Connect with us


The England Outsiders #4. The Midfielders

It was often said through out much of the last ten years that England’s midfield was its strongest point. With Beckham in his pomp and Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard ably assisted by a constant rotation of players wedged in to the left midfield position, it often felt a little hollow. In the big games, they disappeared too easily. Until Capello arrived, it was constantly suggested that Gerrard and Lampard couldn’t play together and to some degree it was correct. Yet, great players should be able to fit in to any system, regardless of their natural instincts.

For South Africa 2010, things are very different. Of course, Beckham has no chance to play in the World Cup, which is unfortunate. Gerrard has had his worst season since becoming a first team regular at Liverpool as Liverpool huffed and puffed their way through dull performance after dull performance. Even the ever consistent Lampard had his struggles at the beginning of the season as he tried to familiarise himself with Ancellotti’s diamond formation but has been rampant over the last few weeks.

Add to that the major worries that Capello has on England’s right side. Walcott out of form and in and out of the side, Shaun Wright-Phillips struggling and Aaron Lennon just returning to the Spurs squad. Of course, James Milner could easily slip into that position, but he’s been excellent playing through the middle for Villa this season and the managers quandary becomes apparent. The left side also is far from decided, with Joe Cole, Stewart Downing, Adam Johnson and Ashley Young all having a claim on the position too.

Choices, choices choices but who to take. In 2006, Eriksson chose 9 midfielders in his squad of 23 and in 2002 took 7 midfielders. I’ve already picked 12 out of 23, which means I may have reflectively bump someone from the back line, but I’m going for 7 midfielders to join the squad.Gerrard, Lampard and Barry are all shoe-ins for me, no question. The question is who to add to that trio.

Crucially, James Milner has to be in, simply because he has been consistently outstanding this season. His ability to play on either wing, through the middle and even at right back cannot be overlooked. Sometimes a player who is so adaptable can sometimes be overlooked, but Milner’s case for inclusion is too strong. England’s record cap holder at Under 21 level has now progressed to becoming a valuable member of the squad. He has to be on the plane to South Africa.

That leaves several players scrapping for just 3 places, so best to rule a few out immediately. Adam Johnson, despite some rather unusual clamour for him to be included may find this is a tournament too early for him. He’s not really settled in to the Manchester City side, but is playing regularly but it would be a massive risk to take him as an international novice. Look at Theo Walcott in 2006, he never got a sniff of the first team and it probably cost England that they didn’t take Defoe or Bent instead. A bold move that backfired spectacularly.

Ashley Young is another one who is simply too widely inconsistent to be chosen along with Stewart Downing. Both Villa wing men can be devastating on their day but I don’t feel either can match the 3 wide players that I’ve chosen. Young is also easily got at, defenders can easily wind him up and he retreats into his shell too easily when things go against him. His distribution is so inconsistent as to be astounding, yes he may have pace by the bucket-load but invariably wastes great opportunities.

Downing, for all the clamour for a natural left footer, also flatters to deceive. I have constantly been amazed at the amount of hype this lad has had burdening him for so long because I can’t see what all the fuss is about. I’m assured by Middlesbrough fans he is a fantastic player, but I’ve never seen him have a great game, unlike some of his England rivals. So sorry, no place for him either.

The three I’ve plumped for may be classed as risks, but in the circumstances, all 3 can give us something the other contenders can’t. First up, Theo Walcott. The night he scored a hat trick against Croatia saw him jump in estimation, both in England and abroad. He has certainly continued to improve but still can’t force himself to become a regular at Arsenal. That’s no disrespect towards the lad, but he has been in devastating form for Arsenal when in form this year.

The other two may be the biggest risks of the lot, Joe Cole and Aaron Lennon. Both players have at times shown ability and skill that set them apart and both have benefited from the tutelage of Harry Redknapp. Lennon was highly regarded when he joined Spurs but he would be the first to admit that he’d slightly lost his way a little before Redknapp became manager. Until his injury, Lennon was playing the best football of his career and gave Spurs a thrust down the right flank that they’ve missed since December.

With him only just returning to fitness, Lennon could be a major risk but it could also be a bonus to take such devastating pace that has effectively had a four month break. Cole meanwhile has had similar struggles with injury and has the additional stress of his contract expiring in the summer. He is certain to be sure of plenty of suitors regardless of whether he stays at Chelsea or not. Cole has had a tough season but his grit is extremely underrated. Cole is a fighter, he digs in and he gives 100%, England can ask for nothing less.

