Every national squad needs a player of his class - International - Football - The Independent

Every national squad needs a player of his class

When he picks up the newspapers this morning to find that potentially the biggest international comeback since David Beckham's is no longer a secret, we must only hope Jamie Carragher does not change his mind.

He is a great player, a strong character and he can play centre-half or full-back – every World Cup finals squad should have a player like Carragher. He became dissatisfied with life under Sven Goran Eriksson and Steve McClaren but you suspect that he never stopped thinking about the prospect of playing international football again.

It is natural that Carragher will have reservations, not least because he played no part in qualification. But there is no time to feel guilty when there is a World Cup at stake and key players are struggling with injury. Ledley King played no part in England's World Cup qualification but no one would begrudge him a place in the squad.

Some will use against Carragher that passage from his autobiography in which he tells friends he would sooner have missed that 2006 World Cup penalty against Portugal than one for Liverpool. It was simply an honest answer to a straight question: the kind of opinion footballers are not supposed to have but in reality all do.

If this squad is to be picked on the basis of how patriotic a player is rather than how suited he is to competing in a major international tournament then we might as well put the Duke of York up front alongside Wayne Rooney and be done with it. It is not a requirement that every player should be a flag-waving little Englander, simply that for six weeks they want to do their best for their manager and their team-mates.

At 32, Carragher is still one of the best defenders in the Premier League and well suited to the tempo of international football. He faces Rooney, Drogba and so on every week, and presumably Torres in training every day. He has made crucial tackles at the highest level and on the biggest stage – just ask Andrei Shevchenko.

It would be just like the self-defeating English mentality to alienate Carragher in the next few days and undo all the work done by Fabio Capello and his staff to bring him back into the fold. Let us just accept Carragher is a Scouser first and English second, and this summer he could be a crucial asset.

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