Typical. Just when he’s definitely lost the job after clinging on grimly for years, an England manager finally gets the hang of it. Benefiting from the merry-go-round of the selection of his successor Sven has quietly been allowed to get on with the job in hand and has now revealed his masterstroke of including Arsenal’s Theo Walcott in England’s world cup squad.
That is, of course, provided he has absolutely no intention of using Walcott on the field of play this summer. Goodness me, no. He hasn’t kicked a ball in senior action since he left Southampton in January. He’s never played at the top level of the game at all. He’s only played 23 games in his whole professional career. There’s every chance that Walcott will be a great England international of the future, but he should be going along this time just to see what the whole experience is like so that when he’s included for real he’s ready.
And there are other benefits. Let’s be honest, only 14 or 15 of any world cup squad are going to get any meaningful playing time. At the last world cup five England squad members were completely unused (Brown, Keown, Southgate, Martyn and James) while Robbie Fowler only played the second half of the 3-0 win over Denmark and Joe Cole and Wayne Bridge got half an hour between them. It was much the same story in France ’98.
What you want from the guys who won’t play is delight simply that they’re there and staunch support for the key players, enthusiasm and encouragement that will hopefully have a positive effect throughout the squad. If a team is actually using its third choice keeper or third backup centre half it’s already all over anyway.
Cole and Ferdinand the younger, now stars of the squad, must have learned a lot from their first trips to big tournaments. Sven’s carrying on with that tradition, only now with more conviction (young goalkeeper Robert Green has also been selected) and, perhaps, added sly cunning. Walcott’s inclusion, technically a footnote at the bottom of the squad, has gloriously deflected attention both from desperately over-exposed senior players and more subtly, two surprise inclusions he might actually want to use. While everyone’s pursuing Walcott, Tottenham’s Aaron Lennon and Middlesbrough’s Stewart Downing have taken their place in the squad with very little fanfare. If Sven’s idea really was to focus all the attention on a lad who won’t play, you have to take your hat off to him.
Picture via billca's Flickr stream.