Classic11 Football Blog

The floods of tears visibly streaming from Gianluigi Buffon after Italy’s goalless draw with Sweden were not the tears to herald the closing of a momentous career with his national team.

They were a demonstration of the sheer desolation and grief that will haunt his nation after a 1-0 aggregate play-off loss to Sweden confirmed Italy’s first World Cup qualification failure since 1958; resulting in the swift, anticipated sacking of manager Gian Piero Ventura.

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All that remains for the proud nation, who were crowned the World Champions barely eleven years ago, is to stew over where it all went wrong and to contemplate a fresh era under a new manager.

Many of the issues on the pitch prevalent throughout the qualifying campaign were encapsulated in last Monday’s final encounter against a tough disciplined Sweden at the San Siro.

They had dominated their Scandinavian opponents for the majority of the high-stakes tie, but simply lacked the quality and subtlety in the final third; an outgoing problem for Gian Piero Ventura’s side who had scored just three goals in their last six competitive fixtures. Endless crosses into a packed penalty area, despite a clear height inferiority to Sweden, was symbolic of the lack of a coherent plan to gain the crucial leveller needed.

Equally concerning scenes were playing out midway through the second half on the bench where the polarisation between coaching staff and players was exposed. Daniele De Rossi was reacting angrily to being asked to warm up by one of Ventura’s coaches, gesticulating towards Lorenzo Insigne in the process, appearing to reply, “Why should I go on? We don’t need a draw, we need a win”. Insigne, who was sitting two places along from De Rossi, looking perplexed at the situation, is currently one of the most sought after wide forwards in Europe, having scored 18 league goals for Napoli last season.

Not only did this incident encapsulate the unhealthy dressing room atmosphere, but it was emblematic of rigid tactics and a lack of flexibility. Italy playing in a 3-5-2 formation, meant there was simply no space for a wide forward.

The 3-5-2 formation was a familiar line-up for the majority of these players, having been used to great effect by Antonio Conte throughout Euro 2016. But this is a side who are bereft of their confidence and identity that they possessed in abundance from two summers ago. They have been drained of the dynamism and shape-shifting synergy they oozed under the now Chelsea manager. Ventura’s Italy lost their fluidity with a desperate disconnect between defence, midfield and attack.

The 69-year old tried to accommodate other formations but all decisions proved poor errors of judgement. 4-2-4 was used away to Spain, but was made to look decidedly naïve by an

imperious Spanish side who thrashed Italy 3-0 in Madrid. Even a 3-4-3 line-up could only yield a 1-1 draw in a frustrating encounter with Macedonia in Turin.

What many sectors of Italian media find unforgiveable, is that Ventura had more to work with than Antonio Conte before him.

Despite strikers Ciro Immobile and Andrea Belotti being in scintillating form for their respective clubs in the Serie A over the last 18 months; the pair have been stale and have appeared lost under Ventura. Jorginho, one of the primary key assets to current Serie A-leading Napoli, was only handed his competitive international debut on Monday night.

Questions will go back to the integrity and sense behind Ventura’s appointment in the first place.

Despite his age, Ventura held a fairly modest CV. Arguably, the biggest club he has ever coached was Torino, who he took to the last round of 16 in the Europa League in 2016. Appointed on a substantially lower salary than managerial predecessors, this is also a disastrous qualification failure that will be subject to much criticism labelled towards the Italian F.A.

A new manager will be at the helm for the Euro 2020 qualification campaign, and their first major task will be to accommodate a new era for Italian international football; to identify the long-term replacements for the seasoned 2006 World Cup medallists who will no longer be donning the Azzurri shirt. However, this is undoubtedly a national failure of seismic proportions that will painfully linger long in the memory and will not dissipate swiftly with time.

On a cold damp November Wednesday night, England failed to qualify for a major tournament for the first time since 1994.

Before the crucial game at Wembley against a Bilic inspired Croatia, England lost talisman Michael Owen in a friendly the previous Friday. Already without the suspended Rooney and injured John Terry and Rio Ferdinand, manager Steve McClaren decided to drop Ashley Cole and goal keeper Paul Robinson. Even England’s player of the 2006 World Cup Owen Hargreaves only made the bench.

