Wednesday, 31 March 2010

This Week's Sporting Spectacles

This week will see many sporting events that promise to deliver some interesting spectacles. For this post I will look at some of the stories and upcoming fixtures that have taken my interest. This will include the Champions League matches as well as a look at the return of Tiger Woods and David Hayes first title defence.

Football is inevitably dominating the back pages at the moment as we enter the 'business end' of the season. Arsenal's title hopes were damaged by a 1-1 draw with Birmingham at the weekend as they did what I, and many others, believed and said that they would do by slipping up in the title race. On a poor surfaces, facing an aggressive Birmingham side and without Cesc Fabregas able to pull the strings the Gunners were unable to get all three points. Only four days later Arsenal host the best team in the world as Barcelona travel to the Emirates for the first leg of the Quarter-Final tonight. Although Barcelona will go into the match as favourites, and rightly so, Arsenal have a great chance at causing an upset at odds of 2/1. The Spanish champions have not had the best away form in this year's competition and Arsenal's flowing football could match up well against them. Arsenal's weakness against the counter-attack, however, could easily be their undoing with Messi looking as though he can score every time he gets the ball. It also has the added interests of returns to their old clubs for Fabregas (if fit) and Henry. Predictions aside, this promises to be one of the most attractive and entertaining football matches that spectators could hope for and you can only hope that it is the mouth-watering affair that football fans expect.

Last night Manchester United suffered a 2-1 defeat to Bayern Munich as the German side completed their desire for revenge after the 1999 Champions League final by scoring a 92nd minute winner of their own. The result cannot be said to have been unfair as, in second half particular, Bayern looked far more dangerous with Ferguson's side seemed unable to keep hold of the ball. To make matters worse Rooney is thought to be out for 2-4 weeks with a sprained ankle and will therefore miss Chelsea's trip to Old Trafford and the second leg against Bayern which could prove vital for the Red Devil's dreams of a Premiership and Champions League title.

There has been a lot of speculation over the future of Jose Mourinho who seems to disillusioned with Italian football. Despite being top of Serie A and still in Europe 'the special one' seems to have adopted the role of the pantomime villain in Italy. It appears as though the football traditionalists over there have not taken to Mourinho's outspoken nature. A Sky Sports News Italian football correspondent said that he was not loved in Italy and he is not loved in England other than with Chelsea and the British media. I completely disagree. Mourinho is a great character and I, like many, would love to see him return to the Premiership because he brings something very different from the repetitiveness of managerial interviews. Whether it be with Manchester City, Liverpool or any other club I would welcome his return.

Away from football the big event that is receiving a lot of attention is Tiger Wood's imminent return to the golf course in the The Masters next week. The responses to my view that golf is not a sport have made me rethink my statement that I will not be covering it and thought that this story was worth a mention, if only briefly. It will be very interesting to see the response that he gets when he tees off at Augusta. Despite his absence from the game he is still favourite to win the event at 3/1 and 6/1 to not make the cut. It can be assumed that the response to his return will be mixed and perhaps somewhat muted although the idea of booing and taunting chants on a golf course does would be very entertaining.

On Saturday David Haye will make the first defence of his WBA heavyweight title against John Ruiz at the MEN arena. Haye is favourite for the fight but Ruiz is at 8/1 to win by KO or TKO which are not bad odds. Ruiz, 38, has held the title at two times in his career and has won 44 of his 54 fights, 30 of these by KO. Haye's chin is vulnerable and could be tested against his experienced opponent. It should make for a much more even fight than many have assumed and should be an entertaining contest. Haye winning would not only be good news for British boxing fans but also would be good news for the heavyweight division. The boring Klitschko brothers desperately need to stripped of their belts and Haye is one of few bright sparks in a dwindling weight-class and for him to unify the division would is just what boxing needs.

On a more comical note, the mighty Audley Harrison is returning to the ring to face Micheal Sprott for the European Heavyweight crown. The winner of the gold medal at the 2000 Olympics has failed to make it big since turning pro but hopes that a win on the 9th April will set up a fight of his own against one of the Klitschko brothers. If he loses then he says he will retire... what a loss that would be to British boxing.

