Anorak News | An Enigma Wrapped In A Mystery Wrapped In A Swede

An Enigma Wrapped In A Mystery Wrapped In A Swede

by | 12th, June 2006

“ENGLAND players perplexed by Eriksson’s substitutions,” announces the Guardian’s sport supplement, explaining that “England’s senior players” are beginning to express doubts about the enigmatic Swede’s bizarre tactics and selections.

So who are these senior players? Only one of them is actually named, but he’s a real heavyweight. It’s Sir Bobby Robson – the kind of senior player whose opinions are based on a wealth of international experience. Admittedly, his last game for the national side was in May 1962.

But he certainly knows what he’s talking about, even if his somewhat opaque verbalisations tend to hide his meaning from others.

Unfortunately for Eriksson, Sir Bobby has chosen this particular occasion to be uncharacteristically clear and concise. “I couldn’t believe it,” he says simply, when asked about Sven’s idiosyncratic use of Stewart Downing and Joe Cole during the second half of England’s opening match.

And as if Sven’s antics on Saturday weren’t strange enough, there’s the baffling decision to send back Jermain Defoe.

The Telegraph reports that Defoe “was understood to have been sensational in his final training session before flying home”, and the Spurs striker has been expressing his disappointment and disbelief to anyone who’ll listen, including the News of the World.

Defoe’s departure leaves Eriksson with four forwards: Peter Crouch, Michael Owen, Theo Walcott and You-Know-Who. Peter Crouch is doing well, but needs a suitable partner in order to be effective. Michael Owen is clearly unfit and out of sorts. Theo Walcott has never played in a full international or even a Premiership match, and Eriksson says he “needs more time, more training” before he is ready to play in the World Cup. All things considered, it is looking increasingly likely that Wayne Rooney will make his return sooner rather than later.

The imminent return of the saviour has sent the hacks into frenzy, and some are even suggesting that he could play in Thursday’s game against Trinidad and Tobago.

Rooney himself is said to be desperate to get stuck in, although we are told that he’s not taking any chances. That would be sweet music for Alex Ferguson’s ears, were it not for the fact that Rooney’s idea of not taking chances seems to involve hurling himself into tackles with no regard for his own safety or anybody else’s.

One way in which he does appear to be taking no chances is by ensuring that Theo Walcott has no chance of keeping him out of the side. The Sun reports that young Walcott was “clattered” by “wild Roon” during training – an incident observed by Lee Sharpe, who confirmed that Rooney “didn’t seem to be holding back” and “smashed Theo from behind”.

The Mirror confirms the story, with pictures of Walcott limping around with his leg bandaged while his girlfriend, for reasons best known to herself, is grinning from ear to ear.

Rooney’s return is a genuine cause for rejoicing, but as he puts himself about like a hyperactive kick-boxer, he should remember that those who live by the sword often die by it too.

The nightmare scenario is that Rooney returns to a hero’s welcome, only to be crocked once more.

Sir Bobby Robson is certainly worried about this, and has been confiding his fears to the good people of Radio Five Live. According to the Telegraph, he told the station that “you can’t say that an opposition centre-half is not going to think about the opportunity of standing on Rooney’s bad foot”.

Well, it is possible to not say it, Sir Bobby. But given that you decided to say it on national radio, we’ll just have to hope that no opposition centre-halves were listening.

As they used to say in your day: careless talk costs toes…

Posted: 12th, June 2006 | In: Back pages Comment | TrackBack | Permalink