Sir Les: Capello to chop Dawson, Huddlestone & Bent
Ledley King is a better option in the centre of England's midfield than Gareth Barry or Michael Carrick, while the 'unadaptable' Darren Bent should be spending the summer on the beach, according to Les Ferdinand.
FourFourTwo caught up with the former the former Newcastle, Tottenham, QPR and England striker at a West London watering hole last week aiming to pick his brain with regards to some of the selection dilemmas still facing Don Fabio.
With little over a week to go before the Italian picks the seven members of his 30-man squad who will be sent home from the party early without so much as a goody bag or a slice of Ben 10 cake, there are still big decisions to be made.
Happily several of those quandaries involve the very same players he works with on a part time basis as a Harry RedknappÃ¢ÂÂs striker Ã¢ÂÂconsultantÃ¢ÂÂ at Tottenham Hotspur, making Sir Les a pretty good authority on some of the key selection battles ahead.
Sir Les fancied a drink, so left the helicopter at home
Whereas once the order of England's centrebacks had appeared set in stone, a combination of poor form (Matthew Upson) and injuries (Rio Ferdinand) have lead to Jamie Carragher and Ledley King both returning to the fore at the last, with Michael Dawson Ã¢ÂÂ astonishingly perhaps the most in-form of the bunch Ã¢ÂÂ making up CapelloÃ¢ÂÂs quota.
Spurs skipper Ledley KingÃ¢ÂÂs ongoing knee complaint has restricted him to just 20 appearances for the White Hart Lane club this season, and has led some to speculate that he may be one of the not-so-magnificent seven to be cut. But Les is adamant King will be part of CapelloÃ¢ÂÂs plans, unless there is a sudden and substantial deterioration in his condition over the next seven days.
Ã¢ÂÂThe only way Ledley doesnÃ¢ÂÂt go is if he breaks down,Ã¢ÂÂ Ferdinand insists. Ã¢ÂÂThereÃ¢ÂÂs two friendlies coming up and if he comes through them and is still fit then he will go. Anybody that knows football and knows defenders will tell you that Ledley is one of the best defenders weÃ¢ÂÂve got in this country.
Ã¢ÂÂCapello might not be thinking about him playing every game, but what heÃ¢ÂÂs proven this season is that he is capable of coming into a team without having played much football in the run up to a game and perform brilliantly straight away Ã¢ÂÂthatÃ¢ÂÂs an asset to a manager and itÃ¢ÂÂs something the England coaches will certainly look on favourably.Ã¢ÂÂ
But while Ferdinand is confident in KingÃ¢ÂÂs chances, he doesnÃ¢ÂÂt share the same optimism for some of Tottenham's other stars.
Ã¢ÂÂI tend to believe that boys that havenÃ¢ÂÂt been in the squad regularly through the qualifying campaign, like Michael Dawson and Tom Huddlestone, are the ones you fear for most as far as not making the final squad is concerned,Ã¢ÂÂ he explained.
Will Dawson and Huddlestone still be celebrating on 1 June?
This newfound defensive dliemma has eclipsed the previous hot topic Ã¢ÂÂ which strikers will be left at home, and which will spend 10 hours sat alongside Wayne Rooney eating peanuts and watching awful Nicolas Cage movies.
The Italian has left himself with four options, five if you include the possibility of a lone role for Rooney.
There's Emile Heskey Ã¢ÂÂ a proven foil for the Manchester United striker, but one who has scored just three Premier League goals this season; Peter Crouch Ã¢ÂÂ a regular goal scorer at international level, but unable to nail down a regular starting berth at club level; Jermain Defoe Ã¢ÂÂ a player who has enjoyed his best ever Premier League season, but has yet to shown any tangible sign of forging a threatening partnership with Rooney; and Darren Bent Ã¢ÂÂ the Premier LeagueÃ¢ÂÂs top English goal scorer, but one still largely untried at international level.
Ferdinand believes that Peter CrouchÃ¢ÂÂs international record will see him selected, despite the former Liverpool and Portsmouth striker starting just five of SpursÃ¢ÂÂ last 13 Premier League matches.
Ã¢ÂÂPeter showed [for Spurs] against Manchester City that heÃ¢ÂÂs got all the ability in the world when it comes to holding the ball up and bringing others into play, and when you look at his goals to games ratio for England, itÃ¢ÂÂs very impressive, I donÃ¢ÂÂt care who youÃ¢ÂÂre playing against, youÃ¢ÂÂve still got to put the ball in the net Ã¢ÂÂ PeterÃ¢ÂÂs done that and for that reason I feel heÃ¢ÂÂs a definite to go.Ã¢ÂÂ
Much like Crouch, Emile Heskey is expected to travel with England despite hardly setting the world alight at club level. While the quality of HeskeyÃ¢ÂÂs performances in the white of England over the past 18 months cannot be doubted, the same cannot be said of those in claret and blue. Indeed, the Aston Villa front man finished 2009/10 as the 27th highest scoring English player, behind such prolific marksmen as Ashley Cole, Gary Cahill and Jody Craddock.
