely Carroll develops into Rooney's strike partner or indeed banishes him to the wing, Gerrard will have the advantage of playing with him at club level.

    Post 38 (goose908)- Nice idea, but England are not capable of playing a back 3 effectively, as demonstrated by their demolition at the hands of Croatia when I believe they last attempted it. Carragher aside (retired), none of England's defenders play anything other than a back four at club level, it would be foolish to do so for their country.

    My England Team would look like this:

    Hart; Richards, Terry, Ferdinand, Cole; Wilshere, Parker, Gerrard (Lampard); Rooney, Carroll, Young (Walcott/Lennon/Johnson)

    The following are players who I feel will be really challenging for first team slots in the future (world cup 2014):
    Gibbs, McEachran, Rodwell, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cahill, Kelly, Wickham,

    What does everyone think?

  • Comment number 47.

    I feel rather more cheated that Cappello gets £6 million a year for pandering to the press and 'big man' than playing some no marks in a friendly no one cares about on a tuesday night.

    Everyone should feel a little embarrassed that Gareth Barry will actually go in the record books as leading out an England team though.

    After the world cup,he should never even be considered for the team again, instead he gets to be captain.

    And thats ultimately the problem, the same faces rewarded for being poor, on and off the field.

  • Comment number 48.

    More snipes at Frank Lampard, I see. He played just fine on Saturday, and on current form, gets in over Gerrard, who when fit, which has been rare this season, was not on the best of form. Too much club bias here.

    To the main thrust of the blog, I have no problem with playing fringe players for a friendly. We know how the starters play. And especially a friendly at the tail end of a season where fixtures are coming fast and are much more decisive in the various competitions. Surely, a friendly in late May or around the EURO qualifier in June would make more sense.

  • Comment number 49.

    I don't think I have ever seen such long winded comments on these boards. Goose908 1,237 words? Really? I don't think my Master's thesis was that long.

  • Comment number 50.

    3-4-2-1 switching to 3-2-3-2 when under pressure or 3-2-2-3 when pressing the opposition. Also capable of switching to 4-1-2-1-2 or 5-3-1-1 if needed all with the personnel suggested . . . its the ideal formula and with it a trained chimp could win the World Cup at the helm.

  • Comment number 51.

    Goose908 (#38)

    Not sure about the 3-4-2-1 Formation to be honest.
    I think the 3 at the back would be exposed way too much, especially since most of the top teams seem to favor the 4-3-3 (to 4-5-1 in defence) which would leave no covering defender. Also none of our players play in a back 3 so this would make it difficult for them to adjust in the 2 games every couple of months
    However if I was to go with it I'd definitely swap Gibbs for a full on central defender (probably Dawson or Jagielka at the minute). I think Richards could work as the right of the 3.
    I also think the Gerrard/Walcott support might easily become unbalanced. Walcott currently plays as a wide player and maybe will become a forward. I don't think he currently has (possibly will never have) the footballing brain required to play in the floating role behind the striker. This requires someone who can see the pass and then execute it (Rooney/Gerrard type)

    The other way I might do it would be to have a flexible 3-5-2 to 3-4-3 formation.
    Play the 3 man defense, the 2 centre mids as holding midfielders to protect the defense and cover for the wing backs. The wide midfielders could be either as you said or against weaker opposition go with out-and-out wingers (johnson/lennon/walcott/young)
    Then an attacking midfielder (Rooney/Gerrard possibly J. Cole) playing behind 2 strikers. This allows the midfield to be strengthened in defense but still get up to support the front players quickly. Not sure who the 2 strickers would be in this case. Maybe Rooney and Bent.

    Still would favour the 4-3-3 though

  • Comment number 52.

    Forgot to add-

    If it does indeed emerge that Capello is pandering to the bigger clubs perhaps we should applaud rather than criticise him. While 'morally' it is unfair to favour the 'big clubs' over 'lesser lights', we surely have to consider the realities of Capello's and England's situation. Namely, that like it or not, the big clubs have the most influence/money, their success is something which does benefit England indirectly (by raising the standard of the league in which English players (sometimes- but that's another debate) play in), but more importantly they also account for the overwhelming majority of the top English talent. My England team posted above contains only two players from outside of the 'Big Six'- Man U, Chelsea, Man City, Arsenal, Spurs, Liverpool. Both of whom marginally get in the side ahead of players from these teams (e.g. Parker ahead of Barry, Young ahead of, say, Lennon). It is a small concession to allow these players to rejoin their clubs ahead of an unimportant friendly, but is one which might yield far greater benefits in the future.

