Oct 1, 2010

Why England should go with the form book against Montenegro

By Simon Glanville

It’s decision time for Fabio Capello as he prepares to name his England squad for the upcoming European Championship qualifier with Montenegro.

England, top of Group G after comfortable wins in Switzerland and at home to Bulgaria, host a Montenegro side who have matched their 100% start to the qualifying campaign.

Sir Alex Ferguson has appeared to rule out an out-of-sorts Wayne Rooney, although the striker is doing everything in his power to be fit following an ankle injury. Ferguson would like to see his star man given a prolonged rest following his injury and much discussed personal problems, and although England are facing a striker shortage, it may be best for Rooney to be left out.

There is no doubt that when firing from all cylinders Rooney is one of the best – if not the best – players in the world. But at the moment he is bang out of form, not 100% fit and with his personal life seeming to affect his game.

With Emile Heskey retired, Jermaine Defoe and Bobby Zamora on the long-term injury list and a major question mark over Rooney, Peter Crouch and Darren Bent look nailed on to make the squad. Crouch’s England record is impressive but he has rarely featured in competitive matches, while Bent must be asking what he has to do to get a go for England. The prolific Sunderland striker has started the season in strong goal-scoring form, and may finally get an opportunity with a number of strikers absent.

In-form Andy Carroll has also been tipped for a senior call after an impressive start to the campaign. The Newcastle target man has scored four Premier League goals this term, including a hat-trick against Aston Villa, to put his name in the frame. Carroll has also been withdrawn from the England Under-21s squad for their forthcoming game with Romania, an indication that he is set to be included.

Carlton Cole and Gabby Agbonlahor are other options to lead the line, although Cole has been struggling for games at West Ham while Agbonlahor has a calf problem which could rule him out.

With Frank Lampard, Michael Dawson and Theo Walcott out injured, James Milner suspended and a number of other senior members of the squad struggling for form and fitness, Capello could make a statement and go with the form book.

Both Michael Carrick and Rio Ferdinand returned for Manchester United in midweek for their impressive win in Valencia, but I’d prefer to see them left out until they are back playing regularly. It would be easy for Capello to recall both Carrick and Ferdinand, but what sort of message does that send out to the in-form players on the verge of the squad?

The likes of Gary Cahill, Phil Jagielka and Ryan Shawcross will be hoping their strong starts to the season will seem them partner John Terry at the heart of defence. Terry has had injury problems of his own but has at least strung a few games together for Chelsea, while Ferdinand has barely played in five months.

With Lampard and Milner missing in midfield Carrick would also be an easy option, but it would be nice to see the likes of Scott Parker and Tom Huddlestone involved. Both have featured heavily for their clubs since the start of the season and have produced the goods to warrant a call from Capello.

Arsenal’s young sensation, Jack Wilshere, should also be named after starting seven of the Gunners’ nine games this season. Wilshere has been named in the Under-21s party to face Romania but could also be called into the senior squad if Capello wishes.

Manchester City’s Adam Johnson, who scored in both of September’s qualifiers after coming on as a substitute, is also pushing for a start after a fantastic start to the season at Eastlands. The left-footed winger offers a real creative edge that perhaps has been missing for England in the past.

Other played mooted to get a call are the in-form trio of Ashley Young, Stoke’s Matthew Etherington and Wolves’ Matt Jarvis. Young aside, they may not household names but there is no reason why they can’t take their Premier League form onto the international stage.

Another key issue for Capello will be the captaincy. If Ferdinand is in the squad I expect he will have the armband, but it should be on the arm of Steven Gerrard. The Liverpool midfielder did a fantastic job as captain during the September qualifiers, and with major doubts over Ferdinand’s fitness, should be given the role full-time.

With the European Championships less than two years away and an England squad filled with players in the last-chance saloon, this could be a chance to give the stars of the future a chance to shine. Go on Capello, surprise me.

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