Friday, February 11, 2011

The Premier League's international star performers

England fans are a bunch of supporters who don't turn their noses up at friendly victories over apparently lesser sides in world football such as Denmark. After all, we can't really afford to do that after the general misery and frustration, not to mention lack of success, of the past four years or so. However, last night's win over Denmark really was bordering on the impressive for a number of Premier League stars who furthered their case for consistent inclusion in boss Fabio Capello's plans.

Jack Wilshere is perhaps the most obvious example of this. A man whom the England camp were warned by none other than Mr Confident himself, Nicklas Bendtner, to protect rather than thrust straight into action, the young Gunner looked accomplished in a midfield he was tasked to act as a protective shield for.

Some Arsenal fans may have worried that, denied of the free role to join up with attacks, Wilshere's performance would go unnoticed by the England boss, but it was this very fact that made his performance so strong; we did notice him and his tackles brought more applause from the crowd than some of England's play up front. Of course the international football betting suggested England would win, but it was still nice to see a youngster doing well.

Ashley Young looked more confident in an England shirt than he ever has done before, playing in a more advanced role than usual, just as he has been doing for Villa this season. His goal was the icing on a pretty tasty cake from his point of view, and he's another decent option for Capello to bear in mind and it's something that would no doubt be covered in the latest Andy Gray podcast.

Darren Bent grabbed a goal that, although not exactly the best he'll ever score, will provide him with further confidence when lining up for the national side in the future, whilst a hardworking performance from James Milner may give Roberto Mancini pause for thought when he considers his starting eleven for the weekend's clash against title rivals Manchester United.

England aren't the finished product just yet, that's for sure, but the signs are certainly encouraging for Capello's wounded unit.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

McClaren sacked again, but reputation is rebuilt

The very fact Steve McClaren is already being tipped for vacant positions in English football shows you how his stock has risen despite being sacked as Wolfsburg boss this week.

Rewind three-and-half-years and that fateful, soggy November night at Wembley, McClaren – the wally with the brolly – was dismissed as England boss with his reputation in tatters.

Chairman and boards across the country dared not appoint him - even if they recognised his talents - given the derision and vitriolic abuse he received from fans and press alike. It took a long time for England fans to forget the livescore from the game against Croatia.

So, credit to the former Middlesbrough boss he picked himself up and went across to Holland where he rebuilt his shattered reputation with FC Twente - how we could do with other players and coaches trying their luck abroad.

This culminated in the Dutch title, the first Englishman to guide a Dutch team to a national title since Bobby Robson in 1992 and Twente's first title since 1974.

His reward was the job at Wolfsburg, who won the Bundesliga title in 2009. The German league though has made a habit of swapping Champions in recent years (in stark contrast to the Man United/Chelsea/Arsenal triumvirate in the Premier League) so their 2009 title was no guarantee of future success and livescore football fans should remember this.

And so it has proved with their season going from bad to worse. After just five victories in 21 games McClaren leaves with the club just a point above the relegation places.

A return to England looks likely, but the very fact that is considered an option is testament to the rebuilding job undertaken in Holland.

I wouldn't expect him to go near a brolly anytime soon though.