Keep Gareth Barry in the first-team
By: Steve McMahon
Thursday October 11, 2007
It would be criminal if Gareth Barry is left out of England’s starting line-up against Estonia and Russia.
I am absolutely sure Barry should be an automatic choice for England after his impressive outings against Israel and Russia. This lad combines well with Steven Gerrard and he’s naturally left-footed. I also like the fact that the versatile Barry is a very good set-piece taker and understands his defensive duties. He started out as a central defender after all. Steve McClaren may have stumbled upon this combination by chance so I think he should continue to give Barry a chance. While some of the people I talk to think this means Frank Lampard is out of the first-team picture completely, I think this is a tad harsh. I wouldn’t rule out Lampard in the future though – him being sidelined could well revitalise his England career.
And McClaren’s England’s career could be rejuvenated if England win two vital games: first against Estonia at Wembley and the other against Russia on the plastic pitch of Luzhniki Stadium which is the biggest sports stadium in Russia (total seating capacity is almost 85,000). The reason why I think both are very important because no matter how you see it, each victory will yield three points for England. Of course, in a perfect scenario, England can secure qualification by winning both games. So it is all in England’s hands – it is theirs to lose.
And it all starts against modest Estonia. England could do no worse than giving the Estonians the respect they deserve and play their best eleven against the so-called minnows. I know John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, Ashley Cole and Joe Cole are one yellow card away from suspension but as I mentioned before, the Estonia game is just as important as the Russian one. If this quartet represents the best England can field out there – they should play.
Up front, Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney should start simply because there is no one else. Peter Crouch may seem to be a logical choice after Owen’s recent fitness problems but Crouch is not getting any games at Liverpool. Whereas for Rooney, he is starting to turn it on for Manchester United – not just scoring goals but also is inspiring his club-mates as well. The same goes for Owen as well. I get the feeling Owen gives his 110% whenever he wears the Three Lions jersey.
On a separate note, I disagree with Sepp Blatter’s proposal to put a limit on the number of foreign players in club teams. We did not have the time to elaborate this topic on the latest edition of Football Focus
, so here’s my take: he is talking nonsense – again. His proposal will make football move back twenty years and many teams are going to suffer. The Barclays Premier League is exciting as it is because of the mixture of foreign talent. Ditto Spain, Italy and other major footballing leagues. I do not know if this is Blatter’s way of getting headlines but the argument of introducing a foreign player cap is giving me a headache. As Arsenal’s gaffer Arsene Wenger said: “It would kill the Premiership at the moment for being the best league in the world, certainly."