Early Doors

England expects

Early Doors

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Events over the past few days underlined once again that the English national side is enveloped in a sense of entitlement. From a complacent performance against Switzerland, to the mystery surrounding Peter Crouch's 'retirement' off it, this was not a weekend to showcase England at their best.

A perception of privilege has pervaded England since they first strapped on boots as inventors of the game. Not even a famous Ferenc Puskas-inspired defenestration at the hands of Hungary in 1953 and repeated beatings in World Cups since has ever succeeded in puncturing that particular insularity.

Against Switzerland, an assumed victory again became something else entirely as England had to fight form two goals down to draw 2-2. It was lucky that Montenegro failed to beat Bulgaria later on Saturday as the two countries now remain joint top of Group G.

For seasoned England watchers, this complacency was hardly a surprise.

Condescension towards Switzerland was articulated in the media ahead of the first game between the two sides in September when in a rare moment of clarity Jamie Redknapp sought to dissuade Richard Keys from the notion that Switzerland were basically a team of part-time cuckoo-clock-makers ready to be beaten, and this just three months after they had defeated Spain at the World Cup finals.

On Saturday it was the turn of ITV's Adrian Chiles, who speculated that if Switzerland's players were that good then more of them would surely be playing in the Premier League. And this despite the fact that four of the starting XI play in Serie A and two in the Bundesliga.

Complacency was evident on the pitch, too, in a shockingly limp first-half performance that left ED wondering whether the suspended Wayne Rooney's hair transplant had been followed by 11 failed backbone replacements for the players Capello did field against Switzerland.

However, the most tangible demonstration of the sense of entitlement pervading this England camp came in Sunday's reports that Peter Crouch is considering withdrawing his services whilst Capello remains England manager after his failure to be named on the bench for Saturday's game at Wembley.

Subsequent suggestions are that Crouch has backtracked from the stance that saw a 'friend' tell the Mail on Sunday: "That is the last time he plays for Fabio Capello. It is almost a deliberate humiliation. Peter has always been loyal to England, regardless of the importance of the game. He's got a fiancée and baby daughter. He could have been on holiday with them but wanted to be part of things, unlike some other players. And once again he has been treated badly."

Poor old Peter, forced to delay his expensive holiday with his model fiancee due to the hassle of watching his country at Wembley in the world's greatest game. ED's heart bleeds, it really, truly does.

The most disappointing aspect of Crouch's apparent dalliance with effectively going on strike is that he always seemed genuinely grateful to represent England. In many respects he seemed the accidental international: booed by supporters in his early appearances, his unexpected flurry of goals made him a cult hero.

Though a weary cliche now thanks to repeated exposure and the endorsement of James Corden, that robot celebration against Jamaica prior to the 2006 World Cup was genuinely uplifting for England supporters. Here was a man who despite his awkward frame had risen to the top of the game and had enjoyed every second.

But no longer, according to various reports in the press. Though five starts in 37 matches under Capello is perhaps unfair reward for a player who has scored 22 international goals, just two fewer than Sir Geoff Hurst, did Crouch really believe that a tally of four Premier League goals in 34 games this season - when Bobby Zamora has five in 14 - made him deserving of a guaranteed place on the bench?

England's selection policy in attack has been confused in recent months - with both Kevin Davies and Jay Bothroyd handed solitary caps, seemingly never to return - and with Wayne Rooney suspended and Andy Carroll and Jermain Defoe both absent due to injury Capello was very short of options. But that does not necessarily mean that Crouch should have been welcomed back with open arms, as he clearly felt he should.

Unsurprisingly, the episode left FA director of football development Sir Trevor Brooking far from impressed, even if he was reluctant to discuss Crouch's case, which remains clouded in mystery.

"No matter what people think about individuals, it is about playing for your country," Brooking said on Sunday. "You turn up regardless. I would have turned up if I was number 23 in the squad. We had one or two issues with age group teams. There appears to be a reluctance with one or two youngsters to get that tournament experience.

"I come from a generation where I couldn't even contemplate such a thing. I find it amazing. There are great rewards out there. You can become a multi-millionaire as a club player without playing international football. But international football is about individual pride and wanting to perform at the highest level. If I got picked at 41, I would have played, even if I thought I would make a fool of myself. I just wanted to play for my country."

This latest development certainly raises further questions about Capello's man-management, with Paul Robinson and Wes Brown also withdrawing their services recently - oh, the sleepless nights the gaffer must have had over Brown's retirement.

Even more inexplicably, Ben Foster - a man who at the age of 28 has only made 145 league appearances - decided to take a 'sabbatical' from international duty in order to focus on his club commitments with Birmingham.

But whether Capello is a difficult figure or not, whether his strict regime - which John Terry says has been relaxed - remains in place or not, no player should withdraw their labour.

David Beckham has his faults, but his attitude for England has been impeccable. When cast aside by Steve McClaren and then by Capello, never once has he thrown a fit of pique, instead constantly repeating the refrain that he will never give up on playing for his country, even now. No wonder he was one of the rare England players who has enjoyed a decade of wild acclaim from supporters of the national side - even a warm-up saunter down the touchline brings Wembley to its feet.

Pundits and players alike need to realise they are not entitled to anything in international football.

- - -

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "What I can tell you for certain is that Mario has nothing to do with any type of criminal activity. If, and I repeat if, Mario went to Scampia it was probably because he was curious to see what this sad area is really like. He certainly didn't know that the people who the police say were with him, were mobsters." - Mario Balotelli's agent goes into damage limitation mode after the Manchester City star was said to have toured Naples with two alleged Camorra bosses.

FOREIGN VIEW: "I had plans to speak to you today a bit more on this matter but the best legal advice I received has suggested that I do not do so at this point in time and that advice I am going to respect." - Jack Warner puts his "football tsunami" on hold at the behest of his lawyers.

COMING UP: We have continuing live coverage of the Test between England and Sri Lanka at Lord's, while our Premier League Best XI feature moves onto the right-back position and Paul Parker also delivers his verdict on England's performance against Switzerland.

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