City Save England

by Sam Wheatley

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

The major headline tonight was always going to be how Wayne Rooney coped with the revelation of his alleged illicit contact with ladies of the night.  The truth was revealed, and the truth seems to be that Rooney is relieved.  But that aside, Manchester City deserve a special mention for aiding England’s cause.

Capello’s men started brightly, using the customary English style of pressing and attacking through direct means.  Wayne Rooney was vital to inducing this high-tempo performance, along with the notable contributions of full-backs Glen Johnson and Ashley Cole.  Only woeful finishing got Switzerland off the hook on more than one occasion.

Jermain Defoe’s usual hesitancy and stark lack of footballing intelligence, if such a term exists, returned to cast doubt over the authenticity of his three-goal performance against Bulgaria on Friday.  Glen Johnson and Theo Walcott combined to release the right-back, whose square ball found Defoe only for the Spurs striker to smash over from eight yards.  Defoe, for me, is always a yard too quick or a yard too slow.

In possibly the tabloid press’ finest hour, Wayne Rooney broke the deadlock after more good work from Glen Johnson.  967 minutes were stopped dead as Rooney swept in a low cross from the Liverpool man to break the deadlock.  The freedom afforded Rooney by the removal of a dark secret was simple to read.  Rooney’s no stranger to abuse – the man demands more from himself than any England fan.  It’s possible that the media has for once done him a favour by releasing him from the clutches of personal trauma, and it showed on his face.

Theo Walcott was injured into the build-up to the goal and was reportedly rushed to hospital for an X-ray.  Brought on his place was Adam Johnson.  That made the Manchester City contingent of England’s side five, with Joe Hart, Joleon Lescott, Gareth Barry and James Milner all on the field already.  Barry did concede a free-kick which became England’s biggest cause for concern for the first half, but the cross found Young Boys’ David Degen, who shinned it woefully over the bar at the far post.

Whilst Alexander Frei, for all of the hyperbole, was utterly rubbish, one Swiss that did impress was Diego Benaglio.  The ‘keeper made two decent saves, one each side of half time, to deny Jermain Defoe and Glen Johnson respectively.  His opposite number, Joe Hart, was naturally in fine form.  The continued graduation to international class becomes ever more impressive.  Seemingly unflappable, Hart makes solid stops, good decisions and distributes well.

Stephan Lichsteiner was dismissed on 64 minutes for a second bookable offence, and five minutes later Adam Johnson scored after being put through by Steven Gerrard.  Whilst I find an enormous irony to England’s only left-footed winger being better deployed on the right, he provides an interesting contrast to Theo Walcott.  For Walcott’s directness and pace, Johnson is methodical, technically gifted and most of all, observant.  Walcott’s three weird chipped crosses against Bulgaria, for example, would not be perpetrated by Adam Johnson.  He deserved his goal.

On 70 minutes though, Hart was beaten by an absolute screamer from Shaqiri after Switzerland had been galvanised by the goal and being to down to ten men.  The net scarcely rippled, such was the force of the shot that whistled in from outside the area.  The former Shrewsbury Town man Hart could have done little about that one.  Whilst Lescott, Hart and Barry were solid, Milner and Johnson were proving influential in the final third.  City’s contingent was then again boosted by the introduction of Shaun Wright-Phillips, making it six City players to have appeared for England in that game.

By roughly the 79th minute the game had begun to fade away, but it didn’t stop Ashley Cole from feeding Darren Bent for the Sunderland man to finish with aplomb, making it 3-1.  In my opinion, Bent deserves it for the work he puts in.  Whilst he has never looked an international striker to me, there may be some fight in the lad to prove his doubters (me obviously included) wrong.

Ultimately, a 3-1 victory for England owes much to Manchester City’s investment in players that, when purchased, were not England regulars but have developed to become vital for club and country.  They, in turn, have Aston Villa to thank for Gareth Barry and James Milner, but there seems to be something of a buzz about Eastlands these days and it showed in those that pulled on an England shirt.  Perhaps some thanks ought to go out too to the tabloid press for releasing Wayne Rooney from his demons.  The manacles are off, and it shows.

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  • Duckstermcfc

    I hate my club we are ruining English football!!!! We will dominate if not this season then next for a long time to come!!! CTID

  • mikey d tan

    Real question: how many played regularly in city’s previous season?

  • park

    eh no, city doesnt deserve any mention coz not 1 of them came from city ranks, every1 of them was bought, hart- shrewsbury, barry and milner- villa, lescott- everton and johnson- boro…the only guy worthy of mention is rooney who again led england to victory, wazza is the england talisman and without him, england cant win…warm reception, now watch the bitterz return to the hate crime with him returning to united this wk-end at everton.

  • park

    barry 46 caps over past decade, milner 12 caps in past year, yeah these guys werent regulars lol, lescott 10 and 7 of them where like with everton…maybe you can wrongly claim city cred for tevez, toure, silva’s international caps lol.

  • Zen

    Most of them are in England squad already before they are Man City players.. except SWP.. Now you are declaring that they got called up because they “improved” after joining Man City.. Shameless..

  • stevie

    great report and I totally agree with you on Defoe.

    Very professional performance all round. Adam Johnson was superb, Gerrard was quiet but very effective. Surely now it’s to drop Lampard for good, the tempo was better without him in the side.

    As for John Terry, lets hope he never wears an England again. 2 ego’s down, keep the youth!

  • Sam Wheatley

    At the end of last season all of those players were contracted to Manchester City except for James Milner. Admittedly Hart was out on loan, but a club can’t be persecuted for sending a hot prospect out to gain first-team experience. Denying them credit because they didn’t train the players is hardly fair either – how many of England’s current squad is still at the club that trained them? Arguably Adam Johnson would not have made the leaps he has in the last 6 months if he was still with Boro in the Championship.

    As for Rooney, I think he deserves credit for the way he got on with his job last night. It’s easy to criticise him precisely because he is so talismanic. When he goes missing he’s the first to be blamed…however I’ve of the conception that his alleged secret shame has been a burden, which luckily for him has been lifted due to being publicised. That’s two ducks broken in two weeks now, for club and country.

  • Tim

    If only, if only we took Johnson instead of Lennon the headless chicken!

    I really hope capello has the balls to leave out lamplard and Terry, we’ve won nothing with them in the side, so let’s move on.

  • Sam Wheatley

    @park: That’s three of the six then. You don’t think Joe Hart and Adam Johnson are making important contributions?

  • William

    Interesting theory that the tabloids’ decision to finally run the Rooney story has actually helped him, because now he’s not worrying about when it will come out. His performance at Goodison on Saturday will give more of an indication as to whether or not his mind is fully back on his game.

    I’ve been noticing a real split between the red-tops and the broadsheets on Rooney’s indiscretions. Given that it’s only the tabloids that have any interest in Rooney’s life away from the pitch, even when he’s not allegedly bedding prostitutes, it’s not surprising that writers in papers like the Guardian are making a point of saying that they simply don’t care about the story. By far and away the most interesting thing about Rooney, to football fans, is his talent on the pitch, not who he’s poking.

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