Belfast Telegraph

Alan Green: It’ll take more than one win to forgive England’s chokers

Lest anyone forgets: this is barely two months after (barring 1994 when they didn’t even qualify) England’s worst World Cup performance in 20 years. There should be no ‘forgetting’, no ‘forgiving’.

And account must be taken of how bad that Bulgarian team is: as bad as the latest toupee worn by Mihailov senior in the pre-match presentation!

However, for the most part, Capello’s team played well on Friday night. It wasn’t a display that had you cheering from the rafters and it didn’t make me think this is a team that can win the European Championship in 2012.

Surely South Africa has buried such unfounded optimism for many years to come? But there were quite a few plus points.

For a start, later than many of us would have wished, England have a proper goalkeeper on duty.

Joe Hart didn’t have a great deal to do. Perhaps his best save was preventing an own goal by Glen Johnson. Yet there’s an air of calmness and confidence about the young man. You aren't wondering when the mistake will come along.

Of course, there will be errors from time to time but this is the first England goalkeeper since David Seaman that I have total faith in. Hart will be in that goal long after I’ve left the commentary scene.

Ahead of him, I thought, even given the paucity of the ‘threat’ posed, that Jagielka and Dawson formed a good partnership until injury robbed us of the Spurs defender. Again, some of us felt Dawson should have been ahead of Carragher and Upson during the summer. Certainly, no-one missed Terry.

More importantly, I didn’t pine for Lampard in midfield. At last, Gerrard played where he should be playing, in the centre.

How long have I argued that; if you can’t get the two of them to tandem successfully, you must choose between them?

And, if it’s a choice, it HAS to be Gerrard. Rooney, too, was far more like his real self. It’s obvious now what was ‘distracting’ him during the World Cup.

Perhaps, at Wembley, he had accepted what ‘might’ come out was going to come out.

A bit like Ashley Cole and Terry, my business isn’t to judge the morals of players, rather their ability. And Rooney’s the best we’ve got. It’s up to Capello to decide if the player’s mental state is suitable to play.

I hope so. I liked how he worked so unselfishly for Defoe who is a finisher, pure and simple: a throw back to a Lineker or a Greaves.

How Switzerland could do with a Defoe. I’m still baffled as to how they beat Spain in the World Cup. They are an exceedingly ordinary, defensive team under Hitzfeld.

Their last 10 games saw them score just four times.

They’ll be better than Bulgaria. Who wouldn’t be?

But the confidence England picked up from Friday night should see them leave Basle this evening with at least a point. I fancy they’ll win.

Belfast Telegraph


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