Shortly after Fabio Capello’s first post-World Cup England squad was announced for the Premier League manager-infuriating friendly against Hungary on Wednesday, the recalled Blackburn Rovers’ shot-stopper Paul Robinson announced his withdrawal from the squad and international retirement, the former England number one declaring:
“Only now have I been able to make this decision as previously I haven’t been in contention for selection, I don’t see myself as a number three or four keeper and find that role very frustrating.”
With Manchester United defender Wes Brown subsequently adding his name to the list of fringe players declaring their retirement from international duty, the immediate talk has been directed towards Capello’s embarrassing lack of communication with his players.
But has Robinson acted too much in haste in making his decision? Regardless of the rights and wrongs of doing so, when players decide to call it a day with the national team the majority tend to release statements declaring they’ve done it to spend more time with their family and concentrate on club football (Paul Scholes, Wes Brown, Emile Heskey etc.).
Robinson’s statement, on the other hand, suggests he’s thrown the proverbial toys out of the pram just because he’s not England’s number one.
It was by no means beyond the realms of possibility that Robinson could have reclaimed the starting jersey and been back between the frames for the 2012 European Championships. It’s no secret that England have a dearth of international quality goalkeepers at present.
With David James overlooked on the grounds of age and his decision to drop down to the Championship with Bristol City, Capello is left to choose from Joe Hart, Rob Green, Scott Carson, Chris Kirkland, Paul Rachubka, Steve Harper and Ben Foster as the only English shot-stoppers plying their trade in England’s top flight.
Of those, Hart is favorite to be between the sticks with England in two years. But with Shay Given likely to be Manchester City’s number one this season, if City refuse to allow Hart the loan move he desires the 23-year-old could find himself on the bench and out of the reckoning, à la Foster at Manchester United last season.
It’s fair to say that the uncapped duo of Newcastle’s Harper and Blackpool’s Rachubka have only a slim chance of entering Capello’s thoughts, and of Green, Carson, Kirkland and Foster none stand out above the others. Like Robinson, Carson and Green have infamous blunders to their names in their last appearance for the Three Lions.
How Green will respond to his error is yet to be seen, but although he went to the World Cup as Capello’s number one it was by no means as an outright first choice, as shown by his immediate relegation to the bench. It’s likely that Carson would need an excellent season with newly promoted West Brom to come into the reckoning.
Of the remainder Wigan’s Kirkland has yet to be called up by Capello to add to his one cap and while Foster showed good potential when on loan at Watford, his few appearances in a United shirt weren’t always impressive. This season at Birmingham is an important one for him, but with a solid season behind him at Blackburn last year it would have been an important one for Robinson too.
It’s a cliche that all goalkeepers have to be somewhat unhinged but for by far England’s most experienced in-contention goalkeeper to declare himself unavailable for the qualifying campaign of a European Championships when, at 32 years old, he will surely be in his prime seems a bizarre and potentially foolish decision.