As the Euro 2012 qualifiers are set to get underway, Fabio Capello has named his first squad. No Jack Wilshere. No Andy Carroll. No David Stockdale. No mention of Mikel Arteta. And for this, English tabloid newspaper The Sun has savaged Capello, labelling him as a "jackass" and "gormless." It has accused him of basically ditching "England’s brave new world after just one game." For me, this is a load of absolute rubbish.
Let us look at some of the reasons for this. Case No. 1: Jack Wilshere. He has been excluded despite making his England debut against Hungary and gaining "rave reviews" in his first two games this season.
When you put it like that, it sounds a reasonable complaint. However, let us look more closely.
In their most recent game against Blackburn, Wilshere came on as an 83rd minute substitute, missed a sitter, and was given a "5" in the Sun’s player ratings, not even meriting a mention in the match report.
Before that, Arsenal hammered Blackpool 6-0 with Jack Wilshere starting. Surely he must have played well? Once again, there was no mention of him whatsoever in the Sun’s match report, and despite playing all 90 minutes, he was given a "6" rating—the joint lowest in the Arsenal team.
So, in that case, he must have been outstanding in the first game against Liverpool, right? After all, he has been earning "rave reviews." Well, he finally got a mention in the match report—apparently "he will grow in confidence the more games he plays." Oh yeah, and he collected another impressive "5" rating.
So, in their own newspaper, he has barely even received a mention, let alone "rave reviews." Indeed, the only time he has received more than the odd line was when he was arrested and bailed following a fight outside a London nightclub late last night.
Now, let’s move on to look at the other player that Capello is supposedly a "jackass" for omitting. Andy Carroll has scored four goals in three games so far this season. Good form—enough for an international call-up?
Well, this is a player who has started a grand total of eight Premier League games in his entire career. Last season, he scored 17 goals in 39 games in the Championship. Michael Chopra scored 18, Gary Hooper scored 19, Nicky Maynard scored 20, whilst Peter Whittingham scored 21. A decent goal tally, but hardly one to write home about.
And yeah, he has had a decent start to the season, grabbing a hat-trick against Villa and the equaliser against Wolves. But does that mean we should pick any player who has scored a hat-trick? Marcus Bent has a Premier League hat-trick, as do Luke Moore, Marlon Harewood, even Jermaine Pennant.
Maybe Carroll will be an international-class striker. But to claim Capello is deluded for excluding him from the squad already is ridiculous. If he can keep up the form, then pick him. But to select him on the basis of three games is frankly absurd.
David Stockdale is another player who the press have been supporting for an international call-up. With all due respect, why is he even being talked about as an international keeper?
He has played a grand total of four Premier League games, and only because Mark Schwarzer is injured. If Schwarzer stays, he will be straight back into the team. If he leaves, Stockdale has admitted he expects a replacement first choice keeper to be brought in.
So, England should be calling up a player who has barely even played in the top division at the age of 24, and who expects to be back on the bench within weeks?
The press in England are simply ridiculous when it comes to hyping new players who should be playing for England. It seems that if a player has two consecutive good matches, he should be an England regular. If we did this, the international team would be a complete joke.
The lack of research that the press does in its reports is also quite disappointing. The clamour around Mikel Arteta and his possible international place in the England squad once he gains citizenship later this year is a prime example.
It is true that Arteta will qualify as a British citizen later this year. But, a "British" citizen; not an "English" citizen. So, technically, he could be called up for any British side—Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland, or England.
But to solve this issue, the four home associations have an agreement where any player called up must have a blood tie to that country. In other words, he must have been born there or have a relative from that country. Arteta was born in San Sebastian in Spain, and has no relative hailing from the British Isles, let alone England.
So, Arteta could not be called up for England. Even if they wanted him. They would have to renege on this agreement—one which they reaffirmed only two years ago following Nacho Novo’s desire to represent Scotland.
However, these facts seem to have escaped the tabloid press. Why let the facts get in the way of a "good" story?