if you must, but here’s why he has to start for England
Nick Barmby, a centre half (Jamie Carragher), a full back (Christian Ziege) and two deep midfield players (Gary McAllister and Didi Hamann) took the heat for Liverpool that day while their £11million striker looked on. Fair enough, not every player is confident from the spot — although reticence from a forward does seem strange when to be left in clear space with only the goalkeeper to beat from 12 yards is what he strives to achieve all game — yet Heskey’s self-doubt extends far beyond the professional arena. At an England training camp, the players were given a day off to play golf, with the media allowed to film the first tee shot. A few straight down the middle, the odd one topped, much laughter all round. Heskey joined them at the third. He said he would get too nervous with everyone watching. Just the man you want on the end of the 90th-minute sitter to win against Brazil. record as a pair, Rooney’s most prolific scoring form is achieved in tandem with Heskey (together, inset). Capello’s inclination is to get the absolute best out of his greatest player and, in qualifying, Rooney was the most prolific goalscorer in Europe. In Capello’s eyes, therefore, it was almost insignificant that Heskey scored just once, away in Kazakhstan. The system flourished, as did Rooney, as did England. Crouch has more confidence — he would certainly have had the chutzpah to tee off at the first if that toe-curling Pringles advertisement is anything to go by — and leads the line well, too. But the natural variation in his game is to drop deep, which is Rooney’s area (and that of Joe Cole, or Steven Gerrard if Capello reverts to 4-2-3-1 when Gareth Barry is fit). Heskey stays high, works the channels and plays back to goal like no other English striker. His job is to occupy the central defenders and keep them at distance from Rooney, and success is measured in the impact of the No 10, not the No 9. Rooney loves Heskey, by the way. Ideally, the player detailed to this most thankless task — and notice how unjustly Heskey is mocked and derided for evidence that he is not appreciated widely beyond the confines of the England camp — will chip in as a goalscorer, too. This is why Capello tried so hard to cultivate Bent and, briefly, Carlton Cole. Bent was given two opportunities to displace Heskey, against Brazil and Japan, but failed in both. Cole faded dismally for West Ham United and was not even included in Capello’s initial squad of 30. Crouch has 21 goals in 38 caps yet must feel he can never do enough. Like a bolt that is a fifth of a millimetre out, he should fit, but doesn’t. And so it comes back to Heskey. Always Heskey. The striker who does not score goals or take penalties, and who gets nervous if people are watching; yet whose selfless presence links Germany 1 England 5 with Argentina 0 England 1 with England 3 Russia 0 with Croatia 1 England 4. But to list his triumphs would be to apply some statistic-based logic to a plain phenomenon. Heskey defies the numbers, and just about all other qualities by which a striker is judged. He is simply the man for the job against the United States on Saturday. How or why we cannot say; bless him, he just is.
Meanwhile, Peter Crouch scores for fun. His selection should be automatic, yet Capello remains unconvinced. He wants the best out of Wayne Rooney. And while Crouch and Rooney have a marginally better