if you must, but here’s why he has to start for Eng­land

Daily Mail - - Martin Samuel -

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

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.