More yellows than goals
Well you can't say you weren't warned though few suspected that England could be quite so dire. Crouch who contrived to miss his only opportunity was poor.. However he played without support from Rooney who spent most of the game too deep in midfield, and without service from two wingers who rarely beat their fullbacks on the outside and who between them failed to get one cross on target. If Crouch had headed the ball back in, across or down there would have been no-one there to profit.
Barry and Gerrard were too deep and most of their 40yd. Hollywood passes were intercepted. The back four played at a pace that even snails would have been ashamed of. The Montenegran defence had time to brew up, wash up and put the crockery away before getting into position. At least Huddlestone and Lennon our other conscripts were spared the ignominy of turning out for what should have been Capello's last match. Anyone who wasn't being paid even more than some top flight footballers would have done the honourable thing by now. Too well paid to resign and too expensive to to be sacked.
The replacement of Crouch by Davies, the angel faced thug of the Premiership, Heskey without the finesse, was possibly the low water mark of English football in a very dry season indeed. He committed five fouls in as many minutes, got booked as he does regularly, and at 33 is unlikely to make another appearance, thus securing his legacy as a Trivial Pursuits question.
What message does it send to aspiring players that a man who has more yellow cards than goals to his name is selected? I know that Defoe, Bent and others were injured but if there isn't a better English prospect somewhere in the league than an ageing bovver boy who like Heskey rarely scores then we might as well give up now. Michael Owen or Andy Carroll would have been better calls.
And now thank god we can return to the serious, proper football with the visit of Spurs to Fulham with just Defoe and Dawson still suffering wounds from the international front line. Everyone else has returned without mishap as far as I can discover, some like Kranjcar with their reputations enhanced. Gio, Van de Vaart and Modric also did well.
The Fulham game will be played once again with one eye on the trip to Italy in the Champions' League and some players may be rested for this. Playing with one eye on the game after next may explain the failure of our strikers to hit the target. Again I would prefer to play our strongest squad against Fulham and let the Inter Milan game take care of itself. Ledley might be kept for Italy but to be honest second guessing Harry is a mugs' game. Van de Vaart is banned for midweek and will probably play off Crouch against Fulham.
A point will certainly do against Inter but we will be looking for more than this against Fulham who have yet to lose this season. They have however only won once in seven and lie two points behind us in 9th. Mark Hughes starting at the top as team manager of Wales is slowly making his way down the league. He has replaced Roy Hodgson and has yet to work any sort of magic on draw specialists Fulham who are struggling for goals in the absence of Zamora.
Last season we played them four times, drawing 0-0 twice in the League, the same in the Cup before finally beating them 3-1 in the replay at WHL. Despite there being few goals the games were entertaining and our record against Fulham in the Premiership is pretty evenly balanced. It's a game that we need to win to maintain our League position and to build momentum for Wednesday. It's a game that we could certainly win on paper. Yeah, yeah, I know matches are not played on paper.
Our injury list is the biggest in the Premiership according to 'The Physio Room' and I await the team news with a little trepidation. Hutton, Kaboul, King, Gallas, Ekotto, and Lennon are all recovering from injury in addition to our long term injured. So Corluka could return at right back and Bale play at left back. Bassong and Huddlestone may appear at centre half. I expect a low scoring game at Fulham but think we will run out 1-0 winners.
Against Inter I think we will see a defensive strategy with a 0-0 or 1-1 the likely outcome. Harry might just try a little bluff accepting that Spurs play better at a high tempo and concentrate on attack. But he has had his fingers burnt already this season and might settle for a waltz rather than a quickstep. Two draws wouldn't be a disaster but against Fulham with Van de Vaart buzzing and perhaps Kranjcar in good form we might just be keen to take the league pressure off in this game.