Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Here we go again...

So that time is here again.

You know.

That sense of anticipation and excitement that is mixed with the dread of yet another disappointing World Cup exit. The underlying feeling that despite the optimism, you know you are going to end up heartbroken come early July. Yep. It’s back.

Seems like only last week that England’s football establishment was brought to its knees on a soaking wet night at Wembley against Croatia, washing away our European Championship hopes alongside Steve McLaren’s management reputation. Two years can make a big difference. Both England and McLaren have rebuilt, albeit the latter on foreign shores. The World Cup has arrived and after an almost exemplary qualifying campaign, the expectation of success has the English fans buzzing once more.

So, the selection. We are down to 23 and no Walcott. I saw him towards the end of last season at St Andrews and he was poor. Liam Ridgewell is an out and out centre half who has played left back all season for Blues and for me was there for the taking. Walcott made no attempt to take him on, stretch him or use his pace against him, making an ordinary Premier League defender look like a seasoned full-back.

What puzzled me was how can you justify Heskey and not Walcott. Heskey has hardly played in the second half of the season meaning he was selected based on previous performances for his country – if that is the case, Walcott’s single-handed destruction of Croatia in qualifying should have seen him make the cut.

However, for me the biggest selection headache is at left-back. ‘Cashley’ Cole has made it his own and does so with aplomb. What worries me is if he takes a knock or bumps into the wrecking ball that ended Rio Ferdinand’s World Cup, Emile Heskey. As Wayne Bridge ponders what could possibly turn out to be the worst decision of his playing career, Steven Warnock would fill the potential void left by Cole. That is where that sinking feeling returns to me. He is another I saw closely away at Villa Park towards the end of April and believe me, he is a million miles away from Ashley Cole. The USA, Slovenia and Algeria of this world may not strike fear into the hearts of Englishman across the land. When names such as Messi, Ronaldo and Ribery do, having an inexperienced and unproven defender within your ranks will guarantee a few nail-less fans by July.

Roll on the start of crossed fingers and tears. World Cup season is upon us.

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