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Over 88,000 turned up in hope. The team would consist of Scott Carson making his competitive debut and two other players in Micah Richards and Sol Campbell who would barely feature, not at all in Campbells case, for England.

A 4-1-4-1 formation seemed defensive against a Croatia team containing Modric and Kranjcar. Also, determined to make the Gerrard and Lampard axis work, Gareth Barry was deployed to anchor the midfield. Joe Cole and Wright-Phillips were picked to support Crouch.

Even this wasn’t to be McClaren’s biggest faux pas of the evening. Rain was falling onto Wembley and so he walked out with a cuppa in one hand and a brolly in the other. A headline was born.

2-0 down at half time and McClaren had to bite the bullet and bring on ex-captain David Beckham. Back in 2006 Sssshteve said he and England needed to move on from David, now he was being asked to rescue the three lions.

A Lampard pen and a Crouch header, assisted by Beckham, meant all England had to do was hold on and qualify for Austria and Switzerland.

Scott Carson, on loan at Aston Villa from Liverpool at the time, had already let slip Croatia’s first into the net. He came out for the second half and produced some good saves. Even a point blank one from a Olic header. On 77 minutes a 25 yards cross shot from Petric arrowed into the bottom corner. All hope seemed to evaporate.

England tried and tried but nothing came to fruition. And when the referee blew for full time Steve McCalren knew his time was up as England manager. Afterwards the press went for him. ‘The wally under the brolly’ was created.

Players accused of not caring and not reproducing club form. You could almost say nothing much has changed in the last 10 years.

What this night 2007 seemed to do was confirm something all England fans had refused to admit for a long time, we aren’t as good as we think. To this day I don’t really think we have recovered from this. For four years we stagnated under Capello and bored many under Uncle Roy. Crowds have dwindled and interest has waned to the point that I forget when games are on.

The ‘Golden Generation’ has now gone. Though it was a phrase that never sat comfortable with me. And yes, we have players like Harry Kane, John Stones, Dele Alli and Marcus Rashford coming through. But without the fans and without something entertaining to put in front of paying fans, we will never have a feeling of hope again.

One suggestion is to take the home games back around the country. St James’ Park, Old Trafford, Villa Park and as far south as the St Mary’s Stadium. But with Wembley still to be paid for I doubt this will happen.

More connection in a positive manner between players and fans need to be looked at. They seem all to robotic and hidden under Beats and hoodies. A Rashford should provide hope to all academy players that when an opportunity comes and you take it, you can go far. Even Harry Kane, who went out on loan countless times, is something to look at.

I miss looking forward to England games. We need less middle fingers and Wally’s under brolly’s, and to heaf back from Russia with love.

 

by Ross Jacobs - @riddley82

The World Cup 2018 qualifying campaign has been a turbulent one for Argentina. A year after losing the Copa America and Lionel Messi briefly announcing his international retirement, the Albiceleste sit outside the automatic qualification spots in 5th place, having made two significant managerial changes that has made for a wholly unstable influence on the team’s performances in the past year.

 

Edgardo Bauza, the former Sao Paulo and San Lorenzo manager who had been brought into to replace Gerado Martino in August 2016; was sacked after just 8 games into the campaign (3 wins, 2 draws & 3 losses) on the 11th April 2017.

Bauza was swiftly replaced by the much-adorned former Chile and Sevilla manager Jorge Sampaoli. His first two qualifiers in the recent September international break have produced two frustrating draws; a 0-0 stalemate away in Uruguay and a 1-1 draw with Venezuela at River Plate’s El Monumental stadium. Both encounters illustrated a rather sterile looking Argentine attack (as incredible as that may be in a forward-line that boasts the likes of Lionel Messi, Mauro Icardi and Paulo Dybala), that has resulted in the national media very much debating the centre-forward selection for the upcoming crucial fixtures.

