So here it starts, the motivational television adverts have long been running, the annoying songs are taking over the radio, which like Christmas, there is only one decent one to be heard of, and once again the nation forgets that there is twenty-two other players in the squad and puts all its faith in one man. It’s the World Cup!
The big news of course, is that Theo Walcott will not be going to South Africa today and I personally have very mixed feelings about his failure to make the squad. On the one hand, I don’t think that he is good enough just yet. He has flashes of brilliance, more than he is credited for, but he is by no means the finished article. With Theo, because of his whirlwind inclusion in the 2006 World Cup, everyone has been waiting for him to be the developed player we all hoped he’d become for what, in football terms, feels like a lifetime. There were essentially two places up for grabs between Theo, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Aaron Lennon and I can’t argue with the choice. Wright-Phillips, believe it or not, is now 28 years old and has more of an end product, able to take men on and not just rely on his pace in the process.
When Arsenal lost to Tottenham up at White Hart Lane at the end of the season, you could hear the Tottenham fans singing to Theo “you’re just a s*** Aaron Lennon”, and it hurt, because it was true. However, Theo is a couple of years younger than Lennon, and Lennon was by no means the player he is now a couple of seasons ago. I for one will not be losing the faith that I have been clinging on to with Theo, though it must be said, a lot of Arsenal fans have.
Where I do feel sorry for Theo is that he never asked be picked in 2006, he doesn’t feel he deserved it. It should also be noted that when Capello has been bending over backwards to try and get players out of international retirement, (Bridge and Scholes unsuccessfully, Carragher successfully) Theo would do anything to play for his country, even going against his manager’s wishes and playing in the u21 European Championships last summer, risking burn out and injury, which is exactly what happened. It would have also been a refreshing change to have a children’s author amongst the serial adulterers, nightclub assaulters and missed drugs examinees.
Other players who are unlucky not to be travelling to South Africa are Darren Bent and Adam Johnson. Darren Bent may feel hard done by after scoring 24 goals in the league this season and still not get picked but has never really shone at international level. Adam Johnson, who has only had since January in the premiership, showed some really promising performances and in an England squad crying out for a left footed attacking player (despite playing on the right for Manchester City), must have thought he had a shot at being in the 23.
All in all I think Capello’s squad looks good and experienced. There are some risks with injuries I don’t particularly agree with. Concerns still linger over Lennon and J. Cole, who are both quite recently back from long term injuries. More importantly, Gareth Barry may not even be fully training until after the USA game and Ledley King who struggles to put 90 minutes a week together due to long term knee injuries.
England have been made third favourites by the bookies for the tournament, I’m not quite sure how. What I am sure about with this England side is that Rooney will have the hopes of a nation put squarely on his shoulders, people will be talking about the Gerrard/Lampard axis of evil and it will be Heskey who the ball falls to, one on one in the last minute of extra-time to avoid penalties in the quarter finals.
Now all is needed is for the besotted club fan to get their head around the fact that they have to support the players they have been hoping slip up and fail all season, (especially if there isn’t a single member of their club team in the England squad!) but they will nonetheless.
Let the school assemblies, world cup barbeques, work hangovers and the eventual penalty shoot out commence.