Sam Wallace: Theo aside, Capello played it safe with his selections - News & Comment - Football - The Independent

Sam Wallace: Theo aside, Capello played it safe with his selections

There is a mischievous theory that Capello saved himself a dilemma by leaving out Parker for the warm-up games, having already decided who to take in midfield

He might have left out his once golden boy Theo Walcott but in the end this was an England World Cup squad in which Fabio Capello played it safe.

Walcott's exclusion will be the decision that everyone remembers, a tight call by all accounts but one that was justified in terms of current form, however hard it will seem to the player now. At 21, there is plenty of time for Walcott to play at a World Cup finals.

Capello played it safe in other positions too. No place for Adam Johnson, the Manchester City winger who got just six minutes against Mexico and was understood to have impressed in training in Austria. Instead Capello went with the tried and tested options in Joe Cole, Aaron Lennon, Shaun Wright-Phillips and James Milner.

Ditto in the centre of midfield where Tom Huddlestone, despite two tidy halves in the warm-up games, lost out to the experience of Michael Carrick. If Capello had judged there was not much to go on in terms of form then it was experience that he opted for over youthful promise.

Also in the centre of midfield, Scott Parker was never given a chance in either of the warm-up games despite having been impressive, by all accounts, in training. One mischievous theory is that Capello saved himself a selection dilemma by leaving Parker on the bench, having already decided who he wanted in the centre of midfield.

As for Leighton Baines, the curse of being too honest about his unhappiness at being away from home for six weeks helped to do for him – that and a tough time from Giovani Dos Santos at Wembley last week. Capello and his staff detected a weakness and replaced him with Stephen Warnock although it was clear they rated Baines as the better player.

Only 10 from the original 24-man squad Capello picked to face Switzerland in February 2008 made the cut this time around although injuries played a role in this. And Capello has been fortunate with injuries. David Beckham and Owen Hargreaves aside, no one he would have considered taking is unavailable, although clearly he would prefer Paul Scholes and Wayne Bridge not to have retired.

He has been an impossible man to predict in the past when it has come to team selection – and in Walcott he threw a curveball – but at heart Capello is a conservative. As demonstrated yesterday.

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