Mauro Icardi of Inter Milan has thus far been Sampaoli’s chosen one since his appointment, but is yet to score in any of his 3 caps.

Many pundits and fans from the capital city are calling for introduction of another forward who has recently been awarded his first international call-up; Dario Benedetto of Boca Juniors. 26 goals in 29 games since his move to Boca Juniors in the summer of 2016, Benedetto was rated as the “MVP” that lead Boca to their 32nd national title last campaign. Furthermore, the fact that Argentina’s next tie is a home game against 4th placed Peru and is to be played at “La Bombonera”, the stadium of Boca Juniors, may well lead to convince Sampaoli that he will be worth the gamble.

The other option that Sampaoli has is to recall Sergio Aguero. An individual who (like Messi) has experienced the more unhappy moments of his career appearing for his country and has yet to score in the five appearances he made this in qualification campaign (3 being from the bench). Notably, he faced some stinging criticism from national media last October following his penalty miss in the 1-0 defeat to Paraguay in Cordoba.

However, Aguero is to this day, one of the top Premier League strikers and even by his standards, has enjoyed a wonderfully prolific start to the domestic campaign where he has forged an impressive partnership with the exciting Gabriel Jesus. It was only a saved penalty in Man City’s 2-0 win over Shakhtar Donestsk on Tuesday night that prevented him becoming their all-time top scorer.

His recent tournament performances have been somewhat mixed; having enjoyed a productive 2015 Copa America tournament (beaten in the final by Chile) but a poor 2014 World Cup tournament that ended goalless for him. Nonetheless, his goal record (34) for Argentina certainly cannot be ignored as he is only surpassed by Hernan Crespo, Gabriel Batistuta and Lionel Messi.

With the imperative need for three points from the fixture at “La Bombonera” against Peru on Thursday the 5th October, Aguero’s guile, potency and big-match experience may well make him the best candidate for the encounter; although Sampaoli could be risking a fan backlash and his managerial honeymoon period will almost be over if anything but a win transpires.

 by Hal Walker - @HalWalker

“At times he’s just unplayable. He’s turning into an extraordinary player”. These were the sentiments of Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri on forward Paulo Dybala to the club’s official website after their 3-1 away win at Sassuolo on Sunday.

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He had just witnessed his prized asset mark his 100th game for the club with a hat-trick at the Mapei Stadium to ensure “The Old Lady’s” return to the top of Serie A; albeit for a matter of hours until Napoli thrashed Benevento 6-0 in the later Sunday fixture.

This was not even Dybala’s first hat-trick of the campaign; having picked up the match ball in the 4-2 away win at Genoa last month and he is now the first Juventus player to score in each of the first four Serie A games of the season (eight goals in total).

It only took until the 16th minute for the Argentinian to register his account in the game and earn his 50th goal in the Black and White, curling a beautiful first-time shot from 25 yards that gave Sassuolo goalkeeper Andrea Consigli no chance.

La Joya doubled their lead four minutes after the break with a delicate, low, toe-punted effort from the edge of a crowded penalty area before Dybala wrapped up his hat-trick and the three points for Allegri’s side just after the hour mark with an exquisite curling free-kick.

Having witnessed their team been torn apart by such a devastating display of talent for 85 minutes, it was significant that the majority of Sassuolo supporters at the Mapei rose in unison to applaud Dybala when his substitution came with five minutes remaining.

During the summer, many Juventus fans and quarters of the Italian press had anticipated a possible move from Barcelona for Dybala post Neymar’s departure to Paris Saint Germain.

Although a formal bid was never forthcoming, the Juventus hierarchy took the correct steps to show their faith in their Argentine playmaker. A new deal was presented to make him the highest paid player at the club and he was handed the No.10 shirt; formerly donned by the club and country national treasure, Alessandro Del Piero.

“I hope he goes on to do better,” remarked Del Piero.

Dybala’s own personal priority must be to take this imperious form into the big occasions.

Critics of the 24-year old have been intent to point out that younger stars like Kylian Mbappe (18) and Marco Asensio (21) have shown more composure and courage than Juve’s star man who came in for some notable criticism for a somewhat anonymous second-half display in the Champions League Final defeat to Real Madrid in June.

