What’s next for England’s ageing squad?

There’s always going to be some knee-jerk in the wake of a humbling tournament exit.  But as discussed in my previous post this is not just about getting caught on the break a couple of times and being victim of a gross officiating mistake.  Joe Cole, who originally predicted that England could win the tournament  (and told us that John Terry was the best centre half in the world), sums it up nicely as he shifted from his original position:

I am devastated. We just weren’t good enough. Plain and simple. We weren’t good enough from the start of the friendlies; the six games we played.  We will go away and start again but we have to address the problems that are there. It is not for me to talk to you guys about it but we need to step up. There are a lot of issues.  We got to the last eight last time so we need to improve. We came up against a team who were better than us. Good luck to them and we wish them all the best. No-one likes it but that’s life unfortunately. What can you do?

The difficulty for England’s management team now is that so many key members of this team are going to be over 30 by the time the 2012 European Championships come around.  So do you keep the faith with these players and allow them to see it through or do you start to move them aside at the beginning of the qualifying campaign and give the younger players a platform to prove themselves, win or lose?

This is how I see the futures of the 2010 World Cup squad.

David James (Age: 39)

At 39 David James has played in his last tournament.  He did the basics well against Algeria and Slovenia and did make a number of saves to keep the score down against Germany.  A few commentators suggest he was slow off his line for the first German goal, was caught at the near-post for the second and dived out of the way for the third – but this is David James not Lev Yashin we’re talking about.  James performance was about par for the course.

Games started (as sub): 3(0)

Rating: 7

Outlook: There really is no need for James to take up a goalkeeping spot any more.  Joe Hart is the heir apparent.

Rob Green (30)

Calamity struck him less than half way through his tournament as Green found himself discarded after one game for a mistake that would shame a park footballer.  Green is an ordinary keeper anyway who few people would have suggested was a number one pick.  This was Capello’s first of many misjudgements.

Games started (as sub):1(0)

Rating: 4

Outlook: May still find himself in the reckoning with the paucity of options.

Joe Hart (23)

Hart may not be the finished article by any means but he’s looked like a star in the making for a few seasons now.  His development is at a key stage if he’s to avoid becoming another Ben Foster or Chris Kirkland.

Games started (as sub):0(0)

Rating:

Outlook: England’s number one, perhaps.

Glen Johnson (25)

Glen Johnson might be the best English right back in football but in his eight years in the Premier League the braided one has not mastered the basics of defending.  It’s one thing to put in a seven-out-of-ten performance against the relative mediocrity of Slovenia but his true worth (or otherwise) was shown when he was partly-culpable for two German goals and even when he was turned inside out by Algeria’s Karim Ziani.

Games started (as sub): 4(0)

Rating: 5

Outlook: Will probably keep his place because he plays for a high profile club (former top four side, Liverpool) and because there are no immediate contenders for his place.  But Johnson needs to up his game.

Ashley Cole (29)

They call him the best left-back in the world but this is a decidedly generous accolade.  Cole was not the worst offender of the tournament but his attacking threat was minimal and, like Johnson, the first time he was truly tested he failed the audition.

Games started (as sub): 4(0)

Rating: 6

Outlook: Cole has another couple of years left in him before a replacement needs to be sourced.  With Wayne Bridge out of contention (lucky guy), Leighton Baines short of quality, and Stephen Warnock only a year younger than Cole, a long-term option might be Cole’s club mate Ryan Bertrand.

John Terry (29)

It’s sad to see any player in decline before the age of 30 but questions have been asked of John “Brave” Terry for a few seasons now.  Is it a natural decline?  Is it what happens when a slow player starts to lose a yard?  Is it a case of him not being focused because of his indiscreet and lamentable off-the-field behaviour?  Hard to say and probably irrelevant.  There’s no point in JT beating his chest after he repels the Slovenians and then made to look like a mug by two German strikers who scored five league goals in 52 games last season.

Games started (as sub): 4(0)

Rating: 6

Outlook: Seems crazy to suggest that Terry needs to step aside but if he can’t do a job at the business end of a competition then maybe it’s time to groom Michael Dawson, Gary Cahill and even Man United’s new signing Chris Smalling.  Dawson is 26 and Cahill is 24. It seems absurd that they have no caps.  Gary Cahill can play for the Republic of Ireland but if he had any thoughts of doing so he may reconsider given the status of JT and 31-year old Rio Ferdinand.

Matthew Upson (31)

Upson v Gorman

It’s never a player’s fault that they are not good enough for the team they are selected for.  I’m sure Upson was proud to pull on the shirt even if his selection mystified most supporters.  It says it all when you consider that he was probably only in the squad because Wes Brown was injured.

Games started (as sub): 2(0)

Rating: 5

Outlook: As part of the defence that capitulated to the Germans (and in spite of being the only English player to get on the score sheet yesterday) the likelihood is that Upson won’t feature again for England.  If he does then it will be a sign that management has learnt nothing from the tournament.  He looks a bit like Dave Gorman too.