    Whilst I am skeptical as to whether a deal has been made, if it has, we must wake up and be thankful that Capello is wisely engaging in realpolitik rather than stubbornly (and foolishly) picking unnecessary fights which could have severe consequences.

  • Comment number 53.

    England are one of the few nations in the world who are fortunate enough to have the capability of putting out a top-class ''second XI'' to represent them in a friendly.

    I certainly have a lot of sympathy for the England fans who have pre-booked on the assumption of seeing the 'stars' in action, but I don't really blame Capello for tinkering with the side in one of the few friendlies that England will play before EURO 2012.

    The captaincy issue is a bit of a yawn and non-issue, but why not give it to Barry ? I seem to remember him putting on the armband late on in a recent England international, when the players were passing it around like it was going out of fashion !

    All that being said, the Ghanaians will be more up for this than England, and - coupled with Ghana having an impressive team at the moment - I fully expect the Black Stars to win this game.

    To me, the ingredients for this game seem eerily reminiscent of the defeat against Australia at Upton Park in 2003.

  • Comment number 54.

    RicinhoCFC (#46)
    I forgot about Micah Richards when thinking of players.
    I'd go with that team with the option to add Bent in in place of Carroll depending on the opposition/form

  • Comment number 55.

    I'm going to the match tomorrow, and am a West Ham fan. Like other posts on here, I'm delighted to have paid only £25 for a good seat, and it'll be my first trip to Wembley.
    I'm delighted to be seeing some of the younger or untried players, I'd far rather watch Wilshere, Young and others who are playing for their places than the same old seemingly disinterested approach to friendlies of Rooney et al. My main irritation is that Gareth "one pace" Barry is playing, especially after he was so dire in the world cup. This is nothing personal against Barry - I played against him at school level and he's a genuinely nice lad, but I'd far rather see Rodwell or Henderson.
    As for Parker, he deserves his England chance, and although we'd be in real trouble if he gets injured, it benefits him and the team if he plays internationals. Fortunately we have Hitzlsperger back playing now and Noble in some kind of form so the loss would be lessened. As long as he doesn't have the kind of dip in form that Upson had post world cup.....

  • Comment number 56.

    Because of the structure of the formation should the team find themselves over run then Cole drops into a four man defence and Gerrard can operate in a midfield three with Johnson or Richards sacrificed for a character such as Young. The main of the team is to press and force the issue as England I feel spend too long allowing the opposition to dictate how the game runs its course. Press higher up and select the individuals who complement and suit both the tactics and eachother and the job is half complete. And as for not being able to adapt to a new formation as apose the ones used at club level - if a proffessional footballer cannot switch from having three defenders alongside him to having two with cover from three others then he shouldnt be in the squad to start with.

  • Comment number 57.

    Gosse908 (#50)

    "3-4-2-1 switching to 3-2-3-2 when under pressure or 3-2-2-3 when pressing the opposition. Also capable of switching to 4-1-2-1-2 or 5-3-1-1 if needed all with the personnel suggested . . . its the ideal formula and with it a trained chimp could win the World Cup at the helm."

    Just hope he doesn't get dizzy while watching the game!

  • Comment number 58.


    Would love to hear your views on comment 13 re a media campaign to replace Capello for a more media friendly man (presumably 'Arry?). I know this article sets out to defend Capello in this particular instance but I do agree that there seems to be some vendetta which I do not feel is merely due to England's recent (and World Cup) showings. It is true that past England managers have faced similar treatment but I do feel that the media has turned particularly swiftly on Capello and indeed seem to almost enjoy doing so.

    Do you feel that the media does have an axe to grind with Capello, and if so is there an ulterior motive behind this (i.e. one not rooted in an assessment of his performance as England manager)?

    Love your blog btw, keep up the good work!

  • Comment number 59.


    I'm not familiar with the set up of the Under 21's. Mainly because they don't get as much press coverage as the senior side, despite getting further in their tournaments, but have we borrowed this person from the Germans?

    I'm not xenophobic or anything. It's merely a joke, before anyone starts.

  • Comment number 60.

    Modern football is all about being fluid and receptive to change. If England put a team out which was well drilled and capable of switching positions and roles when needed to it would be impossible to defend against.