Thoughts, comments and opinions please...

Saturday, 27 March 2010

England's Tour of Bangladesh - More Than Just 'Job Done'

Earlier this week England completed the expected 2-0 test series win against minnows Bangladesh. The performances have come under criticism as many onlookers believed that England made unduly hard work to beat a side that has only 3 of their 66 tests. The time difference of the tour has made it difficult to follow but the newspapers and TV reports seem to unfairly emphasis the short-comings of the team rather than their successes. Even though the victories may not have been as convincing as many would have hoped I still believe, contrary to the opinions of many, the tour has yielded far more positives than it has negatives.

The tour comes on the back of a tough winter tour of South Africa and before a busy summer schedule as the England team then look to defend the ashes in Australia at the end of the year. The old cliché in sport remains, a team can only beat what is front of them. England did that without ever really looking in serious danger of losing, other than in the eyes of some of the more pessimistic critics.

Alastair Cook stepped up to replace the resting Strauss as captain for the tour and acquitted himself in a promising manner. He may have showed naivety in some field placing setting, especially leaking runs through third man, but this is understandable and is all part of the learning curb for the 25 year-old. He got scores of 173, 39, 21, 109(no). His ability to perform at his best with the bat while under the pressure captaincy bodes well for his and England's future. People can point the figure at some selection issues and field settings but his leadership with the bat and his first taste of test captaincy was a promising one.

The bowlers, on very flat wickets, did not make a bad account of themselves. Broad may have continued his inconsistent bowling performances but his ability to pick up key wickets and swing the bat means he does, and will continue to, warrant his place in the side. Graeme Swann, who is ranked the second best bowler in the test arena, collected the Man of the Series award as he picked up 16 wickets in the four innings. The off-spinner remains the reliable performer with the ball and his ability to constantly pick up wickets on any surface has been a remarkable and invaluable revelation over the past two years.

The less familiar face of Tim Bresnan was another solid performer in the series as the 25 year-old Yorkshireman chipped in 7 wickets and got a score of 91. His performances with bat and ball will have certainly given the selectors food for thought for the summer ahead. The conditions did not favour the pace bowlers. In a very hot and humid climate and on very flat pitches wickets were hard to come by but the work rate of the front-line seamers was admirable.

Other areas that England can be pleased with were the performances of Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell. KP hit a solid 99 in the first innings of the first test and then followed it up with an unselfish quick fire 32 as England aimed to set a declaration target. In the second test he added a 45 and 74(no). Meanwhile Bell notched up an 84, 39 and an impressive 138. Many people will be quick to point out they were facing a bowling attack that does not strike fear into any international batters on favourable wickets. They both, however, showed good patience and took large strides towards finding their form having both only returned to International cricket recently.

As for the other members of the team; Trott, Collingwood, Prior and Tredwell and Carbury. These players may not have excelled but to expect all members of the squad to shine in a two-test-series just because the opposition was Bangladesh is foolish. Bangladesh themselves continue to make progress in the test format and will benefit from opportunities to play against the other larger cricketing nations. Furthermore, in the ODIs that preceded the test series, both Craig Kieswetter and Eoin Morgan cemented their places in the England team in the shorter form of the game and this ought not to be forgotten.

Many have voiced their opinions of how Strauss should have been in Bangladesh and honoured his role as captain. This is a separate issue. For the record, I believe he ought to have gone with the team as that is part of his job description. Nevertheless, this should not overshadow the positives that can be taken from the test series, and indeed, the tour as a whole.

Conditions were not easy and Bangladesh performed better than many expected. The England batsmen who needed runs, namely Pietersen and Bell, got just that while Trott, who would have wanted to cash in on some valuable runs, was the unfortunate recipient of two harsh umpiring decisions. Cook excelled as stand-in captain and he and the team will be better for the experience. In the bowling department, Swann was excellent, again, and Bresnan made a bright start to his international career.

