Selfish Beckham not a loss to World Cup squad

Sadly – almost solely on a personal note – David Beckham’s achilles tendon has ruled him out of the World Cup squad.

But while it would be wrong to welcome an injury to a player, even if grossly overrated, Beckham’s injury is likely to solve more problems than it creates.

With Beckham no longer available for selection the door has been opened for a number of other more talented but less media-hungry players such as Joe Cole, James Milner and Theo Walcott to stake a meaningful claim for a place in the England midfield.

It may sound harsh but hopefully, the injury will end the career of an England international who once an inspirational performer and captain (the memories of the Greece game at Old Trafford will continue to linger) but has now become an unwelcome sideshow.

Like Beckham off the field, Beckham on the field has become an increasingly about the brand and not about the team both for club and country.

His quest to become England’s most capped player, by playing five minutes of meaningless friendlies, has made a mockery of the honour of representing one’s country and is unquestionably about feeding his ego.

Even while playing for AC Milan, Beckham, in spite of his side’s horrendous loss against Manchester United in the Champions League still managed to make the back pages by draping himself in an anti-Glazer scarf.

Like a boxer who doesn’t know when to retire Beckham has simply kept on going, not for the good of the team but for personal glory and a will to be seen on the world’s biggest stage.

But finally – and thankfully – it looks as if his mind has been made up for him.

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Terry, tough tackling and the two finger salute

Terry’s armband gestures aimed at Fabio?

It is hard to convey the precise meaning of Terry’s celebrations during Sunday’s FA Cup clash with Stoke but they could be interpreted as message to England manager Fabio Capello.

Following his goal, the deposed England captain rolled up his sleeve and furiously pointed to the captain’s armband on his bare forearm. He then sat in the post-match conference shirtless, still sporting the same armband.

In typical 5Live fashion DJ Spoony and Gab Marcotti lambasted a 606 caller who suggested that Terry‘s mysterious actions could be interpreted as dissent of Capello’s decision to strip him of the captaincy.

Funnily enough the same Marcotti, was strangely silent when the same point was raised by his Times colleague Allyson Rudd on The Game podcast yesterday.

Terry has clearly been affected by the Wayne Bridge incident, his form has dipped noticeably in the past few matches and his recent behaviour has only raised further questions.

Terry said that the celebration was for the fans but the fact that his Chelsea captaincy has never been in question makes his actions all the more baffling.

The only thing this latest incident proves is that Capello was right.

Ryan Shawcross: That sort of player?

Aaron Ramsey’s horrific leg break against Stoke earlier this month has led to another round of stinging criticism for Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.

Following the game, Wenger accused teams of singling his side out for rough treatment, citing previous injuries to Eduardo and Abou Diaby as examples.

Ryan Shawcross who is “not that sort of player” was then roundly comforted by pundits, bloggers and journalists alike as if he were the victim of the tackle.

However, the issue is wider than the Shawcross, Wenger, Stoke and Arsenal but more of a problem of excess aggression which strikes at the roots of the English game.

The overly-muscular, hard tackling approach has been endemic in English football for many years, with the mantra of many old school managers to “go in hard” demanding “reducer” tackles as standard.

Maybe this is why we get more career threatening tackles in the Premier League than any other top European league. In Italy the well-timed sliding tackle is an art form that often results in a ball-winning challenge without even touching the opponent.

Ramsay will recover in time but whether the English game will learn its lesson is a different matter.

Gerrard and the two-finger salute

Is it just me or has Steven Gerrard’s body language been different this season?

The often mentioned summer sale of Xabi Alonso has meant that Gerrard has been forced to play deeper than the support striker role which brought Liverpool success last season.

However, it seems that this id not Gerrard’s only problem. I had the pleasure to watch him first hand at the Emirates during Liverpool’s 1-0 reverse against Arsenal and he looked dejected for large chunks of the game.

In seasons gone by Gerrard has pulled his team out of the mire by the bootstraps but on the evidence of this season he doesn’t have the will to do it. And his two-finger salute to the referee last night summed up his ultimate frustration.

If Liverpool fail to make the Champions League this season they might have to do the unthinkable and cut their losses on the star.

The three horse title race, Birmingham City and England’s World Cup chances

The three-horse title race

During the past week Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal have all has their turn at the top of the Premier League.

Despite all the talk of the bug four dominance there has not been a genuine title race with more than two teams since Liverpool pushed Newcastle and Manchester United close in 1995/96.

