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Saturday, August 12, 2006

The three England amigos

Steve McClaren, Terry Venables and John Terry are the national football squad's new coach, assistant coach and team captain respectively. A new 'evolution' rather than revolution. England have a vice-captain in Steven Gerrard and I would have thought he would be at the press conference too, barring any commitments. McClaren announced his selection of players for the Greece friendly at Old Trafford on Wednesday, and a number of omissions were noticed from the usual suspects:

Paul Robinson, Chris Kirkland, Ben Foster;

Wayne Bridge, Wes Brown, Jamie Carragher, Ashley Cole, Michael Dawson, Rio Ferdinand, Gary Neville, Phil Neville, John Terry (capt), Luke Young;

Stewart Downing, Steven Gerrard, Owen Hargreaves, Jermaine Jenas, Frank Lampard, Aaron Lennon, Kieron Richardson, Shaun Wright-Phillips;

Dean Ashton, Darren Bent, Peter Crouch, Jermaine Defoe.

Notably was David Beckham's absence and that of recent Pompey acquisitions Sol Campbell and David James, Scott Carson and Theo Walcott were moved down to the U21s', Wayne Rooney is apparently being rested, Michael Owen is recovering, Michael Carrick is recovering, and so is Joe Cole. James maybe regarded as getting on in age at thirty-six while Campbell's absence could be down to his ability at international level as he is the same age as Gary Neville. Yet there are a number of central defenders who are younger and able to replace Campbell. Just. His height and heading ability was very distinctive and his strength at times was simply overawing. But fuss is made about Beckham, whether this spells the end of his international career.

If Beckham takes the omission to heart, and he should not considering it's a friendly, then expect him to announce his retirement within a few months if not weeks. This could depend on the squad selection come the Euro2008 qualifiers. Nonetheless, this is a vital opportunity for Lennon to shine for ninety minutes. The selection opens another opportunity for Defoe to finally show some quality for country and Bent, who missed out on an earned World Cup chance.

As for Terry as captain, at first I was disappointed Gerrard did not get chosen, but considering the choices of the two of them, the England squad will have a great leader whichever choice it was. I wonder if Beckham was crying during the Portugal game because he was injured and could not help England any further, or he felt he would not play any part further if England went through to the semis', or he felt it was time to call on his England career himself, much less the captaincy. There was an opening in Beckham that the media could press on to niggle him, something which they'd be hard pressed to manage with Terry.

It's a New Dawn, It's a New Day, It's a New Life...and I hope we will be feeling good.



Blogger T said...

Nice song reference at the end there Redsman! Am I feeling good about this new management and squad...

Well I liked the way McClaren took charge of the conference yesterday- which was summed up in the way he intercepted a question aimed at Terry which he felt should not have been asked. He spoke with authority and passion- which makes a change from Sven's sleep-inducing press-conferences!

I like Venables as assistant coach- I have always been impressed by his football analysis so I think it is a great idea that it can be put to use for the England national team.

I like John Terry as captain- as McClaren said the Chelsea skipper is a winner and has been a fantastic leader for the current Premiership champs.

And I think it is refreshing to see that Beckham has been left out entirely. He is a great set-piece expert- but I have been really disappointed with his contribution in open play and the fact that he is unwilling or unable to go on a dribble or beat a player... which is a big deficiency in an attacking wide player. With Lennon and SWP as good right wing options I think it is only right that Beckham's been excluded. Furthermore, it sends out the statement that no player is untouchable simply because he is an iconic player regardless of form or suitability for the team... which is the trap that Sven fell into during his time in charge.

So there are some reasons for feeling hopeful... on the other hand as we discussed on EFT during the World Cup, the most disappointing thing about England is that despite having good individual players they simply could not play good football as a team. This is what McClaren has to work on during his coaching sessions: improving the way the players link-up with each other on the pitch.

To achieve a better balance and team cohesion may significantly mean not playing BOTH Gerrard and Lampard because I'm yet to be convinced that they can play well together in the same team. I am looking forward to see how McClaren and Venables decide is the best way to deal with this issue... indeed if they can get this decision right it may be a big step to getting a better performing England team.

8/12/2006 3:16 pm

Blogger T said...

Redsman, I should have added that Ben Foster has been selected... which was something which we discussed after England's exit from the World Cup.

From the few times I watched him last season in division one he looks to be a keeper with many qualities and high potential, so it will interesting to see how he adapts to Premiership football with newly-promoted Watford.

