Date: 17th October 2009 at 9:52am
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Let’s hope we are talking about Martin’s marauders, come Saturday teatime.

World Cup – will he?

The answer to that, is no one knows, and it seems that for the first time in living memory, the man in charge will decide for himself and not succumb to the pressures of tabloid tyranny and make no-one a shoo-in on reputation alone. I don’t think even Rooney, who is seen as crucial by many, can expect to get on the plane to South Africa, if he’s not entirely fit.

Although, it is more or less accepted that a certain tabloid will decide the General Election, next year, it seems that the mind of Mister Capello is beyond the influence of the gentlemen (sic) of the press. Although the FA’s sponsors might prove to be rather more persuasive.

Knowing this, it hardly seems worth the trouble it would take Emile Heskey , to reprogram his SatNav, to direct him to another training ground, in an attempt to bolster his chances. With Ivanhoe’s injury record it would seem like the biggest act of hubris since Gareth Southgate volunteered to take a shoot-out penalty.

Gladly, Villa’s bench-warming striker has denied he ever suggested such a thing but I think most fans would see his best plan of attack, as scoring a dozen or so goals for Villa, between now and the end of the season.

If I was a betting man, which I am not, I still think, all things being equal, that Emile has the best chance of making the final cut than any of the other Villa players and out of the rest I see Milner as more likely, than either Ashley or Gabby me babby.

With speedy wide-players coming out of his ears, it just remains to be seen whether contenders, like Ashley and Walcott, can gatecrash the party in the two games remaining before Capello picks his final squad. At the moment, Lennon and Wright-Phillips are ahead but both are surrounded by doubts about their final delivery, which will not go away. Joe Cole offers more than either of them but his form and fitness are both unknowns.

Gabby seems to be in a head to head contest with Jermain Defoe, who looks like a better finisher but less of a team player, than Gabby. All Gabby needs to do is keep doing a good job for Villa and the fates will decide the rest.

Despite Carlton Cole’s much improved form at West Ham, I just don’t think he offers much of a threat to Gabby and as long as Peter Crouch is fit, I can’t see anyone else providing the sort of unique alternatives, England’s favourite freak brings to the squad.

But getting in that squad is going to depend on a huge chunk of luck.

It was not until I saw Owen Hargreaves, doing a bit of punditry on the telly on Wednesday night that I quite realised how much the injury to England’s Canadian German, had contributed to Gareth Barry’s
stratospheric improvement in fortunes. It was generally accepted that Hargreave’s was England’s best player in the 2006 World Cup and was man of the match in the quarter-final against Portugal.

Gareth got his chance in midfield when Hargreaves was injured prior to the Israel game in 2007. Even though I think Gareth Barry is a better player, than Hargreaves, I think it is doubtful that he would have got his big chance, had the Manchester United player, been fit and playing well. Fortune favours the brave.

Gareth offers the perfect example of how just keeping going, can create your own luck.

Gareth was possibly the pick of the England midfield against Belarus and his early killer-ball for Gabby, made the result a formality, even if England’s technical deficiencies made the game far from a
comfortable watch.

Gabby’s first-touch was not all we might have hoped for but had Beckham been on earlier, I am sure Erdington’s own, would have prospered from the sort of service the tattooed maestro would have
provided. So, a decent performance from Gabby but despite anything Steve Bruce might have thought, Peter Crouch was the pick of the forwards and man of the match, for me.

Judging by Pete the streak’s post-match high, his gaffer must have given him the nearest thing to outright praise, he is ever likely to hand out.

Biggest surprise of all, apart from England’s clean-sheet, was seeing James Milner being played at left-back. This didn’t look like a whim by Capello and it seemed a logical tactical plan to double-up the wingers and ensure that the tiring opposition stayed on their backfoot, to close the game down. It was just a pity his shot hit the post and failed to give him the goal the move deserved. What a Villa night, that would have made it.

I shall reserve my assessment of Frank Lampard because I’d prefer not to tempt fate. What with him being expected at Villa Park, for the early kick-off on Saturday, and as he was Villa’s undoing not so long ago. All I can say, is that he was brilliant for England and he has nothing to prove, so take it easy Frank and rest those weary legs.

Lawro has predicted a 1-1 draw and a dull game, after a tense week of travelling takes its toll on mental energies. I would probably settle for that and although Chelsea’s three-goal defeat at Wigan might prompt a hope for more, it has to be remembered that it was Czech’s sending-off which really turned the game for Martínez’s marauders.

Let’s hope we are talking about Martin’s marauders, come Saturday teatime.

Keep the faith.