"I'll score some goals when I've found my bloomin' contact lens..."
Yet Les doesnÃ¢ÂÂt see goals as the beginning and end of a good strikerÃ¢ÂÂs work: Ã¢ÂÂYour goal record is obviously something youÃ¢ÂÂre judged on as a striker, but there are other aspects to the game which are just as important and help the team.
Ã¢ÂÂIf youÃ¢ÂÂve got somebody like Emile Heskey up front, you know you can play a long ball to him and it wonÃ¢ÂÂt be coming straight back because heÃ¢ÂÂs got the strength and presence to keep the ball, and the rest of the team will get a chance to catch their breath and re-group.
Ã¢ÂÂBoth Rooney and Michael Owen before him have played their best football for England alongside Emile Heskey Ã¢ÂÂheÃ¢ÂÂll go and toil, battle, fight, win the flick-ons and bring the other players into the game, and this is just as important as goals sometimes.Ã¢ÂÂ
With that in mind, what of two strikers generally considered to be purely goal scorers Ã¢ÂÂ Jermain Defoe and Darren Bent?
Both have also found success in front of goal this season, with Defoe scoring 24 goals in 41 matches this season, and Bent faring even better with 25 in 40. But Defoe has shown an increasing awareness of play outside the box.
Ã¢ÂÂItÃ¢ÂÂs something weÃ¢ÂÂve been speaking to him aboutÃ¢ÂÂ Les explains, Ã¢ÂÂheÃ¢ÂÂs always shown great sharpness and awareness around the box, but what weÃ¢ÂÂve said is that the application needs to be the same when heÃ¢ÂÂs in a deep position as it is when heÃ¢ÂÂs near the goal Ã¢ÂÂ I donÃ¢ÂÂt think you can get into the England side on goals alone, even as a striker.
Ã¢ÂÂIt might sound harsh, because heÃ¢ÂÂs had an incredible season in terms of goal-scoring, but does Darren Bent possess some of the assets that Jermain Defoe does? IÃ¢ÂÂm not quite sure. You have to play a certain way with Darren Bent in the team, whereas Jermain is possibly a little bit more flexible.
Ã¢ÂÂObviously itÃ¢ÂÂs important to take players that are in form, but youÃ¢ÂÂve also got to find the players that blend together correctly, and although heÃ¢ÂÂs scored a lot of goals and had a tremendous season, you can only play one way with Darren Bent Ã¢ÂÂ heÃ¢ÂÂll play on the shoulder of the last man and looks to get in behind, and England donÃ¢ÂÂt play that way. My expectation is that Capello will take the four Ã¢ÂÂregularsÃ¢ÂÂ Ã¢ÂÂ Rooney, Crouch, Defoe and Heskey.Ã¢ÂÂ
"Hush your mouth, Ferdinand!"
For Michael Dawson, Tom Huddlestone and Darren Bent not to make the final cut wouldnÃ¢ÂÂt be such a shock, but Ferdinand believes Fabio Capello could yet have a surprise up his sleeve.
Ã¢ÂÂYouÃ¢ÂÂve got Michael Carrick and Gareth Barry vying for that deep midfield role, but thereeÃ¢ÂÂs also Ledley King Ã¢ÂÂ who with the greatest of respect could probably do it better than the other two if you want a real defensive midfield player."
King has not played regularly in midfield for Tottenham since 2003/04, so for him to play there now would perhaps be the biggest selection bombshell of all.
With just eight days to go before Capello must name his final squad, it still seems there are more questions than answers. Who would be England manager, eh?
Well, perhaps one day, Les Ferdinand.
Ã¢ÂÂGetting into management has always been something IÃ¢ÂÂve talked aboutÃ¢ÂÂ Ferdinand explains. Ã¢ÂÂI couldnÃ¢ÂÂt see myself being the type to chuck teacups about though. TheyÃ¢ÂÂre all plastic now anyway, so it wouldnÃ¢ÂÂt have quite the same effect!Ã¢ÂÂ
We spoke to Les Ferdinand over a pint of Greene King IPA. The Official Beer of England Rugby will be supporting the football boys in South Africa this summer. Get behind the team with a pint of Greene King IPA Ã¢ÂÂ the taste of England