McClaren’s named his England squad for the Euro qualifiers in October against Macedonia and Croatia. Not too many surprises, but with the injury list the national team has had, we’ve learned a little about the gaffer’s thought process. And I have to say that I’m fairly pleased.
First and foremost is the inclusion of Scott Parker. Sure, it seemed like a no-brainer with Hargreaves out with a broken leg, but you can never be sure. This is the move McClaren had to make. It will be such a relief if Parker assumes the holding role. Carrick is still in the squad (as is Jenas...), and I still fear that Carrick will start, simply because of the name recognition and the fact he now plays for Manchester United. And while I like Carrick as a player, it would be the absolute wrong decision.
Primarily, Carrick is not a holding midfielder. He is the quarterback of the team, a poor man’s Xabi Alonso or Jan Mølby if we’re being generous. He’s an outstanding passer, but his tackling is atrocious and his defensive positioning is appalling too. Also, Carrick, like Molby and Alonso, plays at a slow pace, controlling the tempo and staying fairly close to the center circle. Which is not what England needs at all.
Parker is a true box-to-box midfielder. He’s excellent in the tackle, and will cover the entire field attempting to disrupt play. But he’ll push forward as well. He’s scored twice for Newcastle this season, with a header and a long-range shot. He has no real problem supporting the attack, but with Gerrard and Lampard in the team, he’ll have no real need to. I really am hoping Parker starts. Please have some guts, Steve.
It’s good to see Defoe and Johnson get the nod over Bent as well. Bent has not impressed at the national level when he’s been given the chance, and even though he’s still scoring in the Prem, he’s under-impressed so far this year. Andy Johnson has been the best striker in the league so far this season, and I still believe that Defoe is a better prospect that Bent, and should be included even if the entire Tottenham squad is misfiring.
Rooney’s return to fitness should prevent Crouch from starting, which is a shame given him recent form for England, but I really want to see a partnership of Rooney and Johnson, as it feels as if it would be fairly productive. Plus, it’ll give the bitter Evertonians something to ponder over when they wonder what could have been if Shrek really believed that once a blue, always a blue.
Full England Squad:
Robinson (Tottenham), Foster (Man Utd), Kirkland (Wigan)
G Neville (Man Utd), P Neville (Everton), Brown (Man Utd), Terry (Chelsea), Ferdinand (Man Utd), Carragher (Liverpool), King (Tottenham), A Cole (Chelsea), Bridge (Chelsea)
Lampard (Chelsea), Gerrard (Liverpool), Jenas (Tottenham), Carrick (Man Utd), Richardson (Man Utd), Downing (Middlesbrough), Wright-Phillips (Chelsea), Parker (Newcastle)
Rooney (Man Utd), Crouch (Liverpool), Johnson (Everton), Defoe (Spurs)