EPL: Englishmen Make St. Andrews a Fortress, Will Capello Take Notice?
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It came as something of a disappointment to read that instead of England manager Fabio Capello attending the Liverpool vs. Birmingham game and observing a number of potential England candidates, he chose to attend the Italian Grand Prix instead.
Ben Foster, though a spectator for much of the match, kept a clean sheet with aplomb, doing the things he was called upon to do competently and with no fuss. A near-post piledriver from Torres? Divert it out. Edge of box curler from Gerrard? Smothered and held. This is not the same Ben Foster who let Paul Robinson's clearance bounce over him, but a more competent and confident goalkeeper.
Foster's relatively easy afternoon came about because of the contribution of the two men in front of him. Roger Johnson and Scott Dann were at their imperious best, shackling World Cup winner Fernando Torres and limiting him to one or two pressured shots. The same with Gerrard, who could never quite find the time to set himself to shoot without one of the two charging him down.
Their tackling skills are well documented, as is their never say die attitude, but both, and Dann in particular are good passers, unphased by charging forwards.
Liam Ridgewell is another outside option, the previous two's attitude having rubbed off on him. Ridgewell has been playing left-back but still considers himself a centre back. Judging from his performances at the tail end of last season, he has not forgotten how to play it. He is an utterly uncompromising tackler with rather good distributing skills and has been underrated time and time again.
The likes of Drogba, Rooney, Van Persie, Torres, and Lampard have all come to St. Andrews and none have left with more than a point in the last year. These defenders are capable of playing top-quality footballers and are capable of shackling them.
It is also well worth mentioning that four games into the season, all three defenders have scored.
As Jamie Redknapp mentioned in the punditry of the Liverpool Birmingham game, when a player hears he is playing at St. Andrews, it's not one to get his blood pumping.
Indeed it is a very modest ground, but on a good day it is a hostile place and difficult for any player to come to, and this is because of the blood and guts defenders who repeatedly wholeheartedly throw themselves into challenges and blocks and who will simply never ever give up.
These are traits that I like to see in international level defenders, and hopefully one day Capello will give one or more of these players the chance to prove their quality for England.
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