    Englands exit in South Africa for example. Would Ozil have had as much space had Parker being screening the defence with Johnson and Cole pushing Schweinstiger and Khedira deeper as well. And how would the German defence have coped with Bent running in behind them and Walcott and Gerrard pulling in all directions with Cole and Johnson bombing on down the wings as apose to the current rigid midfield plodding along.

  • Comment number 61.

    58. At 22:36pm on 28th Mar 2011, RicinhoCFC wrote:

    I don't think that lovable 'arry will get the England job in 2012.

    Although, I wouldn't bet on it...

  • Comment number 62.

    What's new? Pantomine follows the England team everywhere and frankly I'm getting sick of it, it has nothing to do with Capello, the same rubbish happened when Eriksson was there, when McClaren was there and before them as well.

    The coach is an easy target for critism, especially a non-English coach.

    Capello has made some naive decisions but -alot- of that comes from him being from a differnet culture, it's not rare for say Italy to play a friendly with an understrengthed team, or Spain or many other nations, why deluded England fans seem to believe "top" players need to play all the time is abhorrent.

    This is why players get injured so often by having to play when they are tired/not fully fit.

    This is why England gets to tournaments with injury problems.

  • Comment number 63.

    I have to agree with Stephen Appiah that it is disrespectful of Capello to desquad players before thr Ghana match, and for the arrogant greedy FA to charge top whack for such a fixture. Personally I think this lull in the Premiership/Championship has been awfully timed anyhow - if it is such a light weight friendly lets have some midweek fixtures. The FA and Capello can't have it both ways - can someone remind them that they are in the entertainment business - and I hope that real fans stop paying huge money to go to Wembley and leave it to the corporate fans to hopefully watch Ghana beat England in a quiet stadium.

  • Comment number 64.

    Personally am really excited about this game. Cannot wait to see the Parker, Wilshere and Barry midfield 3. I reckon thats got to be the hardest working midfield in the world atm.
    Am glad Rooney isnt playing as i think he's been a bit out of sorts in an England shirt for a little while now. Dont think he should be dropped, lets face it when he plays to even half of what hes capable of hes pure magic to watch. That being said he isnt himself atm and would like to see some of England's other attacking options have a go.
    Seriously hope Jarvis plays though. He's been phenomenal all season and totally deserves it. West Ham fan in peace and I sort of hope Wolves get relegated this season, might give us a chance to sign him!

    I'd like to see,
    Johnson - Jagielka - Cahill - Baines (much better than cole)
    Parker - Barry - Wilshere
    Milner - Carroll - Jarvis

  • Comment number 65.

    Goose908 (#56)

    It isn't that easy to switch formations for defenders. They are trained day-in day-out to cover certain positions in a 4-man defence. They automatically know where their defensive partners should be (the fact that the 3/4 defenders don't play together week in week out further complicates matters) and where they should be. Change the number of defenders and suddenly the player has to think "am I in the right place", "are the other defenders in the right place or do I need to move to cover them?" this leads to mistakes that wouldn't be made normally.
    It is a lot easier for midfielders and attackers to adjust to different formations as (especially in the modern game) the formations are very fluid in the attacking positions. Also it tends not to be noticed if they are a yard or two out of position. As a defender this can be crucial to being able to prevent a goal or not.

    I do agree that England need to press high up the pitch but the 4-3-3 allows that

  • Comment number 66.

    The more I read Phil's blog, the more I realize who would want to be England's manager. Your damned if you and your damned if you don't. If Phil is indicative of English football fans Capello is right to do things exactly as he wants and the heck with everyone else because complaints is all that he is going to get anyways. With this kind of scrutiny of players and manager, England has no chance of ever winning a major competition. There has been much talk about changing how things get done by the FA, I think the media needs to do the same.

  • Comment number 67.

    Three defenders is not a problem whilst the team is in possesion because in a flat four there tends to be just the two central defenders in their own half most of the time. As for when the opposition springs a counter attack well that is what Parker is selected for and Johnson and/or Cole would also filter into defence. If the opposition then exerts a sustained spell of pressure then the formation allows for a five man defence and it becomes too compact for the opposition to create space and therefore chances.

  • Comment number 68.

    Phil McNulty's article is very fair and quite right. Capello knows what he will get from Terry, Lampard, Rooney etc and he has little if anything to learn about their stregnths and weaknesses. As we no longer have the 'Football League 11' teams of years gone by in order to unofficially test out players and systems to benefit the England national team, friendly's should be used for that purpose.