The tour was ultimately not just a case of 'job done'. England comfortably won the first and second tests by 181 runs and 9 wickets respectively. People, perhaps, placed too much emphasis on the opposition. As such positives were discredited because ' its only Bangladesh' and this does a disservice to both England and Bangladesh. England were expected to win 2-0 and they duly delivered with a squad which some notable absentees – Strauss, Anderson, Onions. Of course the upcoming opposition in 2010 will be tougher tests but England's tour of Bangladesh has offered far more positives than negatives ahead of them.

Thoughts, comments and opinions please...

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Polly's Premiership Prediction

On Sunday 9th May the Premiership will reach a very exciting climax as the final 10 fixtures are played out simultaneously. I thought I would try my hand at the BBC's table predictor and see how the final table could eventually look. Of course this is in no way accurate, if I could predict the results with any great confidence then I would not lose accumulators every weekend. Nevertheless I filled out my predictions for every remaining fixture this season as this was the end result.

My table has Manchester United just edging out Chelsea by a point to claim their fourth straight title. Their Sky Blue rivals claim the final Champions League place ahead of Liverpool, Tottenham and Aston Villa who all finish two points behind them. At the other end of the table Portsmouth are inevitably rooted to the bottom of the table and Burnley finish in 19th position. Hull are the final side to be relegated as they lose out on Premiership survival to Wolves on goal difference.

Now as I say this is in no way accurate but the exercise of doing the table predictor and the results of it are very revealing. It shows that the race for the title, the final Champions League spot and the fight for survival are all extremely close. Any dropped points and even goal difference will prove to be vital in the final outcome. Trying to predict the way each match will go was extremely difficult as no match is ever straight forward least of all at this time of the year as each team enters every game with different incentives and upsets are always likely.

Will Arsenal and Manchester United's Champions League matches impact upon their league performances? Will one of the bottom sides make a late burst for safety? Which of the chasing pack can finally find the needed consistency to take the fourth place? No one can answer these questions with any conviction. Ultimately, the final 50 days of the current Premiership campaign will be full of twists and turns which will make for fascinating viewing. There is so much to play for and so much uncertainty that if each of us filled out the table predictor then none of us would have the same results and, more importantly, none of them would be proved correct come 9th May.

Try your own table predictor at:

Thoughts, comments, opinions and predictions please...

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Football This Week

I have decided to stick with the formula of covering several different topics that have arisen in the footballing world this week due to the lack of an individual story that caught my eye. So here are my opinions of some of this week's big football events... and a brief comment on the England Rugby Team:

Beckham's injury: Having torn his achilles in the final minutes of AC Milan's 1-0 win over Chievo Beckham's season has come to an abrupt end. Many have said that this has done Capello and England a favour but as I discussed last week I personally believed that Becks still had a role to play in the squad and as such I feel the injury blow does dent the quality of our squad, even if he was only ever going to be a fringe player. There has been great debate over whether or not we should care and regardless of whether or not you feel he should have made the squad it you still ought to care on a personal level. It is a sad way for one of the England's greatest footballers of his generation to end, as it surely must, his international career. In other news Defoe is now out with a hamstring injury and joins Spurs team mate Aaron Lennon on the sidelines and these are certainly still bigger problems ahead of the World Cup.

Dowie: The ugliest man in football returns to the Premiership as the new Hull City boss. You would have to assume that he was a last resort. Names such as Mark Hughes and Alan Curbishley had been linked with the job and yet Dowie get the position, he must have got it on his looks. He has only survived 15 game spells as Charlton and QPR as well getting Crystal Palace relegated and also being part of the Newcastle set-up that saw them drop to the Championship at the back end of last season. He seems far from the logical choice and it will be very interesting if he can defy what many, including myself, will be Hull's fate this season – relegation.

Fulham – From one very average manager to one of the best in the country, Roy Hodgson. He continued his outstanding work at Fulham with one of, if not the, result of the season. To come back from a 4-1 deficit against Juventus to win 5-4 on aggregate stunned the footballing world and deserved a mention in this week's big events. Zamora is once again getting shouts of an England call up and if he maintains his current form it would be tough to argue with them, especially after Defoe's lay off. The Cottagers have now been drawn against Wolfsburg in the next round and even though the German side are a quality outfit Hodgson and his men should not fear any side after the feat they accomplished on Thursday night.