8/13/2006 11:44 am

Blogger SKG said...

i have a really good feeling about the new management, and if we take a look at the quality in the squad, i think we might have a better team in 2008.

8/13/2006 12:18 pm

Blogger BlindJak said...

I have to say I don’t necessarily share in the outright optimism shown so far for the new management team although there are definite reasons to be cheerful. This is only McLarens second job after his stint a Boro where he did well to qualify for Europe and then reach the final but never got the team playing consistently enough in the league. And lets not forget that his team were often labelled Middlesbore. However, with the way things were under Sven anyone is surely a step up.

I’m also unsure about Venables, undoubtedly he’ll inject a sense of fun and enthusiasm to the team which could prove invaluable but I wonder should he now be considered experienced or a dinosaur out of touch with the modern game? Since his tenure ended with England he’s done little of note on the management side of things. Is he merely a media friendly Howard Wilkinson who has not moved on in terms of tactics? Only time will tell.

Being Chelsea it’s natural that I’ll welcome the appointment of JT as captain but I would have been happy had Gerrard got the nod as I’m sure he would have been excellent in the role.

I personally think dropping Becks is a mistake and more a decision based on politics and sending a message “I’m not Sven, I’m different”. To the media and public at large. Undoubtedly Becks performances have for some time not warranted inclusion in the first XI but to not make the squad? While I have great hopes for SWP shining this season has he really earned his place above Becks? Or for that matter Downing, Jenus or Richardson? Through out the course of the season all probably will but at this time there not quite there.

Saying that it is a friendly and the right time to experiment (though hopefully not as much as Sven used to).

8/15/2006 10:36 am

Blogger T said...

Good as ever to have your comments BlindJak.

I take what you say about Beckham being left out of the entire squad. But perhaps clearer reasoning behind this decision is found in McClaren's statement today that he is to start Gerrard on the right as he does for Liverpool when Sissoko and Alonso are in the centre.

Gerrard has proven that he can be effective in this position, and what's more the deicsion by Benitez to play him there has really helped the balance of the Liverpool team. If it can have a similar impact on England, and at the same time solve the dilemma of whether to play both Gerrard and Lampard in the centre, than this could prove to be an early masterstroke by McClaren.

Also, I'll to be interested to see what real impact Venables has. As I said, I am really impressed with his analysis on the TV - plus the passionate way he communicates his opinion. I don't beleive he will have lost to much in terms of tactical nous with his time out, and anyway I remember his methods with England to be progressive and not routed in the Wilkinson/George Graham method so I am confident his opinions will still be relevant to the modern game.

P.S. Theo Walcott plays in the under 21's tonight... which means that all football fans get a rare glimpse of seeing TW start a game! I wish him well...

8/15/2006 7:04 pm

Blogger BlindJak said...

Didn't get to watch the U21 game but saw Walcotts goal. How did he (and the rest of the team) play?

8/16/2006 9:45 am

Anonymous Anonymous said...

GunnerPete says...Well done Theo. Having next to zero games since your transfer, you have all that it takes to be a great player.

As for the new England regime, sorry, I have no more enthusiasm than before, and that proved all too correct.

The ONLY plus point is the appointment of Venables. In my eyes he did absolutely no wrong as England boss & produced a team with flair & strength. I just wish he had the squad tha Sven had over the past 5 years or so.

As for Steve Mac, well unless he listens very hard to Venners, I fear we will have between 3/4 years of quite boring matches building up to each tournament with a press ferver that is as usual, misplaced. For him & Sven to use as a sub Downing?? for England?? sorry it says it all. Yes, as with many a good player, he does well with his club, but at International level, he is very ordinary.

The re-inclusion of Phil Neville only adds to my fears. He has always been a destroyer / clogger to orders. I see no sensible reason for him. I dispair that we are already going backwards by using most of the failed squad from the world cup.

Now is the time to bring in the very talented youngsters to grow into the European team we need ie;

Davies (who I rate now, but will be even better in two years) for the other Neville, and Nolan for his brother. SWP, must get a few games at his club first, and Hargreaves is a must as a regular, and as good as Lampard is, he must be given a break. So now is the chance to blood some other types of Midfielder ie; a Playmaker. I would use Gerrard in a new role as he makes so many chances up front, he should in my opinion be given the spot just behind the forward two. One because he is deadly, and would make big use of the ball dropping to him out side the box from corners etc. And two, because when our midfield is being over run he is ideal as support, but his main role should be upfield.

