Old head James relishes a return to No 1

The 'keeper's new-found sangfroid during and after Saturday's game contrasted with Green's mad moment, says Ian Herbert

Don't imagine there will be any kind of sentimentality from David James for the sent off Robert Green because you don't achieve the kind of international longevity that James has enjoyed with feelings like that. When his former Portsmouth team-mate Matt Taylor missed a golden opportunity to put the ball past him for Bolton Wanderers last season, James was asked if he felt for him. "When you leave my team, mate, I want you to get beat," he said. "That's the way it is, so I'm happy."

James knows for sure now that he will not have to wait beyond Wednesday, against Belarus, for his 50th England cap, which is the just reward for his perseverance and considerable improvement. He will have offered consolation to Green, suspended for that game, when he finally placed an arm on his shoulder on the team bus to Dnipropetrovsk airport on Saturday night – James had not seen him in the dressing room – but he made no use of the mitigating factors at his disposal. "What's the problem?" James asked, as he reflected on the flares which flew an inch past his head and had set Green's penalty area on fire 12 minutes before Rio Ferdinand's aerial misjudgement relit it. "I noticed the ones in front of me. When I was on the bench I saw it and I have been told I was also hit by a flare. It might be utter tosh but one of the lads on the bench said it might have been a ploy to [make us] swap ends. We went down the other end and there were 20 flares on the pitch. Greeny had more than I did. But it was fine."

Neither was Fabio Capello willing to contemplate the suggestion that the flares which spat sparks in Green's area might have been at the back of the goalkeeper's mind as he raced into his lumpen challenge on Artem Milevskiy. "No, no," Capello interrupted. "The flares or the penalty are no excuse." John Terry confirmed first impressions that Green, like Ferdinand, was at fault. "At times you just mistime things and he's seen he could get there and couldn't. He will probably look at it and think he could have got there, but he was just a second too late."

So James returns to the ascendancy, his prospects of emulating Dino Zoff – the goalkeeper who was 40 and playing in the 1982 World Cup – highly probable. The cool and fatalistic way James talks about the game reveals he has the measure of it now and that a fair share of his own terrible moments has equipped him with a sangfroid England can use.

"There was the 'Deal or No Deal' moment when the team went up and I was not in it so I just thought let's crack on and win the game anyway," he reflected of Saturday evening's events. "I did not expect to get on [the pitch] but I was prepared." Compare that with Green, who marched out of the Dnipro Stadium without a word or a glance. Not impressive.

James wasn't having Ferdinand ruining his night, either. When the defender had allowed Yaroslav Rakytskyy to slide a ball through for substitute Andriy Yarmolenko in the second half, James blocked well. That he should be back out there again is a measure, though, of the way goalkeeping, as surely as carmaking and coalmining, is a lost English tradition. Across the course of nearly 40 years, just about four keepers – Gordon Banks, Ray Clemence, Peter Shilton and David Seaman – served the nation. Across the course of Capello's 23-month tenure, double that number have popped up in squad lists: James, Green, Paul Robinson, Joe Hart, Ben Foster, Chris Kirkland, Scott Carson and even Peterborough United's Joe Lewis. Capello has grubbed around for one everywhere.

You feel he still hasn't found what he's looking for, either. While Foster is struggling to arrive in the game, Carson, you think, will always be saddled with the horrors of Croatia, Wembley, November 2007. Robinson was so traumatised by memories of Zagreb and Moscow with England when he arrived at Blackburn Rovers that he is still unwilling to talk about that time.

Green, meanwhile, has glided up the rankings, by default and not without fault. There has been an element of doom about his international career. He missed most of his last chance to play Belarus when rupturing a groin taking a goal kick against them in an England B game in 2006, which also put him out of that year's World Cup, and his previous five starts for his country included a nervy first half in Kazakhstan. England's rampant wins over Croatia and Andorra have dimmed memories of his bad flap at a cross which almost had England behind after 19 seconds in Almaty.

This means a goalkeeper nearing his 40th birthday will probably carry England's hopes into South Africa, though the years are surely inconsequential. James radiates more of a lustre turning 40 than he did at 30 and, besides, Shilton was three months off 41 when he went to Italia '90. It was only when the tournament was effectively over that he dithered fatally over a backpass and allowed Italy's Roberto Baggio in during the third-place play-off. Seaman was 38 at the 2002 tournament – and another error, from Ronaldinho's free-kick – proved to be the beginning of the end for him.

Back then, England managers didn't preoccupy themselves with goalkeepers in World Cup seasons, but Capello will still be looking around. Perhaps he can take succour from the thought both James and Green will be busy at the wrong end of the Premier League for the next eight months. Or maybe not. The old Banks of England are long gone and there are some serious safecrackers just around the corner.

News
The cartoon produced by Bruce MacKinnon for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Thursday, showing the bronze soldiers of the war memorial in Ottawa welcoming Corporal Cirillo into their midst
news
News
peopleFox presenter gives her less than favourable view of women in politics
Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into disastrous conflicts
News
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Property
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
property
Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift performs at the 2014 iHeart Radio Music Festival
musicReview: 1989's songs attempt to encapsulate dramatic emotional change in a few striking lines
News
Mario Balotelli has been accused of 'threateningly' telling a woman to stop photographing his Ferrari
peoplePolice investigate claim Balotelli acted 'threateningly' towards a woman photographing his Ferrari
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Voices
Don’t try this at home: DIY has now fallen out of favour
voicesNick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of it
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
tv
Sport
Phil Jones (left) attempts to stop the progress of West Bromwich Albion’s James Morrison on Monday
I'm not worried about United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Arts and Entertainment
Saw point: Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in ‘Serena’
filmReview: Serena is a strangely dour and downbeat affair
Life and Style
The Zinger Double Down King, which is a bun-less burger released in Korea
food + drinkKFC unveils breadless meat beast
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker