England are left feeling light up front
Sunday 29 May 2011
The domestic season is almost over but there is much football to be played – too much of it for many club managers. As well as the final European Championship game of the season against Switzerland on Saturday, England teams are preparing for the European Under-21 and Under-19 tournaments and the Under-17 World Cup in Mexico. Their respective coaches are having to come to terms with seemingly inevitable withdrawals.
It does not take managers long to accustom themselves to these problems. Fabio Capello wearily anticipated them when he said after the friendly against Ghana: "I know what will happen... a lot of very important games... Premier League, Champions' League... players will be tired."
That Ghana match, England's most recent, was in March; the gridlocked fixture congestion meant it was impractical to plan anything for April or May. Some managers criticised the timing of a "meaningless" friendly but Capello, having released the Champions' League players back to their clubs in a spirit of co-operation, was able to look at understudies and give debuts to Danny Welbeck and Matt Jarvis.
Jack Wilshere was by common consent outstanding, Andy Carroll scored a fine goal and Stuart Pearce, alongside Capello, must have been glowing at the prospect of how they would perform for his Under-21s in Denmark this summer.
Alas, neither will be there. Arsenal, rather than fatigue, finally wore down Wilshere, who from feeling "good and strong" in the middle of this month was suddenly "tired and heading for an injury" when the squad was named a week later.
Carroll looked less than match-fit in a couple of lacklustre displays and Liverpool, whose manager Kenny Dalglish criticised the number of age-group tournaments, will be happy his season is over even before the Switzerland game.
There is invariably an element of sod's law to all this and with Wayne Rooney suspended and the decision taken to name only four strikers it was almost inevitable that one of them, Jermain Defoe, should be withdrawn while another, Bobby Zamora, was declared unready by his club. He will turn up when the squad assemble tomorrow.
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