Granted, “La Joya” was also outshone by his Argentine counterpart Lionel Messi in Barcelona’s recent 3-0 thrashing of Juventus in the Champions League at the Camp Nou. But

Dybala is the first to admit he is not the next Messi: “Messi has his story; I have mine. We’re two different players.”

But this is a young man still maturing. He may not have been the teenage prodigal footballing genius that Messi was, but he is a supremely talented playmaker that is garnering a clinical scoring record.

It was his decisive penalty miss in the Italian Suppercoppa last year that paved the way for the “mask”- the celebration that we have seen so many times since that is a reference to “Gladiator;” one of his favourite films. “In life you have to get up and fight,” he maintains.

With this resolute attitude, we will no doubt be seeing plenty more of these exuberant celebrations and important goal-scoring milestones.

 by @HalWalker

The smell of rubbish gossip. The sensationalism in Jim White’s voice as Leeds sign an Arsenal U23 on loan for the season. Ah it must be nearly Transfer deadline day.

The hope at 7am, the bi-polar midday feeling to the panicky 8pm to 11 pm period. We go through many emotions and all have one we remember. Sadly for me it’s Berbatov to United and Frazier Campbell in return.

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I’ve decided to lift the lid on transfers. Many chairmen and agents have tried to stop me revealing this. But I’m hyped up on Pepsi Max (other soft drinks are available but it was on offer) and don’t care.

 

Social Stalking

Firstly identify the player of course, but more importantly in this age of never looking up from a 4 to 7-inch screen, social media is king. Instagram is a good place. A like on a pic could get lost in thousands but the eagle-eyed footballer will pick this up. Or the guy who is paid to check for him. If this is noted you’re in.

 

Adapt the Home Kit

You want to sign Neymar? Ease the situation by making your own home kit not dissimilar to the one he has just left. Simple really, surprised Man City didn’t adopt the same practice.

 

Buy players from the same country

Remember this when a guy from Bolivia who can only say ‘Yes’ ‘No’ or ‘Champions League Release Clause’. Buying a few of his mates will help most communication. Or they will lead him stray and he ends up in bed with one of the cast of TOWIE.

 

Buying out the Buyout clause

I’ve managed to get hold of the transcript of the phone call between Oryx Qatar Sports Investments Head Nasser Al-Khelaifi and manager Unai Emery.

QSI – We are buying Neymar for €222mill

Unai – Really? For that I could get new defender like Toby Alderweireld and Midfielder like Isco and Forward like Sanchez…

QSi – We buy Neymar.

Unai – We need more than one player. Silva is getting old and we have only one striker.

QSi – We buy Neymar and sell lots of shirts for €140.00 each.

Unai – That’s a bit expensive, we will turn the working man or woman against this club.

QSI – Maybe we buy Wenger too….

Unai – Oh NEYMAR, I thought you said Bale.

 

Pretend to not Care

If none of these are working, there is always the old school yard trick of pretending not to care. Like many girls who turned me down (yes mum it happened) I just said, ‘Don’t care, didn’t really like her anyway’ in the stupid hope she would change her mind and French kiss me there and then.

Barcelona could do worse than to use this tactic with Liverpool. Or just offer a load more money.

 

Beg

As a Spurs fan I love Harry Redknapp and what he did for our club. But I sometimes feel he had to beg either Chairmen or the players themselves to come. VDV, as we called him at the lane, probably didn’t come without ‘Arry falling to his knees saying, ‘Bale can’t do it all himself’.

 

Promises and Clauses

You have the player and agent in front of you and it is now time to negotiate. This can range from offering to buy his home village a goat to some ridiculous buy-out clause, say €222mill, which surely no club can afford….

Clauses though can range from ‘If we don’t get Champions League football I’m off’ to ‘if I don’t touch the ball 15 times a game on my right foot inside the penalty box of the opposition I’m off.’ Why clubs agree to these is beyond me.

