Tomorrow sees that magical mark of 100 days until the 19th World Cup begins and the chase for places outside of the main names is really beginning to hot up. Fabio Capello will probably have a definite idea of around 10 names who will certainly be on the plane to South Africa injury willing. James, Terry, Ferdinand, Gerrard, Lampard, Barry, Rooney, Defoe, Milner and Beckham will probably be certain of inclusion but for once, the rest of the squad would seem to be all to play for.
Over the next few days, I’ll be casting my eye over some of the outsiders and squad players who will be hoping to be involved this summer and make a real name for themselves. Some may be reliant on players failing to recover from injury, some will be hoping to force themselves in to the reckoning and some will fall at the final cut off point. I’ll be looking at who and where the chances apply and why I think they should or shouldn’t go to South Africa.
Suffice to say, several positions have opened up through injury and whilst no-one wants to miss out, sometimes injury can allow players who may not have been chosen to push forward into the squad. England, in recent big tournaments has seen certain players stamp there mark on big tournaments for differing reasons.
John Barnes in 1986 and 1990 saw both sides of the coin. An electric substitute appearance against Argentina in the 1986 World Cup was well remembered, Barnes’ absence through injury in 1990 saw the side progress to the semi-finals. After years of sub-par England performances, the 1990 World Cup was the nadir for his international career as the fans grew tired of his failure to replicate his phenomenal league performances at international level.
Peter Beardsley also saw his international stock rise in 1986 and formed a fabulous partnership with Gary Lineker, but only with England facing expulsion in the first round. After replacing Mark Hateley in the starting line up against Poland, Beardsley never looked back and slotted in for the next 5 seasons.
Mark Wright, for many, England’s stand out centre half in the run up to 1986, missed the tournament after breaking a leg. His replacement, Terry Fenwick is not favourably remembered by many England fans. Wright would show his true quality in the 1990 tournament, scoring the goal that allowed England to progress into the knock out stages and continue to play until injury finally caught up with him.
David Platt was another who made a name for himself through the misfortune of another. A peripheral player, it was Bryan Robson’s injury against Belgium that saw Platt write his name in England’s history, with a winner in the last minute of extra time in the same match. That effectively ended Robson’s international career, whilst Platt’s reputation went through the roof.
David Beckham will always remember 1998 in France for all the wrong reasons, but pushed those memories to one side when he scored the winner against Argentina in 2002. Beckham, at the time, was playing his best football of his career, probably since that sending off in St. Etienne. That red card made him the player he became in my eyes and pushed him upward towards the iconic status he holds in English football these days.
Overall though, the next 3 months will see several players try everything in their power to make that final squad of 23 that will embark to the base of Rustenberg in June. There are spaces in the England team, no doubt about it, perhaps more than we can think of right now, but I honestly think 8 squad places are up for grabs and I’ll cover who I think can make it over the next few days. Please leave me your comments and thoughts on who you’d like to see in Fabio’s final 23.