It has been reported today and last night that Jamie Carragher is set for a dramatic U-turn on his decision to retire from international football and make his name available for the upcoming World Cup in South Africa. After hanging up his England jersey in 2007, and after rejecting numerous pleas from Fabio Capello and Steve McClaren before him, the Liverpool centre-back has shockingly decided to return from England exile. As debate and rumours increase over various areas of the England squad, this decision could put Carra and the England defensive unit into some unwated focus, especially after a season where some of the Premier League’s English centre halves have stood out more so then usual.
Harry Redknapp can put some well deserved praise on the heads of Michael Dawson and Ledley King for their coveted top four finish. King, despite his recurrent knee troubles, has been nothing short of phenomenal this season, bumbling on week after week, ultimately capping more minutes on the field then England captain Rio Ferdinand, of the same position. Meanwhile Michael Dawson has literally been head and shoulders above everything in his path, arguably getting the best out of his teammate rather then vice-versa. It’d be a magnificent shame to see neither go to the competition, but Capello may have reservations over King’s fitness and Dawson’s inexperience on the grander scale to take without someone like Carragher behind them. The former has been a superb player, no doubt, but taking King without adequate cover for him means Capello may be forced to hand games to the younger, less experienced player. The latter falls into that category, as the wily Italian may fear this summer’s event may be a tad too soon for the big defender. Carragher doesn’t lack the experience, or the big game nerve coming up against the world’s best strikers year after year in the Premier League and in Europe.
THE JOHNSON CONUNDRUM
Similar to Redknapp, Big ‘Eck at Birmingham can heap praise on his club’s tremendous season on another English centre-half, Roger Johnson. Picked up for a mere £5million from Cardiff City, Johnson has stood out as one of the most impressive defenders in the league. But is the World Cup much too soon for him? Capello will have acknowledged his great season, but he still hasn’t stood amongst the world’s top players. If his consistent performances had been in a top six side, and had he been playing some bit of high class European football, his chances would have tripled. But again, lacking the experience against the best of the best and big match nerve is a put-off for Capello.
But what about his namesake, Glen? The Liverpool full-back has been an impressive performer – often acting as a second right winger. Defensively he is often suspect, so Capello will certainly feel the need to have a defensively sound player waiting in the wings for that right back position. Fabio will feel having the one man as cover for both centre back and full back will be like killing two birds with one stone and earning himself an extra spot in the squad to fill. In worse circumstances, Carra could even adapt to left back if needed, but that’s unlikely to happen.
BUT WHAT ABOUT…….?
Of course, not forgetting other English centre halves who have acquitted themselves well over the past eighteen months – Ryan Shawcross, Gary Cahill, Matty Upson and Phil Jagielka. All are big, athletic defenders who are often amongst the goals at the other end of the field. We’d like nothing more then to see all of them go at once, but that can’t happen. All are outstanding Premier League defenders, more then good enough to hold their own against the big strikers. But perhaps the man who at the end of the day will pick the final squad doesn’t feel they are ready yet? With the world’s eyes watching, the biggest stage in football might be too much for these men. And with nearly all with a history of injuries, Cahill and Jagielka in particular this season, Capello should and will go for experience and assurance over the likes of these. Some people may feel he is undermining their good form, a factor he said himself would be key to player’s inclusions, but the likelihood of a Jamie Carragher like player in his squad may be too much to ignore.
Carragher is all of this, and more. His versatility, his experience in England and beyond at club level, are all attributes well observed when you are a World Cup manager and when spaces are limited. A sudden injury to either Terry or Rio, and Capello would have to field someone like Ledley King, who could be likely to end up on the treatment table as well, especially after a run of games in quick succession. Carragher is consistent, versatile and give 110%. We all know England isn’t his first love. But what we do know is Capello and Baldini, the Italian’s right hand man, have been speaking intensely with Jamie and trying to persuade him to come back – for a reason. If Carragher accepts a return, it will be the unlikely event of the month, but he and Capello will make certain previous history and comments will not shadow the most unlikely on U-turns.