Whilst by and large I find BBC Sport‘s coverage of all things football and insightful, there is one particular article that irked me. Step forward Chris Wyatt. His profile of the England Squad in the recent feature from the BBC in the build-up to Euro 2012 fires extremely far wide of the mark. Additionally, in the same article, Jonathan Pearce ruins an otherwise accurate assessment of the English national team with a sweeping assertion:
“Wayne Rooney’s suspension will bite deeply into hopes, but England need him. He is one of the few players who can dominate the latter stages of a tournament.”
What, exactly, is Pearce basing this on? I am not arguing Rooney is not a talented footballer. That much is clear. But ‘one of the few players who can dominate the latter stages of a tournament’? Yes, he has won a Champion’s League winner medal with United, but at no point during a top level international competition has he ‘dominated the latter stages‘. Partially, this is because with England, he hasn’t had the opportunity to play in the latter stages of a competition, let alone dominate them. He has proven to be a liability, still allowing his emotions to get the best of him and in his reckless red card against Montenegro in qualifying, showed a similar petulance that resulted in his red card against Portugal at Euro 2004. I don’t doubt that England will miss his presence during the group games, but Pearce goes way too far with his assessment.
Mr Whyatt’s choice for ‘England’s Star Man’ baffles me. He opts for Steven Gerrard, suggesting that it will be the Liverpool captain’s responsibility to ‘haul England’s underachievers to the heights that were expected of them at the 2010 World Cup‘. I’m sorry, but I’m fairly sure Mr Gerrard was just as disappointing throughout that tournament as the rest of the side. I would suggest that this responsibility lies with a man who was inexplicably excluded from Capello’s 2010 squad.The writer of this article is suggesting that Gerrard is an automatic pick for Capello. I would suggest that he has work to do to even make the squad. There can be little doubt that over the last two seasons that Gerrard’s club form has dipped. Whether this is a result of his age showing or that he had been losing interest in carrying his side, we have rarely been treated to the sight of Gerrard grabbing a game by the scruff of the neck and changing it. On top of this he has suffered a series of injuries that have limited to a handful of appearance for his club this season. With the central midfield being an extremely competitive area of the pitch, as I have previously discussed, Gerrard will need to prove his fitness and find some form to force his way into Capello’s squad.
The fortunes of Steven Gerrard are starkly contrasted with the real star man of Capello’s squad. Scott Parker. He has been in dazzling form for both West Ham and Tottenham over the last 18 months and this amazing form culminated in his man of the match performance against Spain at Wembley. Given the wealth of midfield talent on display in that game, it is a testament to the man that he walked away with the man of the match award after a display that outshone the likes of Xavi and Andres Iniesta. Chris Whyatt said that ‘much will rest on inspirational Gerrard initially – if fully fit – in the absence of his fellow Liverpudlian Wayne Rooney‘. I doubt this. I see it much more likely that Scott Parker will be shouldering this responsibility.
Chris Wyatt’s choice for ‘One to Watch’ is somewhat more justified, in my opinion. He rightly points to Jack Wilshere’s magnificent display against Barcelona for Arsenal in the Champion’s League as an example of what the young man is capable of. 6 Months ago he seemed destined to establish himself as a fixture in Capello’s starting XI. However, similarly to Gerrard, injuries have taken their toll on Wilshere, as he has yet to play a game for his club side. He too faces a race to find fitness and form to make it to Poland and Ukraine next summer. This is a difficult area to make a choice for, as arguments can be made for several different players; Jack Rodwell, Danny Sturridge, Phil Jones, Andy Carroll, Kyle Walker, Danny Welbeck, Chris Smalling and Jordan Henderson have all been promoted from Stuart Pearce’s under 21 side and made their full England bows over the course of the last six months. With half of the season remaining, there is ample opportunity for any of these players, or even other unknown quantities, to really stake a claim to be included in Capello’s squad and to shine for England.