Fabio Capello took his 22-man England squad all the way to play a friendly international against Trinidad & Tobago on Sunday, but left four players wondering why they even bothered to board the plane.
With 11 set to start and special dispensation to field seven substitutes instead of six at the request of FIFA’s vice-president Jack Warner, who demanded this fixture to mark the centenary of T & T’s federation, what was the point of taking 22 players?
True one or two players might have picked up a knock and cover would be needed but I have to say I was bemused when the likes of Middlesbrough defender David Wheater, Aston Villa striker Gabby Agbonlahor, Tottenham midfielder Tom Huddlestone and Peterborough keeper Joe Lewis were sat kicking their heels on the bench all evening in the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain. Apart from catching a bit of sun and possibly relaxing on a Caribbean beach there was little point to any of those players travelling.
Many could argue that it gives younger players the chance to get used to the training and travelling entailed in international football as they are gradually eased into playing at the highest level of the game. I would tell anyone with that point of view to ask all four of them if they want to be eased in gently or thrown into action to get a real sample of international football. I bet all four would look at you very strangely!
Let’s be honest this game against poor opposition, played on a surface resembling an English country pub’s car park was the perfect opportunity to give all of these youngsters a chance to show what they could offer. Gareth Barry, Wayne Bridge and Stewart Downing did their future chances no harm with impressive performances and hopefully showed Capello the balance of the team is much better with them in it as opposed to going down the well worn road of picking players on reputation.
However was there any point of playing David James, Rio Ferdinand, Peter Crouch and Steven Gerrard? We all know what they can do for England and had they not featured then Wheater, Huddlestone, Lewis and Agbonlahor would all have been handed the chance of a run out!
England have a much tougher looking friendly with the Czech Republic in August ahead of the World Cup qualifiers which get underway in September and that would be the time for Capello to finalise his first-choice side. In the meantime he has just missed an opportunity to give the kids a chance!