The recent revelations from John Terry’s bete noire, the News of the World, about their tangled private lives have led to the claim from Wayne Bridge that he won’t play in an England team with Terry in it. Putting aside the tedious captaincy issue for now, Terry is still a dead certainty to be in the squad for the World Cup, so this brought to my mind the question “Will Wayne Bridge be in the squad?”
For a fair few years, Bridge has been the unquestioned 1st choice backup to Ashley Cole (another fairly regular presence in the wrong sections of the less salubrious newspapers) in the England setup and for a time at club level as well. In a bid to get out from under Cole’s shadow Bridge moved to Manchester City a year ago but a strong start has faded somewhat since the current season began and currently Bridge is out injured.
There are only two more games left for England before the squad is due to be announced so only a handful of changes to the group involved up to now are expected. These developments have put extra speculation on Bridge’s position in the squad, coupled as they are with the dazzling form of Leighton Baines.
I simply can’t bring myself to the great levels of self-righteous moralising seen in various corners of the media over the weekend. Terry’s catalogue of PR gaffes, not entirely his own doing, are entirely unrelated to his ability to play football and should not detract from his involvement and, but for injury between now and the end of the season, there is absolutely no chance that he will miss out. He may lose the captaincy for this latest indiscretion but definitely not his place on the plane. He is one of a group of players,formed of most of the regular first choice XI, already assured of their name being on the list of 23 to be chosen in May:
John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, Ashley Cole, Glen Johnson, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Gareth Barry, Wayne Rooney, Emile Heskey
The big question marks, more important even than the one over Bridge, are surrounding the goalkeeping places, who will be the right-sided midfielder and who will be back up to Heskey and Rooney up front.
3 goalkeepers will go to the World Cup- almost definitely 3 of David James, Ben Foster, Robert Green and Joe Hart. As for who will get the shirt with ‘1’ on the back and start the first game, James is probably favourite but not by much. On current form, Hart is streets ahead of Foster and Green but will the situation be the same in 4 months?
Of the 23 places, probably only 4 will go to strikers meaning that there is room for 2 men to go along with Rooney and Heskey. The men in possession right now are Peter Crouch and Jermaine Defoe, but Carlton Cole and Darren Bent are knocking on the door. Gabby Agbonlahor and even Michael Owen are still theoretically in the picture as well. As a backup for both a forward role and a wide midfielder, Theo Walcott is in the frame having had some fine moments in qualifying.
Midfield is an interesting area- will Capello stick with David Beckham? Will there be room for Joe Cole? Will Aaron Lennon make it back in time? Alongside Gerrard, Lampard and Barry, my money is on Beckham, Lennon, James Milner, Stuart Downing and one of Joe Cole and Theo Walcott. Injuries are highly likely to come into the choice when the time arrives, but there are other names in the hat, though not many of them central midfielders.
If we assume the back four will be the usual first choices mentioned above, we have 4 more places to fill with spare defenders- possibly 3 if Capello decides he prefers more options further forward. In the centre, Matthew Upson is next in line with Gary Cahill pressing hard, and Birmingham’s Roger Johnson and/or Scott Dann may yet sneak in. On the right, Gary Neville was recalled by Capello towards the end of qualifying but his time has surely passed, the more mobile and slightly less injury prone Wes Brown should find his name on the list, leaving us only with the left-back problem to solve. It looks like Bridge will have to forego a role at the World Cup to keep his self-respect, and Baines is the outstanding candidate (practically the only candidate admittedly) after him.
My 23 would therefore look something like this:
David James, Robert Green, Joe Hart
John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, Glen Johnson, Ashley Cole, Matthew Upson, Wes Brown, Leighton Baines
Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Gareth Barry, David Beckham, Aaron Lennon, James Milner, Joe Cole, Theo Walcott
Wayne Rooney, Emile Heskey, Jermaine Defoe, Peter Crouch