    We have a mentality in England, which is we expect the national team to win every game. Even a loss in a friendly is treated as a disaster with calls for the manager's head. If you look at Brazil, every four years they are prepared and ready for the World Cup. In between their results are not brilliant, but games are used to prepare for the major tournament. We brought in foreign coaches to change our English mentality after years of failure at international level and we should allow Capello the opportunity to do that.

    I heard opinions on the radio the other day that an English manager should have been appointed and not Capello. Have we forgotten Steve McLaren's disaster already? At least Sven and Capello qualify for tournaments!

    Having said that, once Capello moves on I have no doubt Harry Rednapp will be ready to take the reins and will do a terrific job.

  • Comment number 69.

    I think Capello has done a rubbish job and is scandalously overpaid. However you can't criticise him for this. Why risk injuring players and upsetting teams for a friendly with Ghana? It's a chance to give caps to some new, unproven players and give the Champions League players a rest.

  • Comment number 70.

    Just as a side note for those who have mentioned Jack Rodwell - he's injured at the moment and could possibly miss the rest of the season. Still waiting for confirmation on that. But I agree he is definitely one for the future. By no means the finished article as yet, and in the numerous positions he's been tried in for us has yet to really nail down one and make it his own. However if he continues to develop he is going to be a really classy player. I personally don't think he's quite ready for full internationals yet, but he will be in the not too distant future.

  • Comment number 71.

    I would love my team (Scotland) to be able to rest players!

    All managers for England now do this, and I see both sides of the arguement. However, in this case, many folk from Ghana (and the marketeers from the FA would have known in advance), are making the long trip from all over to watch the bigest names in English football, and the strongest side, barring injuries.
    It is disrespectful, and one can only hope that this does not reinforce the "Arrognance" tag that follows most English sporting sides.
    Ticket prices should reflect the strength of sides (both), and please don't tell me that young Ghana fans attending the game won't be upset at not seeing the main stars that have been rested-that WOULD be arrogant.

  • Comment number 72.

    Gasp. I think this is the first time you have posted an article that did not have a cliched and predictable and populist viewpoint.

  • Comment number 73.

    What is the point in playing a game with so many changes from the first team.
    He should make 2 changes and that would be a useful experiment to see how the new players fit into the team.
    Changing 8 players teaches Capello (and the rest of them such as Trapatoni) nothing because they will not see how the new players fit into playing with the regulars. The great Irish team manager, Jack Charlton, used to introduce at most 2 new players for friendlies (barring injury) and that way he could see how the new players fitted into the regular team.
    Last thing, it seems unfair to send home the players from the big clubs while keeping those from the lesser clubs. As above, those players going home, such as Terry and Rooney, are the players who should be kept for the match so that a few experimental players could be introduced to play with them. Scott Parker had a good game on Saturday but now he needs a chance to play with Lampard et all against a proper team so he can be properly assessed at international football.

  • Comment number 74.

    sympathize with capello here. by no means his biggest fan, and personally don't feel he should still be the manager. that aside, he is doing absolutely nothing wrong here, if he keeps them all in the squad and uses known commodities for the sake of it he will get the same abuse as for previous pointless friendlies. isn;t the whole point of these games to try something different? further to this, the comments from ghana infuriated me, who on earth do they think they are? risking injury of our biggest names for the sake of letting players who may never return to wembley play against them is not our responsibility, or priority. they've got their night out and occasion and they should be grateful for it. there is nothing disrespectful about resting players against anyone for a friendly that makes little difference. was glad to see the sensible option has been taken with the players who were released, and there is a fair case to let wilshere and one or two others whose place has already been earned and cemented go back to their clubs too.

  • Comment number 75.

    #71. Hawkeye, why do you want to see Scotland rest players? What is the point? It is not as if they play together week in and week out. I cannot see why you would want to have anyone playing for your country other than the best players available.

  • Comment number 76.

    Why is it that England fans lose out to the clubs all the time? Given the internationals do not occur that often, surely the same players i.e. Terry, Lampard, Cole, Rooney etc need to provide the experience to bed in the other players breaking through? Surely the likes of Man U, Chelsea etc have large enough squads and can rotate their players. If the England team is to succeed internationally, we must have the best players picked all the time when fit to build cohesion. Mourinho said that he did not want to do an international job purely because the players meet up seldomly - surely when they do meet up, they should all stick together.

  • Comment number 77.

