Sometimes England aren’t the luckiest of sides.
Firstly, there was the John Terry-Wayne Bridge scenario, which threatened to tear the team apart. Bridge’s subsequent withdrawal from the England reckoning and Terry’s demotion from captain has only left more questions unanswered. The Egypt game was meant to resolve some of those doubts but with new captain Rio Ferdinand missing the game through injury, there are still major issues that are causing concern.
The Three Lions bounced back from the controversy with a spirited win against Egypt. Okay, a spirited second-half but by scoring three goals at a canter, at least the character of the side has not been adversely affected. However, Ferdinand’s absence means that there will be few chances to test his captaincy skills before England go to the World Cup. The only scheduled game so far is against Japan on 30 May and you can’t help but feel that the lack of a consistent captain could have an adverse effect in South Africa should the chips be down and England need a rallying call. However, there may be another opportunity should the proposed game against Mexico go ahead.
The other issue concerns the left-back position. Ashley Cole is laid off for the rest of the season meaning that he will be struggling for match fitness by the time the World Cup comes around.
Meanwhile, the second choice to fill his position – Wayne Bridge – has declared himself unavailable. There are hopes that he will change his mind but playing alongside Terry would be a strong test of his professionalism and could threaten squad unity.
This means that Fabio Capello may have to turn to more inexperienced charges to fill the gap. Stephen Warnock and Leighton Baines are the two who could potentially profit from this situation but there are doubts concerning both of them. Baines received his England debut against Egypt and put in a solid performance. Consistency is his middle name according to Everton boss David Moyes but he is not the quickest, meaning that England could lose potency down the left flank.
Warnock is equally inexperienced – his solitary cap came in 2008 against Trinidad & Tobago. He is naturally right footed and is returning from injury himself. He is also occasionally uncertain and this will leave question marks in the mind of Capello. However, he has had an impressive season for Aston Villa and is full of confidence.
Ashley Cole is probably the best attacking full-back England has and so Warnock and Baines will have to improve their play going forward if they are to convince the England coach to include them.
After all, Capello could go with either Gareth Barry or James Milner – both midfielders who could comfortably slot into the left-back role. However, they are not as defensively minded as Warnock and Baines and could present a different kind of risk.
So perhaps the England boss’s decision will be based on the style of football he wishes to play.