Chris Waddle has added his support to the prospect of Michael Carrick playing in defence for England against San Marino on Friday, and gone further by suggesting that Steven Gerrard should play there in the long term.
Roy Hodgson is understood to be considering playing Carrick in the back four against the Sammarinese minnows at Wembley and Waddle said yesterday: "We don't need two [orthodox] centre-halves against San Marino. But if Hodgson puts two midfield players at centre-half, people will say, 'What is he doing that for?'
"The Germans have done it for years – Lothar Mattheus, Franz Beckenbauer, Matthias Sammer all went back there. I think we should do that more."
Carrick has played some matches in the back four for Manchester United over the past two seasons, because of injury problems, with mixed results. He was bullied by Marouane Fellaini earlier this season at Everton, but has looked more comfortable at other times.
"I thought Carrick has played all right at centre-half," Waddle said. "Why can't he play there? He's quite mobile and he reads the game very well. Just because he doesn't go and win headers and thump people, people go, 'I wouldn't have him there'."
Waddle, one of the most technically gifted English players of the last 30 years, has long been frustrated at the lack of adeptness in possession of many English players, especially defenders.
The former winger, capped 62 times, who is now an ESPN pundit, added: "I've always like Rio Ferdinand. He has played midfield when he was growing up and he is technically good. But Joleon Lescott and Phil Jagielka don't look comfortable on the ball.
"I think Steven Gerrard could end up playing in a back four when his legs aren't capable of playing box-to-box any more. He's good enough to convert to a full-back or centre-half, he's competitive, he reads the game brilliantly, he has a terrific range of passing.
"We pigeonhole a player in a position, then we say, 'He hasn't got the legs now, get rid of him'. Put him in a different position. You wouldn't say Glenn Hoddle is a physical player but he did it [at Swindon and Chelsea]. You might get muscled out of a tackle, you might lose a 50-50, but in modern football the aggressive centre-halves, the bully boys with split eyes, have gone. You tackle once it's a yellow card, the second tackle you're gone. You want players who can intercept, who can read the game, and nick the ball.
"In two years, instead of saying 'Gerrard hasn't the legs' say, 'he'll make a good centre-half'. He'd make an ideal sweeper, but if we play three at the back we haven't got a clue. Look at Italy at Euro 2012. They went three at the back, 4-5-1, 4-4-2, three at the back again. Why can't we do that? If you are a good footballer and you read the game you can play any system you want. We should be able to adapt.
"When you are growing up in England they look at you and go, 'You're a centre-half, you're a winger', and you are stuck there. We don't educate them. They should say, 'The next four games you are playing at right-back, you'll make mistakes at first but you'll learn.' I played everywhere, I learnt all the positions.
"I played a season in goal. I learnt the game. If you understand the game, you have a decent touch, you can pass from A to B, then you should be able to play everywhere. I bet Xavi could play centre-half. I'm not saying he'll win headers, but he can play there."
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