I can only assume Rob Green’s squad number of twelve represents his ranking place in the list of possible England goalkeepers. The only thing more surprising than his horror show against the Yanks is the fact that he is even in Fabio Capello’s 23 man squad, never mind his first choice custodian!
Now some of you may think that it is easy to castigate Green after the event but as anyone who knows me would testify, this view has nothing to do with hindsight. I have for many months been desperately trying to work out what people see in West Ham’s number one. I don’t doubt that he is a decent shot stopper but I also think he is poor on crosses, has less than exemplary handling skills and seems to dally on the ball at back passes. All of these traits don’t exactly scream “England’s number one” do they?
As for the rest of the game and our Italian gaffer’s performance - well contrary to the ITV commentators, I didn’t think we were very good despite us dominating the second half. At the back we had Johnson who keeps letting balls bounce (did he head one all night?) and we have a bloke playing centre half who has admitted that he has to play in goal against his son in the garden due to his chronic knee problem. We then replaced him with a player who has had a very poor season, looks slower than a milk float in a head wind and basically hacks anyone down within 5 yards of him. Even without my Stoke City tinted glasses on our back four was screaming “Ryan Shawcross” (or at the very least Michael Dawson.)
Into midfield where it didn’t get much better to be honest. To fly in the face of Clive Tydesley, I didn’t think that Lampard and Gerrard worked very well at all. “Stevie G” put a lot of work in and scored a good goal (which I missed thanks to ITV’s HD coverage), but he and Lampard’s use of the ball was very poor (and very pedestrian.) Out wide it was even worse. Lennon flattered to deceive, Milner playing wide left didn’t work at all and his replacement showed why he struggled to get into Man City’s team by getting dispossessed on nearly every foray down the left. Joe Cole anyone?
Up front was probably the brightest spot of the team. The much-maligned Emile Heskey had a decent game and linked the play up quite nicely. Sadly his good evening’s work was spoilt by a characteristic miss when through one-on-one with Tim Howard. Our star player of the squad had a quiet game by his high standards but Rooney did look sharp on the few occasions our midfield managed to pass the ball to his feet.
Clearly a draw in our opening game is far from a disaster and I’m absolutely convinced we will win our next two games and qualify comfortably. However if we are to progress further than the last 16, we have to sort out our starting XI. The keeper simply has to go, Dawson should come in alongside Terry with Joe Cole and possibly Barry to replace Milner and Lampard. Will the man in charge be brave enough to make wholesale changes though? I suspect not.
On to more positive news and it’s great to see all of these exciting new signings coming in at Stoke. Or at least it would be if there were any! I think a few fans are starting to get a little restless about the lack of new recruits but I’m still confident that we will do some very good business this summer. I think the club’s hierarchy is working hard trying to sort out departures initially before we bring in our new faces. I firmly believe that given the new rules on squad size this is a sound strategy. As we all know we are in an excellent financial situation. That doesn’t mean we can afford to have 6 or 7 lads on the wage bill who would not be allowed to play for us once we have filled the remaining spots in our 25 man playing staff with new players.
This summer is a crucial one for Stoke City. If the rebuilding of the team is done correctly, I truly believe we will have shaped our club’s future and we will be seated at the top table of English football for many years to come. Now come on England, let’s sort these Algerians out on Friday!