Monday, 6 April 2009

Show of character bodes well for England future

So, as the dust settles on another successful international break we can at least take a tentative look forward to a summer in South Africa.

Reaching the half-way stage of World Cup qualifying with a 100% record is outstanding; especially given most of the games have been away. Home games against Andorra and Belarus should yield three points, while the long trip to Kazakhstan should be fruitful. This means we could afford to lose against Ukraine and Croatia and still qualify.

It is that breathing space that should allow the team to play with more freedom and express themselves. It is when the shackles are lifted like this that players like Rooney and Gerrard come into their own. Rooney in particular was outstanding against Ukraine, and his presence in the team is vital to future success.

What pleased me the most was the character shown by the side after conceding the equaliser. Instead of panicking or losing focus, the team stirred back into action, no more so than captain John Terry, another player who will be central to any success we have in the future. The midfield finally looks to be working, with Gerrard’s license to cut inside from the left giving him more potency, especially when linking up with Rooney.

The only position I am not sure of yet is the goalkeeper. I have to admit I have never been a big fan of David James. He has talent, yes, but he will always make a mistake every now and then and I fear if he keeps playing he will make one at a crucial stage and cost us.

The fact he is unchallenged for the number one spot says something about our goalkeeping situation. Ben Foster looks the most likely to push James at the moment, but with Capello favouring players who are playing regularly for their clubs (just ask Michael Owen) will Foster have to move on to improve his England chances?

The goalkeeping conundrum apart, the team is looking more settled and confident than it has done in several years. I won’t get too excited, I have learnt not to supporting England over the years and making any unrealistic football predictions could be dangerous. But their recent performances, and ability to cope with injuries and adversity, bodes very well for the future.