Steve McClaren's decision to relegate Gareth Barry to the bench for tonight's friendly with Austria met with a mixed reaction from educated observers with most agreeing Aston Villa's captain has reason to feel aggrieved.
Graham Taylor, the former England manager, presumed McClaren must be resting Barry for Wednesday's Euro 2008 qualifying game against Croatia.
"To me it suggests he will play against Croatia," said Taylor, who managed Barry at Villa Park. "I can't see Steve McClaren playing his full team against Austria, though they may all be involved ."
Taylor added: "I think Gareth has done enough in the last few games not to have to play in a friendly to prove himself. While I've never been of the opinion that Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard can't play together – England have won more matches with them than they have lost – Gareth's natural left-foot does give the team balance in central midfield."
Joe Royle, the former Manchester City manager, had a similar interpretation. "I'd be surprised if Barry is dropped," said Royle. "He has been one of the few successes of late; even [in the recent defeat] against Russia I thought he did OK. I feel a bit sorry for him if he's out. But next week's match [against Croatia] is more important. This is a friendly which maybe gives Steve a chance to look at a few things."
The solution, said Trevor Francis, was to omit David Beckham. "The team doesn't surprise me because Steve McClaren, whenever asked about them, before and after games,always says Gerrard and Lampard play well together. He obviously feels they can work. I also feel they can, though it may not be a combination you'd pick in an ideal world."
The former England international and ex-Premier League manager added: "I couldn't understand why Lampard was dropped so I'm not going to argue he shouldn't come back, but Barry has played so well for England he does not warrant being left out. I would play all three and leave out Beckham, who no longer plays top-level football. Every player would like to win 100 caps but you cannot pick an international team on sentiment."
Gerry Francis, the former England captain, agreed. "The Beckham situation is incredible," he said. "It's like playing for Wormwood Scrubs, then England. You wouldn't have done it for Bobby Moore or Bobby Charlton. It is a joke."
He added: "Barry's done well, but so have Lampard and Gerrard in the past."
Steve Claridge, the much-travelled former player, now a pundit, said: "I've got no problem with the change. I understand Barry might feel hard done by but he's not been left out because he's played badly, he hasn't. He's being left out for someone who is better. No disrespect, but if you offered any manager in England Barry or Lampard, they would take Lampard."
Claridge added: "It made sense not to change the team for Moscow, but that midfield isn't going to win you the European Championships. This one just might. The shape and balance is better.
"People will say that Lampard and Gerrard have played badly together but they are missing the point. It's about the four in midfield, not just the two in the centre. The last time this four played together was against Brazil [in June] and they did well. The problems they had in the World Cup were different. The whole team defended too deep. If we keep a high line and get Beckham on the ball up the field the whole team will benefit.
"It's rubbish to say that Lampard and Gerrard cannot play together. They can complement each other. One can sit and one can go."
Out of exile Barry's international return
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