England's Six Nations: Watching England grind out a draw against Scotland last weekend was the final straw. Martin Johnson needs to go. Rumours had it that if he failed to get 3 wins in the this year's tournament he would get the boot . With two wins thus far and a very tough game against France (in which you would expect them to be rolled over) he looks sure to fall short of his target. He has finally introduced many of the changes that many were hoping were implemented before the first ball was kicked and despite shifting the personnel he will inevitably continue to favour caution and conservatism in everything his does with the team. Finger pointing can be directed at Borthwick or Wilkinson but the criticisms placed on them really must lie with Johnson. The lack of passion and direction throughout the team is a result of Johnson's tactical naivety and inexperience that has manifested itself in an uninspiring and lacklustre six nations from England. There is a part of me that hopes that England get hammered in Paris tonight if that is what is needed for the RFU to take the necessary action and get rid of Johnson. Yet one can easily predict that the reality of the situation is that Martin will be given a run into next year's World Cup, even though his time as manager thus far does not warrant such generosity.

Thoughts, comments and opinions please...

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Women In Sport

Should women in sport be on equal earnings to their male counterparts? Absolutely not. This is of course a matter that must be approached with caution because I am not advocating inequality between the sexes beyond the simple fact that as sports stars they are not in the same league. I do not want to say that women should be denied the opportunity to partake in all the sports men do, for example, not allowing women to box because it is deemed ‘too brutal’ is wrong. Nevertheless the point remains that women should not be earning the same amount as men.

For the most part women in sport would not even attempt to claim they warrant the high levels of pay as male sport stars. Yet this is topic for debate in which female onlookers do believe there is a gross injustice. In reality the sporting arena is a business and pay works on supply and demand. What do the people want to see? This is the question which explains why women’s pay aren’t, shouldn’t be and probably never will be anywhere near rivalling men in sport.

Men are superior athletes. Women can, in some sports, match them technically, but this is rare and these are sports when the physical demand in much lower allowing them play on a more even keel. Tennis, for example, is the one sport in which females and males can earn similar money. This is still undeserved. Who would rather watch women’s tennis then men’s tennis? There may be some but the demand is still for the top male players to be shown on TV. This is why all the events broadcast through the year, other than the Grand Slams, are mainly of the all male competitions. Women play fewer minutes, at a lower standard, which fewer people want to watch so to demand equal pay is surely unfair, for me it is purely for the sake of sexual equality and not out of actual merit.

This may sound fair to most but I disagree. Female models (x-rated and otherwise) earn much more then their male equivalents, does anyone argue with this. No because everyone knows that no one cares to see the men – supply and demand. As long as male sports attract the attention then wages and prize money will be dramatically higher.

Look at England’s women cricket team, they have been winning tournaments and ashes competitions regularly recently and have only received a fraction of the attention on the TV or in the papers compared to the men in Bangladesh. Whether football, rugby, basketball or almost any other sport the fact remains that people will always want to watch the men play over the women. They are better athletes and the matches are contested at a faster pace and a better quality making them far more entertaining.

This is not sexist; this is a simple observation that few would deny. Women’s sports have come a long way and the standard of them is improving all the time but gender limitations means that even if it sounds unfair that men earn huge amounts more than the women in the same sport, as they invariably do, in reality is very fair.

Thoughts, comments and opinions please…

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Debates on F1, KP and Two England Greats

When trying to think of a topic for my next post I struggled to think of any one idea that particularly took my interest. Instead, I have decided to briefly address a few of the different debates that have been bouncing around the sports websites this week. These are my thoughts on these different debates that I didn't feel needed an entire post individually:

Rooney's goal challenge – After another class performance by the hottest form player in the world against an average Milan side Ferguson issued Wayne Rooney with the challenge of beating Cristiano Ronaldo's goal tally of 42 in one season. Rooney currently has 30 goals after 37 games and with 9 more premiership games and at least 2, possibly a further 3, games in the Champions League. He basically would need to get around a goal a game. I think that he will achieve this substantial challenge. Rooney is putting away almost every chance he gets at the moment whether it is with either foot or his head. He may well fail to score in some of his remaining matches but I would back him to grab a brace against any team with defensive flaws at the moment and therefore I would say that he is more than capable of beating Ronaldo's goalscoring benchmark.

