Early Doors

Making a case for Cashley

Early Doors

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Early Doors is not a fan of overpriced, sweat-gathering replica football kits, but is seriously considering buying an England shirt with Ashley Cole's name and number emblazoned on the back.

Cole was one of a plethora of footballers present at the Lakers v Timberwolves NBA showpiece game in London last week and, as the master of ceremonies introduced (almost*) all of them as the big-screen camera panned across, the Chelsea defender was dealt what is now a routine cacophony of boos and jeers.

*ED says 'almost' because - despite being sat next to Sunderland team-mate Darren Bent - the presenter did not appear to recognise Anton Ferdinand, much to his goofy chagrin.

Arsenal fans may have their own hypocritical gripe about Cashley (two words - Sol Campbell), but England's Best And Most Consistent Player TM is largely reviled for having married and cheated on an irritating Geordie weeper. Yawn.

ED largely avoids trash television - agreeing with the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy that it "the drug of the nation, breeding ignorance and feeding radiation" - but it is forced to read the gutter press and so understands that Ms Tweedy is now loathed and reviled after she kicked a genuinely-talented poor African girl off a televised karaoke contest in favour of an even more irritating and weepy 'rapping' version of herself.

ED is also an opportunist and appreciates that the baying mob is a fickle bunch.

So, now that the nation's sweetheart is public enemy number one, it would like to seize on this opportunity to encourage the Wembley crowd to not jeer but cheer Ashley's every move.

It would like to do so because - discounting the irrelevance of likeability - he is the only player in this country who can lay any sort of claim to being the top player around in his position. Fabio Capello says so.

Actually, scratch that - he simply is.

As far as English players are concerned, Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand and Frank Lampard may fit into the ''world class' category but they are not currently in the top three of their respective positions.

And on the left-back front, with the exception of the troubled Patrice Evra, every other top national team's representative is either a weak link or a round peg in a square hole.

Joan Capdevila is in Spain's team by default, Brazil's Michel Bastos and Adriano Correia are midfielders shunted back for lack of better options, Germany duo Holger Badstueber and Heiko Westermann are beefy centre-halves and Argentina's Gabriel Heinze is well past his best.

Ashley Cole does not shirk responsibility: he raises his game under pressure, and always gives 100 per cent.

He is the best left-back in the world, and England fans should be grateful.


With a host of England strikers ruled out of tonight's Euro 2012 qualifying clash with Montenegro, Early Doors firmly believes talk of Kevin Davies being given a start should be put to bed.

Why oh why do England managers not fully trust Peter Crouch?

The lanky assassin may blow hot and cold in the Premier League, where defenders have become accustomed to managing his outsized frame, but international teams still cannot fully comprehend how a man so long can trap, play and occasionally bicycle-kick a ball as well as pretty much any England player.

The accusation that he is a flat-track bully is largely irrelevant as, until you get to the knockout stages of the World Cup or European Championships, no-one is actually that good - that the Montenegro game is viewed as a 'crunch' tie in Group G says it all.

Crouch has scored 21 goals in 40 international games, all the more remarkable given that he has only started around half of them.

He has also scored two goals against very teams similar to Montenegro, fellow Balkan sides Croatia and Macedonia.

Like all former Yugoslavian nations, Montenegro are technically excellent and well-drilled. But their strength lies in attack, not defence.

The back four that started against Switzerland features a defensive pairing from Russian Premier League mid-table side Spartak Nalchik, a Lokomotiv Moscow bit-part player and a teenage reserve at Partizan Belgrade.

Granted, one of them - Miodrag Dzudovic - is almost as big as Crouchy, but given how the Tottenham striker is targeted by international referees for his relatively physical style of play, ED shudders to think how Germany's Manuel Graefe would react to Kevin Davies's 'heads, shoulders, knees and elbows' approach.


Given the form of Mirko 'pants on his head' Vucinic, England's major concern is exactly who should partner the senior Ferdinand in defence.

ED found it absurd that his starting spot should have been questioned: it has previously pointed out that both England and Manchester United look horribly panicky in his absence, and the return of his assured, calming presence is most welcome.

ED was also secretly quite pleased that John Terry picked up yet another phantom injury, sparing Fabio Capello the media furore of dropping a man whose personality is as poisonous as his talent is waning.

It's a straight toss-up between Joleon Lescott and Gary Cahill and, while the latter appears the fashionable choice, Lescott is mixing it near the top of the table and has more pace to complement his greater experience to the Bolton stopper.

It also gives England the honour of fielding a central defensive duo that both have oddly-shaped heads.


QUOTES OF THE DAY: "Devestated (sic), gutted, upset, angry all words that sum up this situation" - the injured Darren Bent again uses the dubious medium of Twitter in his quest to be named 'angriest man in football'.

FOREIGN VIEW: "England are the favourites to win the group but we are not going to London as shopping tourists, we will be looking to prove our worth and get something out of this game" - Montenegro's Croatian coach Zlatko Kranjcar, dad of Spurs midfielder Niko, has a sly dig at fellow Slavs Macedonia, who enjoyed a trip to the West End last time they played in England.

COMING UP: England's Euro 2012 qualifier with Montenegro will be covered with live text and scoring, and in the same group Wales must break down the defensive wall of Switzerland if they are to have any chance of qualifying. Scotland will be expected to field a 10-0 formation against world champions Spain and Ireland have a tricky tie at Slovakia that they realistically cannot afford to lose. Good news for Northern Ireland though - their confidence-boosting draw with Italy is followed by a shoo-in against the part-timers of the Faroe Islands.

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