    I don't understand this debate. Capello is complained at when inexperienced players don't play and everyone complains when inexperienced players do play, thats why England won't win any major tournament.

  • Comment number 78.

    RicinhoCFC wrote

    The following are players who I feel will be really challenging for first team slots in the future (world cup 2014):
    Gibbs, McEachran, Rodwell, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cahill, Kelly, Wickham,

    What does everyone think?

    Just one more name there: Smalling!

  • Comment number 79.

    I am an African fan with great admiration for the England national squad and premier league. However, on the international scene, I am yet to see a more promising English squad. The team actually has the potential - for the first time in a long time - to actually have a world cup winning side, without the politics of the English game, of course. My dream squad would look like this:

    M. Richards---Smalling---Terry---A.Cole

    To be honest, England NEEDS a striker. Crouch, Bent, Defoe have all been disappointing, while Carrol for me is still not the finished product yet. He is yet to convince me. the formation is quite Barcelonaesque, but it's England's best (in my opinion, of course)

    Finally, those brushing Ghana aside are making a big mistake. Ghana has
    1. The most promising side in African football, bar perhaps Senegal.
    2. Organisation, speed, power and lethal finishers
    3. The belief that they can topple any country.

    Just ask the USA defence what happened in SA 2010.

    Thanks all.

  • Comment number 80.

    Certainly looks like some politics here Phil, but I also think national squad training methods need a closer look. Gareth Bale was unavailable for the England game (injury or politics? Will be interesting to see if he miraculously is available for Spurs next game), and now Aaron Lennon has returned to Spurs as a precaution (again, injury or politics? And again, will he be raring to go in Spurs next game?). In the meantime, and, as a City fan, of more concern to me, Micah Richards pulled up with a hamstring problem after only 3 minutes of the U-21 game against Denmark, and Jerome Boateng did his knee in again, before the game had even started, in the warm-up of Germany's game at the weekend! Along with Kolo Toure's indefinite absence, it's suddenly last man standing for City's defence in the run-in. Injuries and justice, or politics?

    #73, finnharpsman, don't see many of you around! I used to live next door to Jim Sheridan! And hawkeyethejock, #71, that's a lazy, ARROGANT statement, particularly with the England coach being Italian, and a fly in the eye of the SFA's insistence that the Tartan Army's stance against racism is impeccable.

  • Comment number 81.

    Of course the criticism of cappello is over the top, he is going to get a hard time after what happened in the world cup, which frankly wasn't his fault. I don't think that the captaincy thing was handled well, i don't think terry should be captain, and i don't think england need a permanent captain, but thats another story. I heard on the radio, one of the pundits saying that england would not win the next world cup if cappello is in charge, well you wouldn't win the next world cup regardless, it will not be until 2018 or beyond, before england can think about winning anything major, because the way that england is set up,is destined to fail time and time again. I haven't seen any major funding into the youth development, and the structure and way in which players are coached and how they are coached is wrong, but it would take a while to go into too much detail. Anyway, cappello is not the problem, england are, how can anyone say that it was cappello's fault for their recent world cup failure, one of the world's most successful manager takes charge of a quite frankly awful team and suddenly it is his fault that they are not performing, no there is something worng witht he england team that is rooted deep down the levels of youth and the fa and something needs to be done to change it otherwise england will continue to fail.

  • Comment number 82.

    Firstly, to those complaining about the 'fringe' players being in the squad- As I recall, we had the oldest average age of any squad at the world cup last year which was the focus of many a media criticism. People complaining left, right and center that there were no young players coming through, the squad we had was past it and there was no one developing to take their place....
    No we have a squad of developing players with an opportunity to prove themselves worthy, they're complaining that the good old players are being sent home?!?
    WHAT?! Make your minds up.
    Capello under preformed at the world cup, yes. But so did the 11 we had on the pitch. A lot of the blame heads his way when it's the people on the pitch making silly mistakes or not getting on the end of decent balls into the area.

    Secondly and, I feel, most importantly, I am a Gills fan. This means I saw Jarvis develop through our youth system when he was sold to Wolves, no one was bitter about it because we all knew he was headed for bigger and better things. Now I would love to see him don an England shirt and show everyone the amazing player that he truely is. I think with a combination of Walcott/wright-Phillips/Jarvis on the pitch, there would be some deadly crosses and some beautiful goals hitting the oppositions netting.

