x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Capello serves up surprises

Carragher has been called out of retirement but he and Heskey may raise eyebrows if they go to South Africa, writes Alam Khan.

Jamie Carragher's last cap for England came against Israel in 2007 in a Euro 2008 qualifier in Tel Aviv.
Jamie Carragher's last cap for England came against Israel in 2007 in a Euro 2008 qualifier in Tel Aviv.

So Fabio Capello has managed to persuade Jamie Carragher to end his international exile and return for England in their moment of need. In the end, the defender's inclusion in the 30-man provisional World Cup squad was not much of a surprise. But if he makes the final cut for South Africa, there might be raised eyebrows in some quarters. Carragher will provide experience and commitment, but he has been part of a Liverpool side that has struggled this season. He has too. Mistakes at the start were uncharacteristic and he was particularly troubled in the Champions League as Liverpool failed to qualify from the group stage. And even though Carragher has returned to the fold after a three-year absence as Capello's choices were limited by injuries, he will be viewed as the same utility player about which he felt so much frustration that he quit.

Wasn't it Carragher, too, who revealed in his autobiography in 2008 that losing with Liverpool hurt more than with England? He wrote: "Whenever I returned home from disappointing England experiences one unshakeable, overriding thought pushed itself to the forefront of my mind, no matter how much the rest of the nation mourned. 'At least it wasn't Liverpool', I'd repeat to myself, over and over." Some of his defensive rivals might well have a greater desire. If Chelsea's John Terry and Rio Ferdinand, of Manchester United, are fit, they will be first-choice, with Carragher competing with West Ham's Matthew Upson, Ledley King and Michael Dawson for the back-up role or as a reserve for the right-back spot held by Glen Johnson, his Liverpool teammate. King has not played for England under Capello either, but his call-up, along with Dawson, has been thoroughly deserved for their efforts in driving Tottenham into the Champions League next season.

As a club partnership, there have been few better. King has been the epitome of calm when his chronic knee problem has allowed him the chance to play, and the fearless Dawson has displayed growing maturity as a stand-in captain of a Tottenham side packed with world-class talent. Their presence would show that consistent and impressive performances can persuade Capello to ditch his tried-and-trusted selection policy. Joe Hart has done that while on loan with Birmingham to claim one of the goalkeeping spots, and Tom Huddlestone, another Spurs player, Adam Johnson, the exciting Manchester City winger, and Scott Parker, who was so inspirational in helping West Ham avoid relegation, are others to provide such hope. On form, that outfield trio should be ahead of midfield regulars, such as Michael Carrick, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Joe Cole.

The name of Emile Heskey as one of the forwards in the provisional squad, though, does not bode well for their chances. The Aston Villa striker may not have let Capello down in the past and has provided a good foil for Wayne Rooney, but five goals in 42 club appearances this season are not the sort of statistics that merit a place. Bobby Zamora, the Fulham striker, should feel a little aggrieved at missing out. Capello will have to make sure he has no regrets when it comes down to the final 23. @Email:akhan@thenational.ae

Goalkeepers Joe Hart (Man City) Robert Green (West Ham) David James (Portsmouth) Defenders Leighton Baines (Everton) Ashley Cole (Chelsea) Stephen Warnock (Aston Villa) Rio Ferdinand (Man Utd) Jamie Carragher (Liverpool) Ledley King (Tottenham) Glen Johnson (Liverpool) John Terry (Chelsea) Matthew Upson (West Ham) Michael Dawson (Tottenham) Midfielders James Milner (Aston Villa) Gareth Barry (Man City) Joe Cole (Chelsea) Michael Carrick (Man Utd) Steven Gerrard (Liverpool) Tom Huddlestone (Tottenham) Adam Johnson (Man City) Frank Lampard (Chelsea) Aaron Lennon (Tottenham) Scott Parker (West Ham) Theo Walcott (Arsenal) Shaun Wright-Phillips (Man City) Strikers Darren Bent (Sunderland) Peter Crouch (Tottenham) Emile Heskey (Aston Villa) Wayne Rooney (Man United) Jermain Defoe (Tottenham)

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