Currently at the top of the table, with more than half the games played, just three points separate the top three sides.

Although Chelsea are favourites, United have hung in there despite their poor form and injury problems and if Arsenal can pick up a decent haul from their next four games (when they face Aston Villa and Liverpool in addition to Chelsea and United) the title could go right down to the wire for the first time in 15 years.

Birmingham continue to impress with cup win

While Birmingham were many pundit’s favourites to plunge straight back into the Championship they continued to prove doubters wrong with an away win at Goodson against a resurgent Everton side on Saturday.

The FA Cup victory set-up an away tie with second-tier strugglers Derby County but more importantly stretched the club’s record unbeaten run to 15 games.

With Cameron Jerome and Christian Benitez looking impressive up-front, Joe Hart solid in goal and Lee Bowyer recapturing his Leeds United form City look a good bet for a top 10 finish.

A real test of the side’s credentials will come on Wednesday when they face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

England World Cup bid already in doubt

Most sensible fans would probably tip Spain and Brazil for this year’s World Cup but anyone brave enough to back England would already be fearing for their chances.

While it might seem odd to write-off one of Europe’s better sides before a ball has been kicked, the current state of the squad must be a worry.

No-one has seized the number one jersey, with David James unsettled at Portsmouth, and the defence might creak with Glen Johnson, Rio Ferdinand and John Terry suffering from injury and loss of form.

In midfield, Steven Gerrard has been well below his best and it is unclear who will start on the flanks, while the only player on good form at the moment is Wayne Rooney.

The upcoming game against Egypt in March will be an important barometer for Fabio Capelllo’s men and will give some players a chance to book their seat on the plane to South Africa.

Decision time for Capello


A series of meaningless friendlies under his belt, its time for Fabio Capello to get serious as he faces the biggest decision of his tenure so far – who will lead his team.

In the aftermath of England’s easy but underwhelming win over Trinidad and Tobago, Capello revealed he had whittled down his prospective candidates to two.

The four in the running are David Beckham, Rio Ferdinand, Steven Gerrard and John Terry, Capello’s captains in his first four games, but press reports have said the “two” mentioned by Capello are Ferdinand and Terry.

Oh, when will England be blessed with a manager that learns from previous mistakes?

John Terry’s tenure as England captain showed that England do not need a defender as captain.

Terry, an influential and inspirational captain at Chelsea, could not exert his influence as England captain despite working in tandem with Ferdinand in what should be the most formidable defensive line in Europe.

I would envisage Ferdinand to have a similar impact upon the team as Terry did during his time as captain under Steve McLaren.

England’s tame surrender in the Euro 2008 qualifiers was a signal that the team required a leader, one that could drag them back into games from the brink of oblivion, which means Steven Gerrard can be the only option.

The moment he had the extra burden of responsibility thrust upon him when made Liverpool captain, Gerrard embraced it and his game improved markedly.

Admittedly his form for England has had its highs and lows, however he has been the victim of his own versatility and forced to repeatedly play out of position, but there is no denying his class.

On countless occasions he has pulled results out of nowhere for his team at the highest level, Champions League games against Olympiakos and AC Milan, and the FA Cup “Gerrard Final” spring to mind.

It is this kind of determination and inspiration that England need to ensure safe passage to World Cup 2010, and Capello needs to recognise where others have failed to.

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Capello to good for undeserving England

Fabio Capello looks set to become the new England manager but in all fairness England don’t deserve him.

As Steve McLaren huddled under his umbrella in the Wembley rain, Brian Barwick and the FA were sealing his fate.

And from that moment Capello declared his intentions.

The stylish Italian coach threw his hat into the ring amidst renewed calls for an English man to take the helm.

But his declarations have not been well received among those in the English game, with few have been more vocal than Portsmouth pairing of Tony Adams and Harry Redknapp.

Adams made very similar noises when Arsene Wenger began his revolution at Arsenal in the late 90’s and hasn’t learnt his lesson from history.

And Redknapp made his claims with his eyes firmly on the hot seat hoping his comments would strengthen his position.

But what about the fans?

When Mourinho was the favourite the supporters conveniently forgot that he was Portuguese but no-one can forget that Capello is Italian.

Despite the lack of a home-grown manager who has the credentials of the former Real Madrid man, many still seem unmoved by his appointment.

Considering the current state of the national side we cannot afford to turn our nose up at a man who was won almost every accolade possible.

We should be welcoming him with open arms.