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who’s off to south africa?

September 9, 2009

Sol Campbell, not going to SA.
So I was reading the other day that Sol Campbell, fresh off the back of his move to Notts County, still feels that he has a chance of playing for England in next years World Cup in South Africa. Asked about it he said “Why not? It’s not as if I’m suddenly not going to be playing well”, which is a fair point, but there’s a difference between playing well against League Two sides and against the best players in the world – sorry Sol, it just ain’t gonna happen.

But while old Sol may be going a bit mad in his old age, there’s no doubting that this season will be one that determines the make up of Fabio Capello’s tournament squad come next summer. Of course, the bones of the squad can – barring injury – be confidently predicted already, but there are plenty of spaces up for grabs and plenty of players in the mix for a place in the 32. Always keen for some wild speculation no matter how early in the season, I’ve had a look at five contenders and given my thoughts on their chances of inclusion.

1. David Beckham (LA Galaxy)
Goldenballs has had a strange few years since he left Madrid after finally tasting some Spanish glory, with his time in LA at times descending into farce. However, there’s no doubt that Becks has still got what it takes as shown by his highly successful spell at AC Milan. This has been noted by Capello who has shown faith in the ex-England captain and picked him pretty consistently in his squads, and given him plenty of chances off the bench.

And I think Beckham has made the most of those chances. While there’s no denying that he now lacks the little pace that he ever had, Beckham remains one of the most accurate passers of a football in the world. Whether deployed out wide or in the middle of the park, he retains the cunning to find a yard of space and that’s all he needs to deploy a precision-guided missile. So while not a starter, I think Capello certainly sees Becks as an effective squad player, who can come on and provide England with some real chances if need be.

Crucial to his chances of holding onto his place in Capello’s favour though, will be securing a move to Europe once the MLS season finishes. It looks as if he’ll have little trouble doing that, as AC Milan appear keen to have him back while plenty of English clubs would be interested too, with Harry Redknapp making no secrets of his desire to polish those golden balls. So as long as Galaxy agree to a loan deal – and if they don’t, Beckham will simply demand a permanent transfer – I’m fairly sure that Becks will be on the plane.
Verdict: Makes the cut as Capello’s (and England’s) go-to guy in a tight spot.

2. Michael Owen (Manchester United)
Manchester United’s big summer signing – at least in terms of reputation – is another player who used to be key for England but has found himself less than welcome after his time in Madrid. Never really making an impression in the Spanish capital, Owen returned home and signed for Newcastle, where things went from bad to worse with constant injuries and a club in disarray, the brightest thing to come out of it was the infamous glossy brochure, and that’s not saying much.

But just when all seemed lost for the instinctive striker, Sir Alex Ferguson came riding in as the most unlikely of knights in shining armour, and whisked him to Old Trafford. He’s not really played much part in United’s start to the season though he did chip in with a goal in their thrashing of Wigan, and it’s clear that Ferguson will use him mainly off the bench as an impact player, but if anyone can get the best out of him it’ll be Sir Alex.

Unfortunately though, unless he forces his way into United’s starting lineup, puts together a good run of form and really bangs in the goals, I don’t think Owen will reach South Africa. Capello clearly isn’t a fan and he’s already said that if you’re not playing regularly then he won’t consider you. When you then also consider that there are plenty of other forwards staking a claim for a spot in the squad, Owen’s days as England’s striking hero seem very much a thing of the past.
Verdict: Owen’s England career is all over bar the reminiscing.

3. Joe Hart (on loan at Birmingham City)
England’s U21 keeper at the European Championships in the Summer, Joe had a very impressive tournament that very much served to underline the promise he showed for Man City at the start of last season, and indeed in the final, for which he was suspended, England certainly seemed to lack his commanding presence as they fell apart and were beaten by a Mesut Ozil inspired German side.With England’s goal keeping problem ongoing, Hart will be hoping to impress at Birmingham this season.

I’ve little doubt that Hart will go on to become a really top class ‘keeper, he’s a big lad who gets down well and is very athletic, and he has a really strong presence in his area while commanding those in front of him superbly. Indeed, I was quite surprised and disappointed that Hughes felt the need to take Shay Given to City last season when he already had Joe at the club, but when there’s money available youth rarely stands a chance.