Beckham to South Africa – An ongoing debate has been whether Beckham warrants a place on the plane to South Africa this summer. People balance his passing and skills at the dead-ball against his lack of pace for a winger. I believe that in a 23 man team he deserves to go. He may not have the directness or ability to beat a man like Walcott, Lennon or Wright-Phillips but we don't need two copies of the same player. If Lennon can recapture his form of earlier this season then he should go or if Walcott can show some consistency and a bit more quality than he can but there is no need to take both. I think Beckham can have a role to play in the squad as he can add a new dimension for the team that bringing both Walcott and Lennon would not. Walcott could go as a utility player for both wings or upfront while Beckham can go as a backup for the right-wing or centre midfield. I say find a place for Becks and put him on the plane.

KP – There were calls at the start of the week before the coin toss for the first test against Bangladesh that Kevin Pietersen should be dropped for the series because of his lack of form. It is of course very easy to say with hindsight that these were unfounded claims but at the time I, like many, knew they were ridiculous. He is still England's best batsmen and the thought of dropping him ahead of a series in which he should be able to get easier runs was completely illogical. I am just very happy to see that KP has gone some way to silencing some of critics although a 99 against a poor test-side will inevitable only add fuel to the fire of KP haters.

New F1 Season – Today the new F1 season began. The thought of an all British team dominating the sport combined and the return of the legendary Michael Schumacher excited the motor racing world. The truth is that most people don't really care do they?? Short of putting laser on the cars and oil patches on the track the interest in the sport will continue to dwindle because in a sadistic way most people only flick onto the Grand Prix to see the crashes. It has its specific market and loyal petrol head followers but the season will come and pass with most people not knowing, nor caring, what happens.

Thoughts, comments and opinions on these stories or any other of this week's sporting stories please...

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Still Too Soon For Gunners

Last night Arsenal hammered Porto 5-0 at the Emirates to book their place in the quarter-finals of the Champions League. This win comes in the middle of yet another week in which many football writers have been assessing the Gunners' credentials for the Premiership run in. they are currently in 3rd place tied on 61 points with Chelsea (who do have a game-in-hand) and only two points behind leaders Manchester United. The question still remains though, do Arsene Wenger's side have it in them to take the league crown for the first time in six years?

Despite the fact that Arsenal may find themselves right in the running with only nine more fixtures left in this season's campaign I still do not believe that they will be able to cross the finish line first, or second for that matter. The only reason that they find themselves in such a promising position is because of the short comings of the two teams in front of them. Both Manchester United and Chelsea have been dropping points with unusual frequency. Arsenal have been beaten in both the home and away matches against the top two and yet, because of the slip-ups by these teams, they are still in contention.

Wenger's side are an extremely mercurial team. Last night's performance against Porto once again showed the class that the squad possesses, a class that watchers of the Premiership are all too aware of. It is their inability to perform at this level week-in-week-out that has plagued the club this year. It is for this reason that I would not be backing Arsenal's chances of finishing top at odds, even at around 2/1.

Their next four games are pivotal. They have an ideal run of games at this vital stage of the season as they prepare to face Hull, West Ham, Birmingham and then Wolves. There may be no easy matches in the Premiership but these are certainly some of the easiest. These are, however, the sort of teams that the North Londoners have typically struggled against. Teams that shut-up shop against Arsenal and play in an intimidating fashion have a well-known recipe for success, it is the teams that play more open football that will leave themselves open for Arsenal's total football approach to take full effect.

I do not believe that the squad has all the pieces yet to challenge at the business end of the campaign. The side lacks leaders and strong characters, so much so it is a wonder that they have done as well as they have thus far. No one will doubt the quality of their players, only their ability to grind out ugly victories and deal with the physical approach many take against them. With Van Persie, Fabregas and Gallas all struggling with injuries the teams lacks experienced heads and I believe this will show. They are too liable to drop points at the crucial moments between now and the end of the season, as they have been doing so often in the last few years.

