The Libero - Change by default can only benefit England
Published: 17 Nov 2010 - 10:15:06
In the aftermath of the shambles that was England's World Cup campaign, calls for England boss Fabio Capello to look to the future rang out loud and clear.
The so-called Golden Generation had failed in their quest to fulfil both their undeniable potential and a nation's expectations, leaving some of the more senior members of the shamed squad to seriously wonder what, if anything, they had left to offer their country.
With the national game in such an apparent crisis, and with no quick-fix solution immediately evident, it was time for a change; time to jettison the dead wood and give youth a chance. Time to take a long-term view and start planning for the future. So it was not without a degree of disappointment to see that Capello's first couple of post-World Cup squads bore more than a slight resemblance to the one which failed so miserably in South Africa.
Yes, Adam Johnson was given a chance to display his talents as a substitute and Theo Walcott was drafted back in, having been overlooked in South Africa. Kieran Gibbs got to warm the bench for the victories over Bulgaria and Switzerland, while Jack Wilshere did likewise against Montenegro; neither actually saw any action.
But otherwise, the breath of fresh air that was supposed to blow through the England camp and reinvigorate what had become a jaded group of players had failed to materialise; Kevin Davies got the nod to make his international debut at the ripe old age of 33, for goodness sake.
It worked out for the opening two Euro 2012 qualifiers, but frustratingly, the same old failings were again apparent during the Wembley draw with Montenegro last month when England were painfully short on the kind of spark that an injection of youth can give.
Certainly Davies, for all his admirable attributes, was not going to provide it at that level. But there is hope. And it came with the announcement of Capello's squad for the friendly against France tonight.
On the face of it, Capello had finally conceded that the core of his World Cup side will not deliver future trophies. Of course, he has been limited by a string of injuries to the likes of John Terry, Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney and Ashley Cole (the latter being the only player who would justifiably make the side on current form), but Capello has still sent out a message with his selection of Andy Carroll, Jordan Henderson, Chris Smalling, Wilshere and Gibbs.
It's only a friendly, against France, who mercifully are in a worse state than us, but the game represents a golden opportunity for Carroll, Henderson and Gibbs - and the other two should they make it off the bench - to make their mark on the England set-up.
Their chance may only have arrived by fortuitous means, but one man's bad luck is another man's good fortune. And the plain fact is that at the moment Carroll et al are in the squad, and the likes of Rooney, Terry, Cole and Lampard, along with Jermain Defoe, Darren Bent and Glen Johnson, are not. That not only opens the door to the debutants but, if they can deliver the goods at Wembley, it also presents the opportunity to wedge their foot in there.
A footballer should only be as good as his last performance, and if tonight pans out how Carrroll and Henderson no doubt dreamed last night, Capello will have a selection dilemma to deal with ahead of the nation's next competitive game against Wales in March.
And in doing so, the next generation of English players might just forcibly kick-start that much-needed process of change. And, whether it came about intentionally or not, that can only be good news for the national side.
- FOOTBALL.CO.UK BLOGGER:the libero
- Libero (noun): 1. Versatile, ball-playing defender given licence to roam. Expected to break up opposition attacks while instigating counters. Role patented by German legend Franz Beckenbauer. 2. Versatile weekly football columnist, aka journalist Mike Hytner, given licence to write what he likes. Expected to file every Wednesday. Not nearly as talented as his boyhood hero Der Kaiser.
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