Hart’s chances of making South Africa depend as much on other players’ performances as his own. If he can catch the eye for Birmingham (he could be kept busy) and the likes of Rob Green and David James struggle for form, he could well be in with a shout. Indeed, I think the third goal keeping spot is likely between him and Ben Foster, who is benefitting from Van Der Saar’s injury but hasn’t looked too convincing so far, sparking rumours of a United swoop for Igor Akinfeev.
Verdict: On the plane, but probably not number one just yet.

4. Jack Wilshere (Arsenal)
After having a storming pre-season for Arsenal, it was almost inevitable that Wilshere would draw comparisons to Theo Walcott, who was of course famously included in Eriksson’s World Cup squad for England as a sort of wildcard. While that didn’t really work out for Sven, from what I’ve seen of Wilshere Capello could probably do much worse than giving the youngster some experience in a friendly or two.

I don’t seriously believe that Wilshere is a serious contender for a place in Capello’s squad for South Africa, but if there were injuries to certain key players then I think Capello would be forced to take a look at him. A lot will naturally depend on how much action he gets for Arsenal this season – with Wenger having hinted that he may get more of a look in – but if he gets a run in the side I think he’ll surprise people. He’s without doubt one of the most gifted players England have produced for a long time and will be a big part of England’s future.

So will Wilshere be next year’s Theo Walcott? Probably not. We’ve seen with Walcott himself that a few extra years are hugely beneficial to ‘finish’ a player off and I don’t think Capello is daft enough to panic select a prodigiously talented youngster, but you never know. As I said, should circumstances demand it – and England often tend to lose at least one key player to injury before major tournaments – I wouldn’t be too surprised if Wilshere was considered as backup, and he’s got more chance than Scotland at any rate.
Verdict: Probably staying at home, but stranger things have happened.

5. Jack Rodwell (Everton)
Another teenage midfielder named Jack, Rodwell has been hugely impressive for Everton in his appearances last season and so far this term. Seen in the long term as a centre back in the Rio Ferdinand mould, Rodwell has so far slotted comfortably into the holding midfield position for Everton and has shown that aside from being very strong in the tackle, he also has a great footballing brain and a real eye for a pass.

His exploits last season earned him a call up to the England U21 side – he’s still just 18 remember – and it seems that Stuart Pearce has been hugely impressed with the youngster, giving him plenty of time on the pitch since he first joined the squad. His form for Everton at the start of this season has been outstanding, even as Everton have struggled to pick up from last season he has continued to enhance his quickly growing reputation and has been linked with interest from Man United.

If Capello were to feel his side were a little short on midfielders of a more defensive discipline than Gerrard and Lampard, I think Rodwell may be considered as cover for Gareth Barry, especially if Owen Hargreaves doesn’t recover soon. However, with Everton having finally added to their squad they have brought in some much needed strength in depth and Rodwell may find his opportunities more limited now as Moyes insists he will bring him through slowly – as he did with Wayne Rooney, which could see him miss out this time.
Verdict: A name to remember, but this tournament is perhaps a year or two early for him.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. September 9, 2009 10:46 am

    Great analysis Mr Howard. Jack Wiltshire, Joe Hart and Jack Rodwell will undoubtedly be future stars, but it’s probably not going to happen just yet and as for Campbell thinking he’ll get into the team, that’s just a joke.

    Although Capello has done stranger things – like constantly started Heskey for one.

  2. September 9, 2009 12:13 pm

    I think Beckham has a good chance of going but it really depends on his form when he comes back to Europe…i actually dont think thatll be a problem and i think he will get in

    Owen, well if he scores lots of goals this year in the Prem i think he will sneak in..however it may take an injury to Defoe for this to become a reality

    Wiltshire wont get enough games for arsenal me thinks therefore hes a no, same for Rodwell, who i think is a real hot property

    Joe Hart has every chance..if fit he will start every game for Brum…if they have a half decent season he will jump up the pecking order…never have we been so near to a major championships where the goalkeeper could be one of ten!

  3. George permalink
    September 9, 2009 12:24 pm

    Wilkshere definitely won’t be going but he’s a definite for the future, no doubt about that.
    I’m a big fan of Rodwell too, and Joe Hart being an old Shrewsbury boy certainly gets my vote!

    Beckham in, Owen out.

  4. September 9, 2009 1:42 pm

    When he was in Real Madrid, Capello sidelined him, but he found the way to get a place in the starting team. That’s what makes me think that Beckham will go to South Africa, even he stays in Los Angeles and doesn’t come back to Europe, i.e. what Fabio wants him to do.

  5. September 9, 2009 1:44 pm

    even if*

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