Ledley King (29)

Not the most successful tournament for Ledley King whose selection backfired on Capello.  King aimed to show he could go the distance by starting Tottenham’s final four games of the season but he lasted just 45 minutes before succumbing to injury.

Games started (as sub): 1(0)

Rating: 4

Outlook: King demonstrated his self-awareness by openly admitting he was not at his best in the pre-tournament friendly against Mexico at Wembley.  He’s the sort of character that England could do with on the field.  But at 29 and with a career blighted by injury this was surely his last chance.

Jamie Carragher (32)

Jamie retired from international football three years ago after becoming frustrated at being a substitute who was often played out of position.  It seemed strange that Capello would call on a 32 year old who had endured a torrid season and played no part in the qualifiers.  But in fairness to Carragher – inherent slowness aside – he put a good shift in.  Two yellow cards (predictably enough given his lack of pace) put a premature end to his tournament.

Games started (as sub): 1(1)

Rating: 6

Outlook: Carragher would do well to retire again and this time stay retired. He didn’t let anyone down but it’s time to build for the future and he should concentrate on prolonging his club career.

Michael Dawson (26)

As a Tottenham fan I speak with an insight/bias on/towards Michael Dawson.  I think he’s been excellent for three years outside of a loss of form in Martin Jol’s latter days.  He didn’t get a look-in here and was only called up as a late replacement for Rio Ferdinand.  Dawson won many fans inside and outside White Hart Lane last season and his continued involvement seems likely.

Games started (as sub): 0(0)

Rating:

Outlook: Dawson’s positioning is sometimes questionable but he’s got that Tony Adams-like quality of being in the right place at the right time eventually.  Strong in the air, full of commitment and with an impeccable record, he thoroughly deserves to be in the shake up for the 2012 European Championships.

Stephen Warnock (28)

No appearances for Warnock who was only ever going to act as the utility cover for the back four.  Warnock is now with Aston Villa and finished sixth in the league last year ahead of his former club Liverpool.

Games started (as sub): 0(0)

Rating:

Outlook: Warnock is highly-rated but is unlikely to get a regular spot in the foreseeable future, if at all.  At 28 his England career is likely to be restricted to a handful of friendly and substitute appearances.

Steven Gerrard (30)

The debate will rage on about Gerrard, a man accused of trying too many “Hollywood balls” and “Hollywood shots” during the tournament.  He got on the score sheet but only showed glimpses of the form he has shown for his club.  Having said that Gerrard has struggled for Liverpool without Xabi Alonso behind him and he cuts a forlorn figure, looking like someone not enjoying his career all that much.

Games started (as sub): 4(0)

Rating: 6

Outlook: I wonder how much Stevie has in the locker.  Having turned 30 just before the tournament he will go in to the European Championships at 32 and if his influence continues to wane he may have little to offer.

Frank Lampard (32)

Lampard was fairly horrible for the first three games but was brighter against Germany – certainly the best of a bad bunch.  But he struggles to impose himself on games and even against Algeria he was passed by with relative ease.

Games started (as sub): 4(0)

Rating: 6

Outlook: Time must be up now on his England career with him due to turn 34 during Euro 2012.  The only stay of execution might be if he re-invented his game in the same way that Ruud Gullit and Glenn Hoddle did by taking up as a deep-lying playmaker in their final years.  I’m not sure he has the talent for that though.

James Milner (24)

Milner had a strange tournament, hauled off after a half hour of the opening game and then dramatically recalled for the final two games as a replacement for Aaron Lennon.   He acquitted himself reasonably well as a hard-working wide player who lacks the creative subtlety to be a top class player but has enough energy and drive to be an influence.

Games started (as sub): 3(0)

Rating: 6

Outlook: Milner will be there or thereabouts, perhaps as the new David Bentley (who was, of course, the new David Beckham).  It’s my belief that England need to employ proper wingers so his future may lie in central midfield.

Aaron Lennon (24)

He has had a great 18 months for Tottenham but Lennon still doesn’t convince in an England shirt.  He wasn’t long back from injury and that might have played a part but in the 150 minutes he spent on the pitch, Lennon showed little sign that his final ball had improved much.

Games started (as sub): 2(0)

Rating: 5

Outlook: I think Lennon (with Theo Walcott and Adam Johnson) has a role to play on the wings for England.  But management and fans will run out of patience if he cannot create opportunities for his team mates.

Joe Cole (28)

I posed the question on Twitter today whether Joe Cole is a creative genius or injury-prone and over-rated.  I think the answer probably lies somewhere n between.  Cole was much-heralded by the media but he disappointed in his substitute appearances.  It’s not entirely his fault.  He plays on the left for his club, played on the right against Slovenia and hovered around ineffectually against Germany.  There was an incoherency about Capello’s use of Cole and it didn’t look like he had a specific role when he came on.