    Give them a chance, that's what friendlies are for and it's time we found someone to replace the likes of Lampard, Terry, Gerrard, Ferdinand etc because they're not going to keep going forever and if we don't start developing people now we're really going to be in trouble when their time's up.

    Come on England! Come on Jarvis!

  • Comment number 83.

    I would look to make as few changes as possible (after those 5 have been released). That means 4-3-3, with Hart, Johnson, Parker, Wilshere, Young and Bent starting. Obviously Barry is going to come in, and I would bring Baines, Jagielka and Cahill into defence. Just leaves one wing-forward slot, which is between Milner and Downing. I think Milner is more similar a player to Rooney, and would therefore be more of a like-for-like swap, and I would prefer to see Downing come on in a more conventional 4-4-2.

    I wouldn't like to see too many substitutions in this match, not the wholesale emptying of the bench that we sometimes see in friendlies. I would bring Downing, Carroll and Defoe on at some point and switch to a more standard 4-4-2, with either Young or Milner on the right (whoever's playing well) and Barry and Wilshere in the middle.

    I really enjoyed Ghana's World Cup run and I was absolutely gutted to see them go out, especially when Gyan missed his penalty. However, even with this "weakened" line-up, I think we should have enough to overcome them. Should be a great game, but a young, hungry England team with something to prove will hopefully be too much for them.

  • Comment number 84.

    I mean for crying out loud, the fans need to stop complaining, if your player plays and breaks a leg and your club gets relegated, we'll see who moans then....

    Motihur Rahman

  • Comment number 85.

    Well I wasn't going to bother Phil until you made your special appeal.

    For once I'm going to offer slight sympathy for Capello.

    Though I hate to use cliches, in between the rock and the hard place is about right for this one.

    Capello's at the mercies of the Premier League clubs, so doesn't dare play the big names he normally would, but certainly the England fans are being cheated, and I'm glad I've not got a ticket, as I'd definitely feel short changed.

    When you pay to watch England you expect to see the top English stars, and you expect to see them win, against anything but other top 10 or top 5 opposition.

    And it's quite possible the fans aren't going to see either.

    I've said it before lately, and I'll say it again for the last time - the only way to remove this conflict between club and international football is to play all international games at the end of the season.

    It will have to be done sooner or later, because it's ruining the quality of international games like this one, and that's really unfair on the fans, who may well be paying out loads of money on tickets, to watch a substandard and inexperienced England line up get thrashed tomorrow evening.

    Like probably most other people, I don't actually know how good the Ghanaans are, but I don't think there's any doubt they are going to be a lot tougher than Wales.

    I really am not that well informed about foreign league football, but I wonder if the Spanish, Brazilian, Dutch and German club managers take the same attitude as our managers to their players doing international duty?

    Perhaps someone could educate me on that...I'm all ears...

  • Comment number 86.

    Why is Capello cheating fans by experimenting in a friendly match?
    Since when are friendly matches there to see the strongest side of a team?
    Have we lost common sense?

    I have my doubts about the importance of the match for England, since the tournament in question is the Euro Championships and this is an African team but I'm not the expert here and I wouldn't attempt to sell brains. This is a good opportunity though to see the rest of England stars, established or up and coming, against a credited opposition.

  • Comment number 87.

    Exactly the time to trial players. It is a "friendly", not a qualifier. Give the big boys a breather, they have a congested fixture schedule ahead. It also lets you see who sitting behind them and judge them on how they play. And Ghana is no easy test. No disrespect to the fans, no disrespect to Ghana. This is what a "friendly" is for, it is not a "qualifier". Besides, the rest of the blokes on the squad ain't half bad, if I do say so. They play at a very, very high level. Faith.

  • Comment number 88.

    England fans over the top? Never!

    Club coaches use many friendlies to prepare their teams for competitive matches. Why is their so much opposition to international managers, who are also paid to get results, having even a fraction of those opportunities?

  • Comment number 89.

    I just think it's a great turn of events that while England fans are whining about "useless friendlies" and act like they couldn't care less, the US team in the supposed soccer backwater of America drew 79,000 fans to their home friendly on Saturday.

  • Comment number 90.

    I think many people are just looking for a scapegoat, and the nationalistic ones will necessarily pick on a foreigner.
    He has done little wrong since taking over for England, except perhaps picking some of the wrong players!
    We need to give the TRYERS a chance, those who are proud to play and will give 110% leave out the Barrys and the Lampards please.

