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.

News
Legendary blues and rock singer Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer, his management team as confirmed. He was 70
people70-year-old was most famous for 'You are So Beautiful'
News
people
Life and Style
fashionOne man takes the hipster trend to the next level
News
John Rees-Evans is standing for Ukip in Cardiff South and Penarth
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
Life and Style
A still from a scene cut from The Interview showing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's death.
tech
Environment
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Arts and Entertainment
Bianca Miller and Katie Bulmer-Cooke are scrutinised by Lord Sugar's aide Nick Hewer on The Apprentice final
tvBut Bianca Miller has taken on board his comments over pricing
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.

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'