 

Cheesy video

Nope not a Rio, Frank, Dyer and one other person caught in ‘the act’ type video. But those annoying ‘oh look we have signed and look how are introducing him’. I don’t seem to remember Ant and Dec ‘Wrekin’ da Mic’ to announce Alan Shearer. Nor a mock up video of Sir Alan Sugar sending an email to Jurgen Klinsmann asking him to join Spurs (this obviously done on a dial up internet).

So when August 31st comes round and Jim White’s Red Bull has been drunk remember all the things your club goes through to get that Albanian right back.

After the enormous success of my previous blog, (an actual player from Gent in Belgium liked it) I decided to flip the coin and consider the players who never hit the high notes on the international stage.

Trawling through the history books (wiki) I saw many one cap wonders. Even a gentleman by the name of Serger Bastard once played for England.

Silly names aside, your Nugent’s, Jeffers’ and Ricketts’ can rest easy. Even SWP misses out (again)

 

Richard Wright

When at Ipswich, the world and the ball seemed to be in safe hands. A move to Arsenal seemed to make great sense too. Back-up to the long haired but legendary David Seaman meant he would learn and become similar.

Injuries and Seaman lasting longer than his hair meant Richard was limited to few appearances under Wenger. This is where the problem lies for me. He should have moved to a lower club and built up again but he chose Everton and again found himself on the bench behind Howard. He seemed to be ok with this from the outside. What really got my goat, if I had one that is, was his move to Man City. Picking up a decent cheque every week to do… well not much at all. Joe Hart came through and Wright barely even warmed the bench.

 

Micah Richards

When he broke through at Man City, before they had money and Augeroooooooo, Micah was the Maine man (the puns will stop now.) He and Joey Barton seemed destined to break into the England team along with Shaun Wright Phillips. Alas his career just drifted again. He lost his place to Lescott and never seemed to have a fight about him to reclaim his spot. Another who made odd career choices, firstly by going to Fiorentina on loan which was confusing. Then on to a more or less already doomed Villa side, playing only 26 times in three seasons. A knee injury has kept him quiet but the curse of City’s billions strikes again.

 

Wayne Bridge

John Terry handshakes aside, I decided to take the emotion out of this choice. At Southampton, he broke through and another should have chosen wisely on his next move. Sadly, in my opinion, he went for the money teams. Chelsea had just been brought by Roman Abramovich and was spending like my wife with a fresh credit card in her hands. Joe Cole, Veron, SWP, Mutu, Gallas and others came in as did a young Wayne. I always question a player’s desire when he moves to a newly rich club. Also, it seemed Chelsea just wanted to keep their England quota up. After one season of doing very little wrong, the special one turned up and tapped up Ashley Cole. This must have sent a message to poor Wayne that he wasn’t going to be first pick. But he just seemed to carry on warming benches. That is until Man City had a slight injection of cash. Robhino, Bellamy, Kompany joined, as did Wayne. Not learning from his Chelsea years, he seemed to be in it for the money. Yes, he was unlucky with Cole being so good but I think some better choices should have been made.

 

Kieron Dyer

Ipswich and Man City seem to be getting a kicking on this. Anyway, another young player at Ipswich but this time the right move was made. Joining Sir Bobby Robson at Newcastle seemed a place to learn for young Keiron. He played in variety of positions but never seemed to settle, even playing up front at some points. This after earning his first England cap at right wing back. This could be a factor in him not fulfilling his potential, also injuries didn’t help. But I got the feeling with Dyer he stopped caring very early on. Fighting with Lee Bowyer was funny and sad at the same time.

Breaking his leg just after joining West Ham summed up the lad’s luck. But again, he seemed not to care, and earning over £60k a week would have helped.

 

Fabian Delph

I promise I have nothing against Man City. But there does seem to be a pattern. Young Delph was a wonder at Leeds and had a pick of a few EPL teams. He plumped for Villa. But injuries pegged him back. Oddly he was barely

played then one season he blossomed. Even England came asking for him. For some reason, this made everything turn sour. City came in and he said yes, then no, then yes. Hindsight will tell him that the ‘no’ should have stayed. Barely in the City and I doubt a name Pep would have thought about when coming into the club. Money talks yes, but it doesn’t guarantee first team football.

