Andy Cole: Crouch must be on the plane to South Africa – and I'd take King too

Forward thinking

Peter Crouch capped a fantastic season for Tottenham on Wednesday with the goal that takes Spurs into the Champions League for the first time. We can assume Crouch is a certainty for Fabio Capello's England squad for the World Cup, a subject to which we'll return shortly.

First, though, congratulations to Spurs; they deserved to win on the night. They created more chances. A final score of 2-0 would not have flattered them. Spurs have earned their place at Europe's top table. City fell short.

They won't fall short for much longer. Even as a diehard Manchester United supporter, I freely acknowledge City, with their Middle Eastern resources, will finish inside the top four more often than not from now on.

That might not be a bad thing. United will remain a "big four" club, obviously, and Chelsea too as long as Roman Abramovich bankrolls them. City will be there, which in my view means Arsenal and Liverpool will be vying to complete the top-four line-up next season, while Spurs and Aston Villa will also be pushing.

What a turn-up that clubs as big as Arsenal and Liverpool are scrapping to stay in the top four, even this season. Depending on results this weekend, Arsenal could finish as low as fourth when even a few weeks ago many people (me included), considered their run-in the simplest of the big teams, and thought they'd push for the title.

What a topsy-turvy season, but the reality is healthy future competition for top-four placings, which can only be good. As for this season's title, I can't go back on what I wrote last week: the Liverpool-Chelsea settled it, effectively. If Chelsea don't win it now, then... well let's just say I agree with my dad's view of sportsmen (cricketers mainly) who don't take golden opportunities. I remember as a boy, when Dad watched West Indies, he'd say: "If this lot lose it now, they deserve to be shot!" (Obviously as a United fan, I'll be supporting Wigan on Sunday, however forlornly).

Huge credit is due to Harry Redknapp for what he's done at Spurs, perhaps especially in acknowledging errors and sorting them out. Quite early on, it seemed Harry really didn't wanted to keep Heurelho Gomes, but he did keep him, and it transpires that those early wobbles were adjustment to England after years at PSV. The Brazilian 'keeper has turned out to be very important, not least on Wednesday.

Then there's Gareth Bale, another player who not so long ago appeared to be out of favour with Harry. Now Bale is a contender for the best left-sided footballer in Britain. If he were English, he'd be in Capello's squad without question.

I wouldn't dream of telling Capello who he should select, and I don't envy him some key decisions. But an early name on my list would be Ledley King. His problems with injury are well-known, as are the limitations on his training, but he is a magnificent footballer.

He's comfortable on the ball, he's got pace that's rare in a defender. You only had to look at what a great job he did against City on Wednesday to see his value. So I'd have him in.

There's been talk about Rio Ferdinand's fitness. Rio is a mate of mine and I was chatting to him the other day and he was telling me how excited he is about playing at the World Cup. Of course he doesn't know yet for sure whether Capello will pick him, but he's certainly raring to go, and doesn't believe his groin will be an issue.

Elsewhere in defence, John Terry must be in the squad, while Ashley Cole is the stand-out (only) option at left-back. Gary Neville has been rolling back the years at United with a shot at right-back in mind. I'd take him.

Three goalkeepers will go and I'd think the most likely and deserving are David James, Robert Green and Joe Hart. Hart has had a brilliant season and deserves his opportunity. Ben Foster has an outside chance.

Stevie Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Gareth Barry and James Milner are certainties in midfield: I'd endorse them all. If you're taking four strikers then it's Wayne Rooney, Crouch, Emile Heskey and Jermain Defoe (Darren Bent if it's five). Bent has done everything possible at an unfashionable club to put himself into contention.

The fee for Andy Cole's column is donated to Alder Hey hospital and sickle cell anaemia research. He works on charitable projects with the sport and media team at law firm Thomas Eggar.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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.

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'