England v Macedonia, and Joey Barton
With the exception of Owen Hargreaves, Aaron Lennon and Andy Johnson, the England squad reports for duty with a fit checklist. Between now and kick off tomorrow at Old Trafford at 5pm there should be no worries and we should be confident in having practically a set XI that will win. Last time the Macedonians came to England was to end in a 2-2 draw at Southampton's St Mary's stadium, where they took the lead twice, the first goal from the now famous Artim Sakiri corner over David Seaman. The team then was:
Seaman, G Neville, Campbell, Woodgate, Ashley Cole, Beckham, Gerrard, Scholes, Bridge, Owen, Smith with Danny Mills, David James, Southgate, Hargreaves, Butt, Lampard, Vassell on the bench.
Seaman and Southgate do not play anymore, Mills, Butt, James and Campbell are no more, Vassell is potentially no more, Lampard and Hargreaves have been promoted to the first team. Woodgate could still have a chance, albeit a slim one, in joining the squad at some point, the same for Smith.
But now the headlines feature on the revelation of a possible change of formation. Either Steve McClren will decide given the players available or he will corroberate with the players as to the best formation. After all, they will play it, he will direct it. My feelings on 4-4-2 is I like it the most but I am open to others. A straight back four and midfield, two strikers, or the same but with a holding central midfielder behind three midfielders. With a 3-5-2, I always wondered about this and pondered who would drop out of the back four. If Shaun Wright-Phillips plays parallel with Ashley Cole, Gary Neville and Rio Ferdinand flank captain John Terry at the back. Ferdinand at left-back is one option I never thought would be a possibility. That would also mean Stewart Downing is not considered, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Michael Carrick/Phil Neville stay central. I must add that Wayne Rooney will partner Peter Crouch.
My version of 3-5-2 would have G Neville and Cole either side of Terry, and let Ferdinand drop down as an ad hoc holding midfielder when we are on the attack, as he likes to come out with the ball and has played in midfield before. That leaves four in midfield to go on the attack, yet if England were to be on the defensive, then our midfield must race back, Ferdinand can then drop back into defence. His ad hoc role is there to allow all the midfielders to go forward and in the event the ball is cleared or brought out to midfield, Ferdinand is on hand at least to offer resistence until the midfield retract back into position.
There is also 3-1-3-3, which is also 3-4-3 effectively. Again it's like my 3-5-2 with Ferdinand behind three midfielders, three strikers upfront. I am not happy with this because of three strikers, it reminds me that two will have to play for one to score, reducing our striking opportunites by two-thirds. There are three traits an England side has been comfortable with: (i) two renowned strikers; (ii) four in defence; (iii) good wingers who supplied good crosses. Obviously this works with 4-4-2 more than 3-5-2. I also wondered if the intelligence on Macedonia considers they will play with one upfront and pack the midfield. they may well surprise us but I still feel regardless of how the opponents play, we should stay with 4-4-2 and tinker with the midfield positions, if need be.
Joey Barton went over to a disabled Manchester City boy in the crowd and handed him his shirt, gestured a wave to fans and went to walk off. To his immediate left were a set of Everton fans who berated him and in response he looked, smiled a wry smile and pulled his shorts and underwear down just halfway to expose some of his buttocks. I don't know why keeper Nicky Weaver felt obliged to lend a hand, literally. But a complaint to the police was made and both the FA and Merseyside police looked into the incident.
Had someone done the same on public streets it could potentially be an offence of indecent exposure. Some may say gross decency. Or maybe not, unless you were on the receiving end of its comprehending message. Most would not follow it up but there will be someone offended and that is not right. I think a word to the City chairman and manager to speak to Barton would suffice, for me, from the FA as the police declare no action to be taken. The FA instead decided that as the referee had left the pitch by then and therefore was not present to deal with it, this gives the FA powers to intervene and adjudicate. Barton has been charged by the FA with improper conduct and/or bringing the game into disrepute.
I don't wish to see an epidemic of mooning but I'm not easily offended while others may well be, and feel a word would be enough, otherwise a punishment will ensue. Improper conduct maybe, but bringing the game into disrepute? Just a bit of cheek. It is funny that the FA considered it appropriate to intervene in the Ben Thatcher incident despite action being taken by the referee, calling it 'exceptional circumstances', yet didn't find Zokora's dive exceptional enough.