If & when Ashton is back, we should go for pace all around him & Rooney. Lennon is ideal, if can learn to look up now and again. Joa Cole can be used on the left to play in front of his club mate A.Cole. We then have a chance to use fluid systems within games, depending on the oposition. Arsene Wenger has shown this is the way for so many years, but our powers that be, never insist that the England Boss learns from AFC & Holland about fluid movement.

My team for now & possibly a few years would be radical, and all 'new' youngsters that show an exceptional promise like Walcott, Bale, Barnes etc. should be brought into friendlies on a fast track system.

Well thats that all sorted, I will now finish my cuppa!

8/16/2006 11:05 am

Blogger T said...

Only saw the first half Blindjak, and unfortunately it was Moldova who bossed the game with better passing and possession football... and I couln't help but feel that the England youngsters were replicating how the seniors played in the World Cup( i.e. seemingly lacking a sense of how to play good and cohesive passing football).

As Rob McCaffrey of Sky Sports said at half-time, no disrespect is meant to Moldova but given the resources in England you would have expected our under 21's to be bossing the match and playing the better possession football.

I didn't see the second half but the match finished 2-2 with Moldova coming from behind twice so it seems that England didn't play much better after the break.

Good goal from Walcott though, and a header no less... perhaps this is one area than where Thierry can learn a few lessons from young TW!

GP, you have earned your cuppa! I would have Nolan in the squad too, and was also somewhat bemused by the inclusion of P Neville- a selection that doesn't say much about the quality depth of English players.

I like that you noted Bale of Soton and Barnes of Derby... so it looks like I wasn't the only one(along with my brother) to check out the exciting Derby/Soton match on Sky a couple of weeks back. Bale is actually Welsh so unfortunately can't be fast-tracked into the England team... but the young Derby forward, Giles Barnes, is English and I agree that he looks to have big potential.

He has excellent pace, dribbling prowess, good athletic build, and has only just turned 18. One to keep an eye out for definitely, and thanks for bringing him to the attention of our readers!

8/16/2006 12:12 pm

Anonymous Nturtle said...

Didn't see either the senior or Under 21's matches...but s Gunnerpete says...Well done Theo!

An addition to this is the senior debut of Bendtner who scored for Denmark! He's turning out to be a real player...and if he keeps it up at Birmingham...we might have too many strikers to select from at Arsenal!

And back to England - well a 4-0 win certainly helps...and I read that Hargreaves was again the best player...such a change in his fortunes (or England fans' perception)! Defoe also had some good moments apparently...and did a lot for the team.

I too like Venables a lot...and I think he's a good recuit to the cause. The interesting thing for me is the way McClaren handled the press conference, apparently intercepting a question to Terry that was not appropriate - making his mark in a very different way to Sven. The sad thing is....Sven still gets paid 13k a week or something silly until he gets a new job!! HA!

8/17/2006 3:21 pm

Anonymous Nturtle said...

Oh...I forgot to mention that it was also telling that Scott Carson got dropped to the England Under 21's...and then proceeded to fumble around a bit on the 2-2 draw.

Ben Foster though, sounds like a good keeper and having being called up to the Senior squad...and now going into the Premiership on another season long loan with Watford, it's helping foster (pun intended)a good talent I feel.

8/18/2006 10:42 am

Blogger T said...

Nice one Nturtle!

I am happy with the system chosen by McClaren with Gerrard in a wide right roving role and combo of the attacking Lampard and defensive Hargreaves in the centre. It has good balance and worked well against Greece.

The first half was impressive but at the same time the Greeks looked to have treated it like a pre-season game - which effectively it was. So although it was a clear victory and McClaren has made some promising innovations, I want to wait until England face tougher examinations before getting excited about the prospects of this new era.

8/18/2006 11:15 am

Anonymous Anonymous said...

GunnerPete says....I liked the new format with the midfield that most Englishmen would have settled for to start the world cup, as long as they played with fire. But most of these 'stars' played to order and looked afraid to go for it. This was exactly the same problem Sven gave us in the previous two competitions ie going out without a fight.

I would urge fans though not to get carried away, because I agree with the above statement, Greece were treating the first half as a training match. After that they dominated the game and could easily have scored 2/3 but for Coles on line work & the saves. Being a Gunner I am a sceptic by nature and I do not believe that our best players are being picked because McClaren is picking from Svens old lists. Hopefully we will see a progressive improvement in the team & the system over the next few years.

8/21/2006 11:33 am

Anonymous Anonymous said...

GunnerPete says....sorry but the line should read 'I do NOT believe our best players are being picked'

8/21/2006 11:35 am


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