  • Comment number 91.

    ah yes, and England are going to get WOOPED by Ghana if they dont put their best on...

  • Comment number 92.

    I'm sure many will say that Spain has a winter break and the Argentina aren't involved in Euro qualifying, but I have a lot of respect for Messi giving it the whole 90 minutes against the USA, and he's still very much in the Champions League campaign. I'm sure both sides could have made wholesale changes and I believe both stuck to just three substitutions in that friendly. They gave the nearly 80,000 supporters a real match to enjoy that at times belied the fact it was friendly. From a supporters perspective it's a comparatively rare experience to see your national side and when they take it seriously I think it shows a lot of respect to the fans who travel and pay the money.

  • Comment number 93.

    I do agree, Phil, that Capello's words are being parsed out to a ridiculous degree but I can't help thinking that this is a self-inflicted wound. He meanders through his press briefings and quite frankly, says some of the dumbest stuff. that forces him to be a media target, almost in the way that someone like Clough or Docherty used to in their later years.

    If he is to retain any respect with the players, he is going to have to do a better job of explaining himself

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 94.

    It is an interesting piece but I think The FA needs to set a good example across board. If what Capello did and has done is justifiable, then Mr. Holloway's previous punishment should be expunged from the records books. We all need to practise what we preach.

  • Comment number 95.

    My take on things is that Capello thinks 'better safe than sorry'. Let's make no mistake about this - Ghana will be really up for this one, and beating a full Capello side is not out of the books. Losing to Ghana at Wembly with a full side would put unnessesary pressure on Capello and disrupt his next competative match as the media would be out with all knives sharpened.. Call me cynical.

  • Comment number 96.

    I agree with you Phil. Ghana showed at the World Cup that they are a side with plenty of pace: dropping several players the wrong side of 30 makes perfect sense, especially for a friendly.

    I doubt very much that he is showing favoritism to the Champions League, I would imagine he realises the majority of his squad are going to come from Chelsea, Man U, Spurs and Liverpool in the future, and he needs to keep them sweet. With respect to Wolves, West Ham etc, they periodically have players in the England team, but I'm sure the benefits of having England players in the squad would outweight the likelihood of injury in a friendly.

    Besides, experimenting with players is the whole point of friendlies. Are we going to learn anything new about Lampard, Gerard et al?

  • Comment number 97.

    @ellandroadie: You couldn't have been so far away from the truth and for me that is a slap in the face because Ghana was made to promise that they will come with all of their senior players which they did and to the extent of even wanting all the tickets for the game. Believe me, the 20,000 tickets allocated to Ghana was not even enough for them. For me, mentality has not changed even after gaining our independence in 1957. What about some respect?

    When Holloway fielded a team similar to what Capello has done, he was punished. So what are they telling the whole world?

  • Comment number 98.

    The fact that Defoe, Crouch and Lennon are still with the team proves there's no favoritism to the Champions League teams. What Capello says about playing 4 games in 10 days makes sense, why fans can't see that is beyond me.

    I also agree with the majority on here who've made a point about the treatment the "fans" give to the likes of Terry, Lampard, Cole and even Rooney. They're not playing, you should be happy!!

  • Comment number 99.

    The so called English pundits never fail to amuse me. Not so long ago, after one single performance Gareth Barry anchored and Stevie G patrolled the midfield, the English press hailed the arrival of the solution to the SG/FL conundrum. Now the same folks are at it again. After one single (for emphasis) performance against a suspiciously subdued opposition the Scott Parker-Frank Lampard axis is again being hailed as the arrival of the solution to the SG/FL conundrum. When will the pundits learn that football is a fluid and dynamic game where the opposition and tactics define the results. Thus it was possible for a team of Algerians to completely subdue a team of Mega-Stars from the EPL managed by Don Fabio himself. So let Scott Parker enjoy his 15 minutes in the sun, as surely there must be many teams stronger than Wales that stand in between Team England and the elusive Glory!

  • Comment number 100.

    I didn't see what the fuss was about anyway, international friendlies have a variety of uses and one of those uses is giving players experience of international football. I imagine Germany will be giving a lot of their youngsters who played bit parts in some qualifying games, starts against Austrailia. These are international players still, I mean these are the players people moan about getting dropped for FA cup games now they are moaning about them playing in international games. England didn't even play that well against Wales, in fact they were quite boring and poor, in terms on 'entertainment' value I don't think England fans were ever going to get their money's worth.


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