 

Jack Wilshere

Another injury prone one. But deciding to go to Bournemouth smacked of ‘I can’t handle Italy, they all talk Italian’. Saying that Howe did get him over 20 games last season. Now back at Arsenal I’m not sure he knows what his best position is. He isn’t strong enough for a holding midfielder, nor quick enough to get behind defences to be a Dele Alli type attacking midfielder. Not realising earlier that Arsenal and Arsene may not fancy him could cost him a good career. His next move will be his most important.

 

David Bentley

Funky hair and comparisons to another David meant Mr Bentley should have enjoyed a decent career. A wonder goal for Arsenal against Norwich and a Hat-trick vs Man United for Blackburn showed his skills. But a move to Spurs seemed to suck the fun out of football for him. Even pouring water over Harry Redknapp seemed to get him more trouble than glory. Bentley is another with a strange move, this time to Russian club Rostov.

He retired at 29 saying football had become ‘robotic’ and ‘predictable and a bit too calculated’.

 

Theo Walcott

I swear he has spent the last 10 years complaining he isn’t being played as a striker. Never showed much for England but I swear he could tell you about his 3 against Croatia in great detail.

Always thought he wasn’t that good, pace yes but sometimes couldn’t hit a cow’s arse with a banjo. Starting to become a figure of fun. Even my wife, an Arsenal fan, says ‘I don’t think he is as good as he thinks he is, and wouldn’t be upset if he went’

 

Stan Collymore

Where to start with this lad. Allegedly punching his missus Ulrika Johnson, dogging in a car park and being sacked from club after club. All the talent in the world. His partnership with Bryan Roy at Forest was devastating. A move to Liverpool and a dream partnership with Robbie Fowler seemed a sure success. Yet, bar a winner vs Newcastle in the last minute to kill off Newcastle’s title chances (sorry Dave), he barely did much else. Should have been a 25 goal a season striker. Yet he never hit that target.

 

Many others could have been put up, please let me know who you would have had.

 

by Ross Jacobs - @riddley82

Like many kids growing up, when I was 10 I wanted to play football for England. Nothing was going to stop me. Well, so I thought, until my Mum called me in for dinner one evening and said I wasn’t going to make it. Mainly because I didn’t play for a club and didn’t want to. Stumbling blocks everywhere.

At no stage are kids told, ‘you will play occasionally for England but not as often as you should’.

We forget those whose international career was either cut short by injury or just for some odd reason never played enough. Worse yet was being played out of position.

So, for the next few hundred words I want to put together an 11 that should have had more. Sorry Warren Barton fans but he didn’t make it.

 

Nigel Martyn –

Being behind David Seaman had to fall to someone. Poor old Nigel was a colossal for Crystal Palace then Leeds United. 23 caps for someone that was the first million-pound keeper doesn’t seem right. His two major games came against Romania at Euro 2000 (thank Phil Neville) and The Beckham game vs Greece. Both times thrown in due to injuries to Big Dave.

After coming as a sub for David ‘Calamity’ James against Spain no wonder he retired a year later. Had better facial hair than Seaman in my opinion.

 

Jamie Carragher –

The real Mr Liverpool, take that Gerrard, was played in about 3 positions and only managed 38 caps in 11 years of 5 England managers. A man who was dropped in favour of Matthew Upson for game against Germany had many reasons to retire from the international scene.

Yes, he did have the misfortune of a Terry and Ferdinand partnership, but to be played at full back so many times was a waste of talent. The only thing I could think of is that Sven and Fabio could just not understand the lad.

 

Ledley King –

Like his knees, this one hurts me the most. Being a Spurs fan, I know how good he was. 21 caps over 8 years should have been 100 over 10-12 years. Henry even said he was the best he came up against.

