Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Alan Green: Anyone could manage England why can't Mac?

I fully expect England to beat Israel tonight but, if they don't, qualification for next summer's European Championship will likely be beyond reach and Steve McClaren should be out on his ear.

The draw was made before England's under-whelming show in the World Cup but I know of no one that anticipated a tricky qualifying campaign.

Eriksson's squad may have tripped up at the quarter-final stage, yet again, but the likes of Croatia and Russia, never mind Israel, seemed unlikely obstacles on the road to Austria and Switzerland. Not so.

The Croatians are out of sight which might just be of help if England can still qualify come the final group match at Wembley, but anything other than a win this evening and another on Wednesday night against Guus Hiddink's Russia will be devastating.

Why should the coach carry the can? Don't the players, this 'golden generation', share equal responsibility for this uncertainty?

Yes, of course, they do to a degree but Ricky Tomlinson could have produced more from this lot.

The shambolic use of substitutes against Germany rather summed it up; bringing on Peter Crouch when he's suspended for tonight; not bringing on Jermain Defoe; using Gareth Barry in the centre of midfield rather than on the left; putting Shaun Wright-Phillips there whilst continuing with David Beckham on the right because "David said he needed the minutes." Laughable.

It's come to a pretty pass when most all of us think we could do better than McClaren.

And then there's been the return of Emile Heskey.

Now I like the big fella and his contribution for clubs and country has been underestimated.

But it comes to something when, the weekend before a critical game, the coach talks to his less than fully match-fit striker and asks him who he'd like to play with.

Heskey wasn't even anywhere near the squad. McClaren's desperate and I'd go for Andy Johnson anyway.

Just as I'd have David James replace Paul Robinson in goal.

It's not so much that Robinson's made some big mistakes - James can match him on that count - it's that the Tottenham goalkeeper carries this air of " Who, me sir? Not me, sir." I don't like that.

In contrast, James, knowing that his biggest problem was a certain lack of concentration, has really knuckled down over the last season or two.

You can rely on him more than Robinson.

It might all come down to Steven Gerrard.

While he's been contemplating his broken toe, he'll have noticed how well Liverpool have coped without him.

That won't have distressed him.

Rather it will have buttressed a growing feeling that his beloved club are at last ready to challenge for the title.

But it might encourage Gerrard to believe tonight's a good time to re-emphasise his importance to his country. Israel cannot resist a Gerrard on top form, injection or no injection. Over to you, Stevie G.



What a load of Ballacks

I've given it a couple of days in case something turned up that would explain all, but it hasn't. Chelsea appear to have delivered a massive snub to Michael Ballack by excluding him from their Champions League squad.

'Injury' is not an acceptable reason. The management of the German national team is expecting their captain to be available for the European qualifiers next month. They say that Ballack's ankle is definitely healing. In any case, his treatment is far in advance to that of Wayne Bridge who IS named in the squad of 23.

No, the ONLY logical explanation is that Jose Mourinho doesn't want Ballack cup-tied - he's likely to be ready for the final group match at the latest - and therefore be less attractive to the transfer market in January.

I wonder what Roman Abramovich thinks about that? Or maybe, given his evident unhappiness at the way Chelsea are playing, the owner is too busy to notice as he researches the quickest ways out of football grounds?

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