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Joe Strange - Same old England, always boring

Published: 11 Oct 2010 - 10:54:11

I admit it, I'm a hypocrite. As much as I moan about the tactics, criticise the players and complain about the manager, I can't help but tune into each and every England game.

The most pointless of friendlies remain must-watch TV in the Strange household, while holiday dates are always carefully crafted around major tournaments. I even spent a fiver watching us lose to the Ukraine in that online-only game last year.

In fact, I can't remember the last England game that I missed. Let alone a must-win qualifier.

But tomorrow, for the first time in what seems like forever, I won't be around be around to cheer on Fabio's lions against Montenegro. Admittedly, when I booked my tickets for a show on the south coast I was completely unaware that England would be playing - mainly because the qualifying draw hadn't been made and the game dates were yet to be be announced.

So when it dawned on me roughly a month ago that I'd be sat in the Brighton Dome watching a distinctly Scottish comedian rather than the vibrant new England, I was a little bit disappointed.

In our last two outings against Bulgaria and Switzerland, the performances were a vast improvement on the shambles we were all forced to witness in South Africa. And while we were still far from perfect, the style of football, team selection and most importantly the results, showed a huge amount of promise.

But since Capello's latest squad was released, things have taken on an altogether more uninspiring look.

First came the revelation that the Italian had attempted to bring Emile Heskey out of international retirement. Fair enough, Heskey has had a mini-renaissance of sorts under his old boss Gerard Houllier, but a couple of decent games for Aston Villa doesn't automatically turn him into an international must-have.

Then came the inclusion of Bolton forward Kevin Davies. At 33-years-old and with no pace or skill of note, Davies hardly represents the future of English football.

If he was good enough for his country then he would have been called up long ago, not in the twilight of career which in many ways reflects that of Heskey. Not enough goals but good in the air. Just what we need in our new-look, fluid England...

Other dubious squad decisions included recalls for Joe Cole - a player struggling to make an impact with underachieving Liverpool, and Rob Green - who remains as inconsistent as ever this season. Don't even get me started on Shaun Wright-Phillips and Stephen Warnock.

An injury to Phil Jagielka now means that Rio Ferdinand will glide back into the starting XI, when really he should have been confined to the bench. James Milner, who brought both quality on the ball and an admirable work-rate to the last two wins, will also be absent through suspension.

Jermain Defoe looked to finally be establishing himself on the international stage only for an injury to rule him out of action for three months. Theo Walcott is also out, leaving us all praying that Capello will ignore Adam Johnson's lack of game time for Manchester City and give him the start he deserves.

Luckily Frank Lampard is out which means Steven Gerrard should retain his central role, but whether he'll be able to link up with the out-of-sorts Wayne Rooney is still up for debate.

The emergence of Jack Wilshere remains the one shining light in Capello's selection, although don't expect him to see anything more than a ten-minute cameo from the bench.

England should still have enough to win tomorrow night, but it won't be pretty and the team won't be the one that lines up in the Ukraine or Poland in two years time.

Or at least I hope it's not.

DSG


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FOOTBALL.CO.UK BLOGGER:joe strange
A product of Brighton University's prolific youth system, Joe Strange has boundless energy and the enviable ability to cover every blade of grass in his Monday blog. Joe has written for a variety of football websites and fanzines and is also a regular contributor to golf.co.uk. Despite being born and raised in Kent, 'Stranger' is a diehard Everton fan and counts his team's penalty shoot-out victory against Manchester United last season as his most memorable football moment. Follow Joe on Twitter @joe_strange.

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