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Paul Hince - Capello needs the Nevilles
Published : 23 Mar 2010 09:35:46
The phrase "never go back" is often bandied about in football and, invariably, it makes good sense. Once you've gone you should stay gone is how the professionals view it. But, as always, there is an exception to every rule. Mark Hughes left Barcelona in 1988 for a second career at United and, if anything, looked even better than he did in his first stint at Old Trafford. Now another exception to that unwritten rule is being played out before our very eyes. Because I would strongly advise Fabio Capello to turn back the pages of time and recall both Gary and Phil Neville for this summer's World Cup. As the finals draw ever nearer, Capello has huge problems to solve in both his full-back positions. The leading contender for the right-back berth is Liverpool's Glenn Johnson. The problem there is that, in my eyes, Johnson is a defender who cannot defend. Sure, he catches the eye when bombing forward, but when asked to defend, his frailties are exposed. And that weakness will be mercilessly exploited by the top teams in this summer's tournament. Gary Neville, on the other hand, DOES know how to defend. Over 500 senior appearances for United tells you that. And in my opinion Red Nev should be England's right-back in South Africa. Okay, I can guess what you're thinking. Neville celebrated his 36th birthday last month, he's surely past his sell-by date now? He will be run off his legs at the World Cup. I disagree. Yes, Neville has, inevitably, lost a yard of pace to the passage of time. But the fastest thing on a football pitch is the brain and we've seen on his return to action with the Reds that Neville's brain is as sharp as ever. Defensively the elder of the Neville boys is rock solid. His awareness of what's going on around him is as acute as it's ever been. He doesn't dash around any more like a teenager because he doesn't have to. Because his experience has taught him to be in the right place at the right time. And the years spent playing behind his big buddy David Beckham have left him with a great asset. Neville has learned to bend it like Beckham when he finds himself in space out on the right. Reignite Is there a defender anywhere in this country who crosses the ball better than Neville? If there is I haven't spotted him, and that's another compelling reason for Capello to reignite his international career. If anything, Capello is facing even bigger problems at left-back for the World Cup, and if you don't know why then I can only assume that you've spent the last few months holidaying on Mars. I still think Wayne Bridge should make himself available for selection but that doesn't look like it's going to happen. So where does that leave Capello? Up the creek without a paddle. Aston Villa's Stephen Warnock and Everton's Leighton Baines both have potential but neither are ready for the white-hot battle of a World Cup. To solve the left-back problem Capello needs to look no further than Gary's brother Phil, who has totally resurrected his career since leaving United for Everton in 2005. The fact a former United player is now idolised by half of Liverpool tells you all you need to know about Phil's dedication and sheer professionalism. He has become Mr Dependable during his time at Goodison Park. He's never let Everton down and he wouldn't let England down if Capello selected him at left back in South Africa this summer. So come on Fabio. For the World Cup finals call up the Neville brothers. They might not be the pin-up boys of English football but they will fight until they drop for England's cause. And that's what you will need if you are to come back to Blighty with the trophy.