Shoals of fans want Scholes back but Capello must resist
WHEn it concerns the England team, there has always been a predilection to lurch between extremes. The two latest candidates to restore the roar to at least a couple of the three lions have the amusing smack of desperation to them.
There’s a school of extreme revisionism already floating the theory that England would have enjoyed a better World Cup with Paul Scholes in the side. Admittedly the root source of this theory seems to be Scholes himself, but there is evidence that Fabio Capello is a believer, and still holds out hope that Scholes could have a role to play in the European Championship qualifiers.
The 35 year-old supposedly retired from international football when he was still in his 20s but, in recent interviews, Scholes has been offering coquettish glances and gestures from behind his fan, like a ginger-haired Venetian courtesan. It seems he might have condescended to go to the World Cup if Fabio Capello had wooed him in person instead of employing Cyrano de Baldini to whisper imprecations into Scholes’ mobile. This use of an intermediary showed insufficient respect, apparently, although a more likely explanation is that, back then, if the England coach had made the call himself, Capello’s rudimentary English would have meant a message along the lines of “Hey Paolo bambino, me wanna you play in World Cup, say si and make Pappa Fabio very happy.”
For most of his career Scholes has seemed a reticent and modest figure. He fooled us all Scholes’ attitude to an England recall shows he is capable of exactly the same preening and unwarranted self-regard that typifies most Premier League professionals.
It is unwarranted because his contribution to England’s cause in the past has been mostly lacklustre, and occasionally counter-productive. Admittedly his effectiveness has been hampered by eccentric tactical instructions, like telling him to play on the left-wing (Svengoran Eriksson) or “go out and drop a few bombs” (Kevin Keegan). All the same, there is more than enough evidence to suggest that Scholes lacks the force of character and imposing will to make the same impact on international football as he manages at Manchester United.
Scholes had an enjoyable season with United last season, freed from expectation, allowed to wander around the midfield sizing up glorious passes for his team-mates to squander. He looks a classier player without the frenzy of his youth. There is an understandable yearning for England to enjoy a little of that time and space, but it’s unrealistic.
Scholes thrives in a good team, he can’t revolutionise a poor one. West Ham United might struggle to subdue him this afternoon, but any halfdecent national side could neutralise Scholes in an instant.
One part of his game that is diminished in an England shirt is his combativeness. The sort of outrageous tackles that Scholes has committed in red tend to get punished more consistently when dished out in white. It is one of the unsung achievements of Scholes’ lengthy career that he has never picked up a reputation as a dirty player, despite being responsible for a show-reel’s worth of horrific challenges. In that sense he is reminiscent of Johnny giles, now recalled as the brains of the dirty Leeds side of the 60s and 70s, but actually one of its prime enforcers.
despite efforts to cajole him back into white, Scholes’ England story is one of what might have been, rather than what might still be. Equally desperate, but at the other end of the age spectrum are the ridiculously-premature attempts to cast Andy Carroll as the new Alan Shearer.
geordies have always craved an iconic no 9, ever since the foetus of Tony Blair allegedly cheered for Jackie Milburn. Carroll’s style is something of a throwback to the 50s as well. Basically he gets his head on the end of crosses (helped by his six foot four stature) or wellies the ball goalwards (three left foot strikes against Aston Villa last weekend). If he was late for training because of a shift down the pit, he would be the complete retro centre-forward.
Carroll has a rather more “interesting” character than his predecessor at St James’ Park. Whereas Shearer was famously never happier than when faced by a bare fence and a full tin of creosote, Carroll isn’t a stranger to a nightclub affray (the case comes up in the crown court in October).
It’s hardly his fault that he has become the latest symptom of the soul-searching going on in English football after the abject World Cup.
The purists who want a little patient precision in midfield have fixated on the elderly Scholes as the solution. The ever-present nostalgists who yearn for a big lad with a broad forehead up front have alighted on Carroll. neither is likely to make much difference. The question is whether Fabio Capello is desperate enough to start believing in them too.
Paul Scholes remains a standout for Manchester united but has been less effective for england