Belfast Telegraph

Steven Beacom: Captain Marvel and the Fantastic Four

Just Bobby Moore. He’s the only one to have lifted it. Others, before him and after, tried and failed.

Billy Wright, Johnny Haynes, Mick Mills, Bryan Robson, Peter Shilton, Terry Butcher, Alan Shearer and David Beckham.

Some of the biggest names in English football. All captains of their country at a World Cup and not a medal between them.

Steven Gerrard does not want to be added to that list.

Looking as determined and as focused as I’ve ever seen him on national team duty, he’s saying England are in South Africa to bring the trophy home.

No messing about, a bit like the way he plays.

At his best Stevie G is an all-action hero. For Liverpool over the past decade he’s been Superman, Batman and Spiderman rolled into one. Fighting danger for his beloved Reds and performing miraculous deeds. At times the only thing missing was a cape.

It hasn’t exactly been the same story when he’s been wearing the white of England, but his country desperately needs him to be captain marvel now.

Gerrard seems like a reluctant skipper for England.

He’s certainly not one to guard the honour with his life like, say Beckham did.

That’s maybe not surprising given that he was a distant third choice for Fabio Capello until Rio Ferdinand’s injury added to John Terry’s insulting behaviour and left Gerrard holding the armband.

But in his own often understated way marching out in front of his team-mates tomorrow in England’s first World Cup match against the USA will mean a lot to the boy brought up on the streets and parks of Huyton on Merseyside.

At Liverpool Gerrard has always been one to lead by example. Actions rather that words have inspired.

He will become more vocal in South Africa, but it will still be what he does rather than says which will be more important.

Gerrard has played 80 times for his country, scoring 16 goals, yet it’s difficult to pick out many matches in which he has completely dominated the way he has done on countless occasions for Liverpool.

This is a guy who virtually won Champions League finals and FA Cup finals on his own, but at international level his career hasn’t got close to those dizzy heights.

He’s been good, without being great, with too many managers not knowing where his best position is.

For the start of the tournament Capello should stick him in the centre of midfield, yes with Frank Lampard, and as the tougher tests come in the knockout stages he should play just behind Wayne Rooney in what would be a devastating double act.

For me the two gifted scousers, along with the solidity of Terry, skill of Joe Cole and speed of Aaron Lennon, can take England close to repeating the feats of captain Moore and his 1966 vintage. I’m not sure that Gerrard will play in another World Cup, so this is his time, his moment to prove that he can shine on the biggest stage of all.

He’s just come off the back of a horrid campaign with Liverpool and his future at Anfield remains unclear with Real Madrid ready to pounce.

For once, though, Liverpool has been placed at the back of his mind.

It’s all about England now.

His country will feel the|benefit.

Wayne Rooney

Out of all the key players to pick, this one is the easiest. So much rests on Rooney’s shoulders. He’s the main man on and off the pitch. The England players know with Rooney on the pitch virtually anything is possible. Should he get injured or suspended, and both are possible if history is anything to go by, the morale in the England camp will take a severe dip from which they may not recover.

Has it all, including a fierce temper. If he keeps cool, England could go all the way to the final.

Aaron Lennon

He’ll be under a bit of pressure with Theo Walcott omitted from the squad, but he has the ability to deliver. In the last World Cup, he was one of the few England players to shine and is a much more experienced operator now.

Whether Fabio Capello starts him or not remains to be seen, but if he is on the bench he has the makings of a brilliant impact substitute, with his searing pace against tiring defenders. And a right flank partnership with Glen Johnson could be devastating if they gel. If Lennon doesn’t shine, England will have to look to Shaun-Wright Phillips to be their key wing man. Capello does not want to go down that road.

Joe Cole

I am surprised that Chelsea are allowing Cole to leave on a free transfer because I’ve always rated him. Maybe those apparent wage demands are too rich for Roman Abramovich’s blood. It could work in England’s favour though because Cole will feel he has something to prove. Joe could have been a juggler in the circus, such are his ball skills which can make high class defenders look like clowns. He’s a bit of a maverick, but having a little bit of the unexpected can be crucial at international level.

John Terry

I don’t think losing Rio Ferdinand to injury is a big deal. Had it been Terry, I reckon England would have had greater concerns. I wouldn’t invite JT to dinner but I’d always have him in my team. Strong in the air, better on the ground than he’s given credit for and a tremendous organiser who can score goals. Who wouldn’t want that? Well, any team that Wayne Bridge manages in the future obviously! England are going to have to defend well in this tournament to have a prayer. If Terry is at his best and has focus on the job in hand rather than what lost him the England captaincy, they will be tough to beat.

Belfast Telegraph


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