So that’s my 7 midfielders for South Africa. Gerrard, Lampard, Barry, Milner, Walcott, Lennon and Cole. With my choice of Ledley King too, it gives us cover in midfield if really required, but I feel those 7 can cover all eventualities. It’s got experience, pace, adaptability and skill. What do you think? Please let me know below:
200+ Channels With Sports & News
  • Starting price: $33/mo. for fubo Latino Package
  • Watch Premier League, World Cup, Euro 2024 & more
  • Includes NBC, USA, FOX, ESPN, CBSSN & more
Live & On Demand TV Streaming
  • Price: $69.99/mo. for Entertainment package
  • Watch World Cup, Euro 2024 & MLS
  • Includes ESPN, ESPN2, FS1 + local channels
Many Sports & ESPN Originals
  • Price: $6.99/mo. (or get ESPN+, Hulu & Disney+ for $13.99/mo.)
  • Features Bundesliga, LaLiga, Championship, & more
  • Also includes daily ESPN FC news & highlights show
2,000+ soccer games per year
  • Price: $4.99/mo
  • Features Champions League, Serie A, Europa League & NWSL
  • Includes CBS, Star Trek & CBS Sports HQ
175 Premier League Games & PL TV
  • Starting price: $4.99/mo. for Peacock Premium
  • Watch 175 exclusive EPL games per season
  • Includes Premier League TV channel plus movies, TV shows & more


  1. Phillip Badger

    April 27, 2010 at 8:36 pm

    If we’re talking about in-form players and consistency over the season, Huddlestone deserves to be in there over Carrick. And btw, the international game suits Hudd way more than Carrick, as he’ll spray passes across the field all day long.

    Assuming 8 midfielders: Lampard, Gerrard, Barry, Lennon, Milner, JCole, Walcott, and Huddlestone. The first 4 start.

    • unclesand

      April 28, 2010 at 9:22 am

      i like huddlestone but carrick’s experience make’s him a far better choice (one previous world cup, two champion’s league finals etc). the fact that he ‘grew up’ with lampard and cole at west ham also makes him a good fit with the current group. disclaimer: i am not a man utd fan.
      a spurs regular that i know says huddlestone’s the best passer of a football that they’ve had at white hart lane since hoddle. his time will come…

  2. BigChet

    April 27, 2010 at 8:19 pm

    I would replace Joe Cole with Adam Johnson. He’s really lifted City since he’s come to them and he can play either side. I don’t think he’ll get much of a shot at taking the set plays, but he’s been better at them this year then Gerrard or Milner.

    Though Barry’s a shoe-in, I’m not comfortable with the season he’s had.

  3. thomas

    April 27, 2010 at 7:43 pm

    lamps and stevie g are shoe ins…barry as well.

    millners form and ability to play across midfield make him an obvious inclusion.

    carrick has featured for united all season and capello surely will take the big game experienece and ability to cover for barry into account.

    I think joe cole playing more consistabtly and his ability to play both wings will earn him inclusion as well.

    that leaves 2 spots,assuming fab decides 8 midfielders is appropriate, for young_ downing_ johnson_ walcott, and the rest.

    though capello favors in form players, I think it’s going to be very difficult for him to leave out aaron lennon…of the remaining players he is the most consistent and if anything can provide a real spark if capello chooses to use him from the bench.

    that really leaves johnson downing and young fighting for one last place in the team if cap decides to even take 8 mf players..i think downing is out leaving the decision hanging on capello picking the man in form (johnson) or the one who can change a game just as easily as he can disappear (young).

    the mf selection headache becomes even more difficult when you factor in the issue of the strikers…rooney and heskey are shoe ins..defoe will surely go. You would assume crouch will go as well. Then there’s still the ussue of darren bent, zamora, and carlton cole..

  4. unclesand

    April 27, 2010 at 7:30 pm

    think you’re spot on with your seven. capello has said in the last couple of days that he will take two specialist players for each position. that means eight midfield players and the eighth one will be michael carrick, who can play as a ‘holder’ if barry gets injured.

  5. Kishore

    April 27, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    If you think Ashley Young is too inconsistent to be in the squad…in which way is Walcott different…I’ve seen this little fella down the years and I believe his progress has been very little…you’ve probably heard this millions of times but other than his pace…you don’t really see what he’s good at…8/10 crosses don’t reach their intended target,finishing has left much to be desired with and he goes missing in games far too often….the only advantage I would say he has over Young is his international experience…but having said that,I wouldn’t really take Young either…so for me,Young and Walcott out….get in someone else

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

More in General

Translate »