When I was younger international games be they friendlies or tournament qualifiers, used to have some meaning now they just an inconvenient, unwelcome break between the real business of following your team.
Last Friday’s England v Bulgaria match was a case in point. I’d been playing golf we opted for sitting outside with beer/sun/cool breeze rather the small sweaty and packed bar watching the game. England v Wales I missed the first half because of something and didn’t even bother taping it!
Anyway despite England taking two more steps to qualification the best result this week was that all of our international players returned to L4 without any serious injuries. A fully fit squad makes a nice change to the times when Gerrard and Torres always seemed to come home nursing something or other however, in the case of Andy Carroll, fitness, according to the current national manager at least, is something aspire to.
I’m sure Andy Carroll could have done without with Fabio Capello clumsily airing his opinion on his lifestyle. However, what is more insulting having Fabio speak about you in this way or having John Terry defend you! All in all I think these things are best left in private and one wonders what Kenny’s, despite his polite utterances the other day, real take on it is, rearrange the following words, “mind”, “sod”, “your”, “business”, ”and”, “off”, “own”?
I don’t know of any footballers, who after all are usually young, free and well minted, who go home after a game and read the bible, watch Midsummer Murders or tend to their tomato plants. I guess the key is timing and knowing when and where to have good time and when to keep off the sauce. The same could also be applied to Fabio voicing his opinion? Hopefully Carroll, if he is unfit, will put more effort into regaining it over the next few weeks than Fabio has over the last four years in trying to learn the language of the country that employs him!
Anyway it hardly takes anyone with deep insight to suggest that the best response Carroll can make is to bag a few goals in the next two Premiership games, away at Stoke today and Spurs next week. Both games represent decent tests for Kenny’s new side and will certainly give us a slightly clearer indication of where we are and what needs to be done.
Today’s game at The Britannia Stadium is particularly interesting not least because of the style of football Stoke play and the style we are trying to. Last season’s visit a 2-0 surrender, (click here for match report) was one of the campaign’s worst. We didn’t turn up let Stoke bully us into defeat. Our tactics deserved it we were on the defensive trying to contain them rather than taking the game to them even if we opted to I don’t think we really had the necessary creativity. If my memory serves me correctly it was at that game that the first chants for Kenny to take over from Roy Hodgson could be heard.
Today is different and Kenny is manager of a new squad. Hopefully we won’t be intimidated in the same way and will be more positive in our attempts to try and solve the problems Stoke will present us with. I wonder what tactics Kenny will adopt? Hopefully his wide men, in midfield and defence, with push their wingers back if not we will need to be wary of the aerial bombardment particularly now that they’ve also signed Peter Crouch? Let’s also hope we don’t fall for the obvious Delap long throw, Crouch header routine? Will Kenny be tempted to strengthen the defence as a result? I’ve no idea however, a repeat of the starts we made against Sunderland and Bolton, where we played at a high tempo, passed and pressed the opposition, will go a long way to stifling whatever plans the home side have.
Team wise Glen Johnson has recovered however, I wonder of he will be risked against Stoke not exactly the team you want to play against when coming straight back from injury especially as Johnson allowed himself to be shoved off the ball on more than one occasion last season. Perhaps, for the same reason this isn’t the time to give Sebastian Coates his first team bow? Elsewhere although it was a tad disappointing we have already proved, his performance at The Emirates notwithstanding, that we should easily be able to roll with the punch Raul Meireles’ departure produced. Up front I wonder who will start with Suarez? Kenny might want to prove a point to Fabio by starting with Carroll however I suspect he will sit with Bellamy on the bench and Dirk will line up.
Prediction? Stoke is not an easy place to go to however we’ve made a good start and, physiologically as well as physically, I reckon we will be up for it especially those players who visited them last season. 2-0 to us and, because football can be like that, Andy Carroll, at some stage, to shove a metaphorical finger, or two, in Fabio’s direction!