Games started (as sub): 0(2)

Rating: 4

Outlook: Cole has 56 caps for England but his progress appears to have been hindered more by successive management’s desire to accommodate both Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard at all times.  Cole is a sparkling player when he’s on but those occasions have been very infrequent.

Gareth Barry (29)

It was a sad sight to see an unfit Gareth Barry left looking like a carthorse in the build up to Germany’s fourth goal. He also gave away possession in the lead up to the third goal.  This was a tournament to forget for him.  The song and dance made about Barry’s presence in the squad was a farce anyway.  It reminded me of the national debate in Ireland over Steve Staunton’s continued exclusion of Lee Carsley as his young side were battered by Cyprus.  Gareth Barry is Lee Carsley.

Games started (as sub): 3(0)

Rating: 4

Outlook: It amazed me when Liverpool battled long and hard to try and take Gareth Barry to Anfield a few years ago and then again when Manchester City deemed him to be worth £12m last summer.  Barry is a half-decent player who can do a job but looks out of his depth at international level.  He’ll anchor the midfield sufficiently in most qualifying games but will be found wanting at the top level.

Shaun Wright-Philips (28)

I’m sure even SWP was pinching himself when he was included in place of former teenage sensation Theo Walcott.  He appeared as a substitute on three occasions but just wasn’t good enough to influence games.  Nothing wrong with his attitude or work-ethic but he’s a player who doesn’t belong at this level either.

Games started (as sub): 0(3)

Rating: 4

Outlook: I expect Theo Walcott and Adam Johnson to jump ahead of him in the pecking order.  But he got 34 caps and a respectable 6 goals out of his England career.

Michael Carrick (28)

Unsurprisingly there was no look-in for Michael Carrick who has been so uninspiring in recent seasons even Tom Huddlestone was pushing him for a place in the finals squad.  I was never sold on Carrick at White Hart Lane and found Man United’s £18m offer to be extremely generous.

Games started (as sub): 0(0)

Rating:

Outlook: Carrick turns 29 next month and while he may add to his 22 caps he’s probably pleased that Tom Huddlestone is so immobile and Scott Parker (a player considered by some to be his superior) turns 30 this year.

Wayne Rooney (24)

I’m one of those people who consider Rooney to be world class but, as already pointed out by the entire country, he was shockingly poor during the tournament.  His body language and attitude were suspect, his energy levels low, his first touch non-existent.  There was a resigned feeling about Rooney during the Algeria game, almost as if the US game had sucked the belief out of him.  He just didn’t look like he wanted to be there.

Games started (as sub): 4(0)

Rating: 4

Outlook: Maybe a rating of 4 is harsh for Rooney who was not that much worse than Gerrard or Lampard.  But this is a top class player we’re talking about and in relative terms this is without a doubt the lowest point of his career.  He’ll be back but not before there is a long conversation between himself, his agent and his club manager.  Something is not quite right with him.

Jermain Defoe (27)

He was perky against Algeria when he came on, scored the winner against Slovenia but once up against a quality side he never got a sniff.  His withdrawal when England needed three goals against Germany was not surprising but perhaps it was surprising as to who he was replaced by.

Games started (as sub): 2(1)

Rating: 5

Outlook: Defoe has been poor for the entire calendar year and while he might have been the pick of a mediocre bunch he didn’t do much to convince someone like me that he’s good enough for England.  Twelve goals in 43 games is a fair strike rate but it’s in the big games that Defoe just doesn’t look up to it.  There is competition amongst the supporting cast for that second striker role and Defoe is going to have to do a lot better.  As it stands I don’t think he’ll be ever more than a bit-part player.

Emile Heskey (32)

Heskey’s selection doesn’t polarise fans – few think he should be there.  Just like Upson, it’s not his fault he’s selected.  He seems to be a game lad and a good pro, and probably goes out on the pitch with a sizeable inferiority complex knowing that the majority of fans in the stadium are groaning at his introduction.  He could have scored against the US, was not great against Algeria and was introduced in the latter stages of the final game when England needed three goals.  Um…

Games started (as sub): 2(2)

Rating: 4

Outlook: I’m willing to bet Heskey will never play for England again.  When you consider that he’s played 62 times while Ian Wright got 33 caps, Robbie Folwer got 26 and Stan Collymore got 3, it seems to be a bit of a miscarriage of justice.  He has more caps than Jimmy Greaves, Stanley Matthews and Geoff Hurst you know.

Peter Crouch (29)

He’s not everyone’s cup of tea but most people would have taken one look at Crouch’s goal scoring record (21 goals in 40 games – best strike rate in the current squad) and considered him a strong contender for impact substitute at least.  But Fabio gave him 17 minutes in two substitute appearances and Crouch might wonder why he bothered.

Games started (as sub): 0(2)

Rating:

Outlook: Not on the pitch long enough to warrant a rating but Crouch surely had more to offer this team than 17 minutes.  His introduction would have led to a big hoof towards his 6’7” frame but desperate times and all that.  He’s a useful weapon and probably has one more tournament left in him.

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