The Final Countdown

by Mark Jepson

With just hours to go until the England World Cup squad is announced, Mark Jepson gives us his last minute predictions.

Tuesday 1st of June 2010. It’s a date that England football fans have been waiting for; Fabio Capello names his 23 man squad for the World Cup finals. Capello himself has said that nobody did enough to force his way into the 23 man squad that he already had in mind. In this time of excitement, every football fan believes they can name the squad. I too will embrace this and suggest the 23 man squad:

Goalkeepers:
David James, Joe Hart, Robert Green

Defenders:
Glen Johnson, Jamie Carragher, Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, Ledley King, Matthew Upson, Ashley Cole, Stephen Warnock

Midfielders:
Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Gareth Barry, James Milner, Michael Carrick, Aaron Lennon, Theo Walcott, Adam Johnson

Forwards:
Wayne Rooney, Peter Crouch, Emile Heskey, Jermain Defoe

The seven to miss out:
Michael Dawson, Leighton Baines, Scott Parker, Tom Huddlestone, Joe Cole, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Darren Bent

I think Darren Bent can count himself unlucky if he does miss out. He’s had a terrific season at Sunderland and he’s a willing runner who likes to exploit the space in behind defences. This can create the space for Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard to arrive from deep. I think he’ll just miss out because Capello is a huge fan of Emile Heskey and I am too. He gets far too much criticism in my opinion because he doesn’t score enough goals. Whilst this is true and his International record of 7 goals in 58 is not overly impressive, defenders hate to play against him. All too often football fans judge a striker purely on the goals he scores but in Heskey’s defence, he offers so much more.

There have been games at club and country where Heskey’s hold up play has created the space for Gabriel Agbonlahor and Jermain Defoe to exploit and score goals for Aston Villa and England respectively. A too simplistic view is to suggest that Wayne Rooney and Jermain Defoe should be England’s partnership because they score the most goals. It doesn’t work. Emile Heskey or Peter Crouch have to partner Wayne Rooney if Capello opts to start with a 4-4-2.

The remaining six who I think might miss out appear to offer few surprises. You could argue that Leighton Baines should be the understudy to Ashley Cole but I think Stephen Warnock is a little more experienced and can play in central midfield as was demonstrated towards the end of his time at Blackburn Rovers. Leighton Baines is also versatile and we have seen him play wide left for Everton and Wigan Athletic over the years but the squad has Milner, Gerrard, Lennon, A.Johnson, Walcott and Stephen Warnock (who started his career at Liverpool in midfield) who can occupy the left of midfield. Capello likes players who are versatile; this is crucial when the squad is made of 23 players, 3 of which are goalkeepers.

Michael Dawson has had a fantastic season for Tottenham and his excellent form has been one of the reasons that Tottenham Hostpur did so well in finishing fourth. However, in the two warm up games against Mexico and Japan, he didn’t get a single minute of football leaving him uncapped still. I would be surprised if he makes the final squad.

Shaun Wright-Phillips has had a somewhat frustrating season at club level and there appears to be no shortage of wingers in the England set-up at present. For Scott Parker and Tom Huddlestone, I think they will miss out if Gareth Barry is declared fit. I think Tom Huddlestone has a bright future ahead of him. His range of passing is of the highest calibre and I would personally have him in the squad ahead of Michael Carrick who never really seems comfortable at International level. Yet Carrick is a winner. He know what it takes to win having been so successful for Manchester United over the last three years. He is of the age where he is in his prime and has been capped 22 times for England. One can imagine that he is better equipped in terms of experience to handle the rigours and pressure of a World Cup football.

The final man I think could miss out is Joe Cole. Although vastly experienced with an International record of 10 goals in 54 caps, his season has been blighted with injuries. A fully fit Joe Cole is still a terrific player and I would not be surprised in the slightest if he did make the cut, but I would like to think that Adam Johnson’s excellent form, as well as him being relatively unknown to opponents, is enough for him to be included as the “surprise package”.

At the time of writing, the squad has not been announced. Predicting squads and team line-ups is a bit of fun; yet if by some miracle this article proves to be right I will ask Fabio Capello if he needs another assistant.

7 Responses

  1. Dave Cooper says:

    Joe Cole will be ahead of Adam Johnson, although it’s very possible that they will both go, perhaps at the expense of Upson.
    I would also think that Baines will be ahead of Warnock, simply because Capello hasn’t played him in the warm-up games.

    1. Mark Jepson says:

      I just couldn’t really see who else would miss out for Joe Cole to come in because I thought A.Johnson could be our “surprise package”. I still think Joe Cole is a terrific player. It’s a nice situation to be in; previous squads have been quite predictable.

      On Baines, he’s a very good player and has had a good season at Everton. Warnock got the nod from me as he is probably a little bit more versatile.

      Thanks for your comment.

  2. Radge says:

    I agree with five, but I reckon Baines and Cole will stay in with Warnock and Johnson spliced.

  3. Mark Jepson says:

    We were half right. Good balance in the squad so reason to be hopeful of reaching the semis.

    Enjoy the World Cup.

  4. Kevin Coleman Kevin Coleman says:

    Nobody could have predicted SWP being included at the expense of Walcott, if previous games are anything to go by then Walcott would’ve been going and probably starting.

    SWP has more experience, and I guess can pitch in with a goal or two.

    1. Mark Jepson says:

      SWP’s record is pretty impressive really; 6 goals in 31 appearances. Good record considering the amount of caps he’s won coming from the bench. As you rightly point out, experience could have been one of the reasons for his inclusion.

      Apart from Walcott, I don’t think there are too many surprises. Leighton Baines’ problem with travelling is why I thought Warnock would just get the nod ahead of him.

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