Tag Archive | "England"

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Christmas 2009: Tom Finney, Man of the Match

Posted on 23 December 2009 by JamesHamilton

So many forward-thinking men in English football in the Fifties: Matthews and Finney after seeing Brazil in the 1950 World Cup, Malcolm Allison after watching Austrians train in Vienna in 1946, Joe Mercer and Don Revie in the wake of the Hungarians. It took England four years to go from the Magyars to once again being one of the world’s best teams – a fact disguised, filthily, by Munich.

But even before then, they had their moments, Here England put nine past Ireland, with Finney man of the match:

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Fabio Capello’s First Squad

Posted on 31 January 2008 by JamesHamilton

When Sven Goran Ericksson put out his first squad back in 2001, it sprang surprises, not least for Charlton’s Chris Powell. Powell was an effective left-back for England until Ashley Cole was ready (at the time, he was another surprise – too young, too inexperienced, it was thought by many). There are none in Capello’s first essay, just confirmation of dolour for Beckham and Robinson.

Beckham’s the victim of the US football season being out of sync with our own. Robinson, on the other hand, may be watching his entire career unravel. There have been comments made this year by former England keepers about the attitude of the new generation to training, learning and development – not complimentary ones, and although these comments haven’t been levelled at Robinson personally, nevertheless they give plenty of food for thought.

Robert Green can clearly forget all about England now, failing the absolute demise of every other English keeper. His omission, Beckham’s and Robinson’s aside, is Capello’s main departure from the Ericksson template. Otherwise, it’s clear that Capello’s brief time in England has led him to agree with the Swede: there really is only this core group of players who are up to international level, plus twenty or so hangers-on to this tasting menu of a squad.

Likewise Jermaine Defoe. It’s temperament with him – he combines his individual standoffishness with a reluctance to work on his game, with the result that his runs and positioning are no better now than they were when he was a teenage prodigy at West Ham.

I’m not surprised by Curtis Davies’s inclusion. His famous “pub footballer” interview, combined with some good recent performances, mark him out as someone with the right attitude to go with his talent. If he keeps this up, a long international career could await him. And, given the sheer number of Aston Villa selections, perhaps domestic trophies to boot. Martin O’Neill is building quietly, but it’s bearing fruit.

And it’s good to have Capello mention Walcott, Hart, Wheater and Lennon by name. Walcott and Lennon are on the verge of becoming for real what they have promised to be since 2006 – truly exciting, exceptional players, but both need a bit of luck at the moment. The boost of being singled out for mention will help them. Wheater surely won’t be out of the full squad for long, and there are rumoured to be others to follow from the excellent Middlesbrough youth set-up.

I saw Hart play against Sheffield United, and, comic disaster with balloons aside, he looks like a proper keeper. There’s a presence about him that wasn’t so evident with Robinson and Green. It’ll be interesting to see who of Kirkland, Carson and James get the nod against Switzerland.

Overall it’s a defensive squad, with more out-and-out defenders compared to midfielders than we saw under McClaren. Hargreaves or Barry will fight it out for the defensive midfield role, presumably behind Gerrard who looks as if he’ll pick up the armband in the absence of John Terry, unless Alex Ferguson’s proffering of Rio Ferdinand comes through.

There was talk of Michael Owen joining Beckham on the sidelines, but in the end, common sense won out. The doubts expressed about Owen mystify me: when he returned to the colours last year, it was to bring yet more goals. No other England forward does that so reliably.

It looks bad for Dean Ashton, though, who must – like Robert Green – be wondering what he has to do, what fates he has offended. But for injury, he’d have gone to the 2006 World Cup instead of either Walcott or Crouch. McClaren was on the verge of picking him, when injury came again. At one stage in 2005-6, he looked like a younger, more skilful version of Alan Shearer, an old style English centre forward but with subtlety.

Likewise Andy Johnson and Darren Bent. Neither has done anything since 2006 to contradict Ericksson’s judgement of them as, essentially, journeymen. Bent is injured at present, after having come so close to scoring against Croatia, but given what’s happened to Defoe, it will be interesting to see if he is picked when fit. England’s over for Johnson, the Kevin Phillips de nos jours.

Anyway, what do you think? Good squad, bad squad, meaningless? Who are the missing men? Do we learn anything significant about Capello’s ideas for England, or does that await the first of his actual elevens? Is Sol Campbell’s back injury the only reason for his absence, or is his England career over too?

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Histrionics, Hair Gel.. and a Quarter Final From Hell

Posted on 27 June 2006 by JamesHamilton

You’d have asked for anyone save Portugal.

It’s one for the remaining band who believe that the lesser the opposition, the better our chances. For the rest of us, we can only hope that England stir themselves, and trust in something more interesting for the semi-final.

Brace yourselves for a week of the following stories on the back page, none of which are likely to do anything other than sour your day:

  • “Big Phil” would have dropped Beckham
  • “Big Phil” has “outthought” Eriksson twice: will he do it again?
  • “Big Phil” could teach Eriksson a thing or two about substitutions and inspiring his players (we’ll forget about Portugal’s lack of penetration against a weak Dutch side, and the way Scolari’s players lost their discipline completely in the second half..
  • Various comparisons between Scolari and Steve McClaren, all of which will run in Scolari’s favour
  • Eriksson should drop Beckham/Hargreaves/Robinson!!/Terry/anyone else, but won’t because he lacks the football knowledge and nous of the sweating tabloid hack in question.

It’s going to be a horribly ugly game, in what has suddenly become an ugly World Cup – Wimbledon can’t come soon enough.

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