The Barclay’s Premier League season came to its finale yesterday and the nation held its breath yet again. This was not because of the extremely tense circumstances in which the league was decided, but because Wayne Rooney had felt a slight twinge in his groin and had to be substituted during Manchester United’s four-nil drubbing of Stoke City.
Boss Sir Alex Ferguson said the 24-year-old should recover in time for the World Cup but England coach Fabio Capello, will still be sweating over Rooney’s fitness as he prepares to name his provisional 30-man squad for the World Cup tomorrow. It seems to have been forgotten that it is a 30-man squad and not a one man team. Rooney’s quality as a footballer and importance to the team and in turn to the country should not be underestimated or in fact underplayed but surely it is a weakness and not a strength that we rely so heavily on one player.
If you look at the squads of any of the nations that are likely to take home the World Cup this summer, one common feature that they all possess is that they do not rely solely on one player to bring them glory. Tournament favorites Spain have a plethora of stars including: Iker Casillas, Pepe Reina, Xabi Alonso, Cesc Fabregas, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, David Villa and Fernando Torres.
Germany’s squad also includes Bastian Schweinsteiger, Michael Ballack and Miroslav Klose. Reigning World Champions Italy also have a fine balance of experience and youthful quality primarily in the names of: Gianluigi Buffon, Davide Santon, Fabio Cannavaro, Gennaro Gattuso, Andrea Pirlo and Luca Toni.
This is without even mentioning the players that countries such as Portugal, Argentina and five times champions Brazil have to offer.
There are a number of worries ahead of South Africa 2010 for the England team not least of which the depth within the squad. The outright choice for the no. 1 goalkeeper is still not certain and the candidates to choose from do not fill readers with a comfortable confidence.
England do not have an experienced right back younger than thirty five year old Gary Neville and only god can help us if Ashley Cole gets injured again after John Terry’s escapades have pushed the only other English left back Wayne Bridge out of contention. We then move towards who will occupy the central defensive positions.
We have John Terry and captain Rio Ferdinand who is a concern after only making twenty one appearances for Manchester United this campaign. Alternatives include Ledley King who cannot play more than one game a week due to injury problems and Michael Dawson, who although has had a phenomenal season for Spurs this year, severely lacks experience in international football.
The news that Jamie Carragher has come out of international retirement to help his country is heart warming and extremely noble but it sadly is not enough to put you at ease.
England’s midfield is an area in which we should be fairly assured but we still have no consistent left winger, Joe Cole is the obvious choice but who is to understudy him? Maybe a call up for Manchester City’s talented winger Adam Johnson wouldn’t be the biggest mistake ever made. With David Beckham well and truly out of the running we turn to Aaron Lennon, Theo Walcott and possibly Shaun Wright-Phillips to occupy right midfield, pardon me for not sounding too convinced.
The centre of midfield is where we should be strongest but with Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard still not looking like a ‘world conquering’ partnership, this leaves players like Gareth Barry and Michael Carrick, who seems to have fallen out of favor at Old Trafford towards the end of the season as prime candidates to fill the void.
A slight glistening of hope might come in the form of PFA Young Player of the Season James Milner but only time will tell and sadly, like a choice of world class left wingers time is something we are severely lacking in.
Football pundits and proclaimed ‘experts’ suggest that to succeed England must take five strikers, can anybody actually think of five top class English strikers worthy of representing England in South Africa?
Wayne Rooney is a definite and then the advantages that Peter Crouch offers would suggest that he will be on the plane. Jermain Defoe has had a fairly productive season and offers England the pace and finishing ability that is not as evident in Crouch and Emile Heskey will find himself going but the reason why he is will seem to remain as one of life’s greatest mysteries.
This leaves Carlton Cole who in my opinion has not done enough to warrant a place, Bobby Zamora who has played sixty plus games already this season and Darren Bent who has done well this season finishing third top scorer in the Premier League but again like many English candidates, lacks in international experience.
The truth of the matter is that England does possess a lot of potentially gifted footballers but these players have not been given the chance to play competitive international football mainly due to the over reliance on basically the same starting line up for the past eight years in both friendlies and competitive matches.
Everyone knows what players like Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, John Terry and Wayne Rooney can do at the highest level, so maybe, just maybe the friendlies should be used to test out the players that people aren’t so sure about and to give them some of the experience that they will need in order to confidently contest in big tournaments.
England’s squad is still to be decided but there is a general consensus amongst English fans that is, if Rooney is fit and on form then we have a chance and if he is not then we do not. The only certainty is that if fit, his name will be first on the team sheet and until that time we as a nation will have to cross our fingers very tightly.