Seeing him play in the 2010 World Cup wasn’t easy viewing. He should never had been picked in the first place. Like asking a 45-year-old asthma sufferer to run the 100 metres in under 10 seconds. Ironically it was a groin injury that ended his campaign.

 

Steve Bruce –

Odd to think he never even got one cap. I’m not even sure he even got called up. A great leader, good organiser and won a few things at Man United. I mean even Phil Neville got 59 caps!

Became the first English club Captain of the 21st Century to lift the double. Do that these days you are more or less captain before your first cap.

Reading on Bruce, I found out Jack Charlton wanted him to play for Ireland but due to playing for an England youth team he couldn’t. Would have made the Italia 90 game interesting.

 

Leighton Baines –

Timing in sport is everything. If Leighton had been born ten years earlier he would have more or less doubled his current 30 caps. We suffered for lengthy periods without a left footed player. Then all of a sudden Ashley Cole came along and was great. Meaning poor Mr Baines waited till 2010 for his England debut.

Still going strong at Everton but with Danny Rose and Ryan Bertrand in front of him he now seems too old to make any sort of comeback.

 

Michael Carrick –

If he had been Spanish, German, Dutch or even Italian he would have a million caps. Calm in possession, organises well, he has been overlooked more times than a small child wanting to do the pole-vault. Man United always looked poorer without him.

A shocking 34 caps in 16 years makes you wonder if a Carrick and either Lampard or Gerrard combination should have talked about. Capello made some odd decisions in his tenure as Boss of the national side, but failing to give the former Spurs man any minutes now looks like a real head scratcher.

 

Steve Stone –

Before you stop reading and think I’m weird. Let me explain. Before Euro 96 he lit a few friendlies up and as that was all England could play he couldn’t do anymore. I was at the Portugal game where Alan Shearer scored a beauty and Stone hit a wonder.

Hard working and a fine striker of the ball he was never in the Beckham class but could still, in my mind have had more caps. 9 caps and two goals wasn’t a bad return,

Sadly a broken leg kept out of the 96-97 season. What could have been.

 

Paul Scholes –

No, I haven’t gone completely mad. Let me break the number down. Played only 66 times in 7 years. The times under both Keegan and Hoddle showed what a class player he was. Nick named sat-nav by Rio Ferdinand due to his ability to pick a pass from anywhere and hit his target, you feel he would have made any International side.

I blame Sven for his early retirement. Playing left of a midfield four just seemed crazy from the Swede. I still to this day think he was better than Lampard and Gerrard. Even in 2010 at the age of 36 he almost came back.

Him and Carrick behind Gerrard for South Africa, now there’s a thought.

 

Owen Hargreaves –

I put this one out to twitter. Polling if he was unlucky or just a wasted talent. As you can see the former won.

To be fair, once he went to United and helped them win the Champions League it all was set up for him to be an England 100 capper. He only played 27 games for Man United. 15 less games than for England.

But a cruel period of injuries meant he only played once for Man City and that was that.

 

Robbie Fowler –

Or God to Liverpool fans. Similar to Baines earlier he was just a great player in the wrong time. Shearer, Sheringham, Cole, Collymore, Owen all arrived during his career. Yet if he was playing nowadays Harry Kane would have some serious competition. Left footed and scored all sorts of goals. I’m surprised Keegan didn’t play him wide left during those barren south paw days.

Leaving Liverpool seemed to hurt him. And he was never the same player. But I thought he deserved more of a run in the international team. But weather the ‘sniffing the grass’ incident put him down the pecking order we will never know.

 

Jermain Defoe –

What do you want from a striker? Goals? Pace? Well this guy had/has it all. Yet only when he is in his twilight do I think we are only really appreciating his talents.

Did he upset Sven? Did McClaren think Owen was still a great player (wait till next week’s blog)? Capello played him up front for World Cup 2010 but Rooney was in decline even then and I felt Defoe was left scrapping. Again if he was Italian or Spanish I think he would have been a goal a game guy.

Well that’s my eleven. If you want to comment please do. Have I missed someone. Am I too harsh on Phil Neville? Should Carlton Palmer be mentioned?

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