Thursday, September 13, 2007

McClaren and Heskey make critics eat their words...

I love it when the media are left choking on their collective bile when it comes to back-tracking over a manager or player who've they've been busily crucifying following a run of indifferent results or performances.

One such case is that of England manager Steve McClaren. Here we have a manager who the media supported when he replaced Sven Goran Eriksson. The Swede was eventually eased out of his cosy chair by the News of the World in that disgraceful fake Sheik sting. Let us not forget that the press had been trying to oust Sven over a number of years, the Sheik episode was by no means an isolated incident. Every aspect of Sven's life was delved into by the gutter press in a bid to get him out of a job.

Events post Sven have been all too predictable. The new manager was supported by the media, but following the usual and all too often brief honeymoon period, and a spell of indifferent performances by the Three Lions, the media, led by the tabloid press were preparing to write McClaren's obituary.

The manager had two games in which to save himself, at least that was the media line. We were told that this week's results against Israel and Russia would decide McClaren's England future. No doubt to the dismay of the manager's many media detractors, as we know England won both games comfortably.

It's true to say that McClaren has somewhat stumbled upon the team which won so well this week, it is also fair to ask questions about what might happen when the likes of Beckham, Hargreaves and Lampard are fit. Gareth Barry in particular has played well.

However, the media have totally missed one glaring point about England when they've been busily slagging off McClaren, that is that since Shearer retired they've not had an out and out target man. As we know, the often much maligned Emile Heskey was brought back into the squad, again largely due to injuries and suspensions and here again the manager has been somewhat lucky.

As we know Heskey has been something of a revelation giving two excellent performances. But what has happened in the last two games, only backs up the point that I've been making for two years, that is you can forget about all of the other issues concerning Beckham and Lampard et al. England need a target man, Rooney and Owen while being very good players in their own right are too similar in many ways.

Leading up to the games this week, the likes of Martin Samuel in The Times, was questioning why England couldn't be more flexible regarding their formation. Guus Hiddink we were told is a man who often changes his formation, which is true and having sat through both games this week and having enjoyed then too for a change, I found myself thinking that if Russia also had a target man they might have got something out of the game at Wembley last night.

In the end it's all about players and partnerships, it isn't just about formations. Heskey and Owen link up well, on the evidence of the last two games, better than any other current options up front.

McClaren should be given a huge amount of credit for bringing back Heskey - let's be honest - when we heard news of his recall, many said McClaren is taking the ****.

The media can write what they like, but they need to recognise their own collective limitations. After all, if you cannot see that England's main problem has been the lack of a genuine number nine, then you really should not be questioning any manager.

Heskey isn't the long term answer to solving England's woes, but his performances have given the hacks and the know-nothing back-stabbers a rather large clue about how to go about solving them in the longer term.


  1. Well said. McLaren does deserve a lot of credit since Heskey was his call and it paid off big time. I just hope these results don't go to their heads.If anything I wold like to see some ruthlessness from McLaren in his next team selections. Barry has definitely won himself a spot in midfield, for now. Despite all the lavish praise, I didn't think that Gerrard was all that in either game so why not sit him for Hargeaves? Or play Beckham and Barry in the middle? Either way, its a long road back for Lampard. I would have liked to have seen what Ashley Young could have done on the left instead of Joe Cole, who is a square peg in a round hole out there. SWP will always be inconsistent but at least he linked well with Richards. But maybe Bentley or Lennon or Agbonlahor is the guy on the right. And Ashley Cole had a mare at left back. Nicky Shorey should get another game against Estonia. More bold decisions by McLaren may earn him the respect of the squad, put some of the undroppables in their place, and keep up the momentum they generated this week.

  2. The BIG problem is that McClaren has to bring back Rooney, so how does he do that?

    Here's a few suggestions.

    I think McClaren has a few interesting options open to him now. One of them would be to use a 3-5-2 formation. He could retain Barry on the left side of a back three alongside Rio on the right and Terry in the middle. Then he could bring in Hargreaves to play alongside Gerrard in the centre and then use Rooney just in front of them two. Up front he could retain Heskey and Owen.

    Option 1:

    ......Rooney (free role)

    Richards has shown he's good going forward and so he could be used as wingback.

    Option 2:

    ...........Rooney (free role)
    This option is slightly more balanced down the right IMO, but you'd lose Rio's ability to intercept which he does better than any other defender IMO.

    Option 3 (4-4-2):

    .........Owen (orRooney)...Heskey
    This is the safest bet in terms of all round balance IMO.

    In summary the 3-5-2 options are more attacking, but they can leave you open to the counter attack if your wingbacks do not time their runs correctly and or we lose possession of the ball in dangerous areas.

  3. Thats where you lose me I'm afraid. Changing the formation is what cost us in Croatia. 4-4-2 is fine and as things stand, things are looking set for the next couple of matches. The defence picks itself. So does central midfield and the strikers. That leaves right and left midfield up for grabs. Assuming SWP keeps his place, then the only spot for Rooney is left midfield. And don't forget, Fergie has used him there in the past. He'd certainly do no worse than Cole.


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