Arsenal play an attractive brand of football and as such there are few who would begrudge them breaking the strangle hold that Chelsea and Manchester United have had on the Premiership of late. The performances of the Gunners so far this season, however, would indicate that the team is still not fully equipped to deal with the challenges the next three months will inevitably pose, the loses to the top two highlighted this fragility. They are fortunate that blips by their title contenders have allowed them to remain in the running this late on. In my opinion Wenger's young side must still to mature to meet the standards, mainly mentally, required to win the League.

Arsenal, it would appear though, are not very far away from being able to take that final step to reach the high benchmark that Manchester United and Chelsea have been setting for the last five years or so. The experience of one or two more campaigns, and a few wise signings, and Arsenal could have their name back of the Premiership trophy, but I strongly doubt it will be this year!

Thoughts, comments and opinions please...

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Tyson vs Holyfield III

One story that emerged this week which really caught my eye was the prospect of 'Iron' Mike Tyson making another return to the ring. Although not having announced it himself it has been said that he wishes to return for one more fight and the ideal opponent, somewhat inevitably, is Evander Holyfield. This is an absurd story and the chances of it happening are far from certain but it is still a very interesting prospect.

Tyson is 41 years-old and he is not the sort of athlete who has kept himself in pristine condition. Afterall the idea of a boxer continuing to fight as he turns 40 is nothing new or unusual. Bernard Hopkins is still fighting at a high level at the age of 45 and George Foreman reclaimed the World Heavyweight Belt at 45 as well. Tyson, however, is man who drinks, smokes, takes drugs and has been putting on weight to rival Ricky Fatton. He is said to have lost around 3 stones but he must still surely not be in any condition to fight. His last fight, back in 2005, saw him unable to come out of his corner for the 7th round against a nobody, Kevin McBride, because he was in such bad shape.

Holyfield last fought in 2008 against the giant Valuev where he is widely acknowledged to have been beaten extremely controversially in a points decision. At the age of 47 he may be 6 years the elder but he is no doubt in better condition. He is already thought to be set to fight South African François Botha, 41, in April.

This is the all too familiar story of two boxers trying to cling to their past. Whether they want the money, the attention or just the chance to hit people again is unsure. Not a month passes in the boxing world it seems without a familiar name announcing a comeback from retirement. As such,this match, if it is ever arranged, will almost certainly be met with the usual criticism and scepticism of other comebacks. Most likely this potential match has come out of nothing more than the need for another big pay-day.

It wont be boxing of the highest order by any stretch of the imagination. But still the prospect of having Tyson and Holyfield back in the ring together would have some entertainment value. Their first two fights were classics and this is one of the great rivalries in the sport, even if it is only because of Tyson having a nibble on Holyfield's ear way back in 1997. I think it would be a shame if they return to the ring, they would only do a disservice to themselves and to boxing. All that said though, I can't help myself being drawn in by the prospect of it and as the promoters well know, if they get it on TV then people, quite probably myself included, would watch.

Thoughts, opinions and comments on this story please... would you watch??

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

100 Days To Go!

There are now just under 100 days to go till the 2010 World Cup kicks off. I am aware that it would be silly to try and predict the way things are going to unfold this June but I thought I would examine the state of the English team as the summer approaches. Even though I have briefly touched upon the England squad when talking about the John Terry saga and Ashley Cole's injury, this time I shall look in more detail at the whole squad instead.

Tonight's match against Egypt is the last before Capello will name his preliminary squad in May and the England side that is predicted to start is not one that fills me with any great confidence. People have been saying all year that we have to be considered one of the hot favourites for the tournament. This is of course the usual chat that comes around before every major tournament but in reality the class does not seem to be present in the squad to warrant such talk - 3rd favourites at 11/2 is typical English optimism.

Sources have tonight's probable line-up as something like this:

Green/Hart, Brown, Upson, Terry, Baines, Walcott, Lampard, Barry, Gerrard, Rooney, Heskey/Crouch.

There are problems for me throughout the line up. In goal none of the keepers are without fault. James, Hart and Green will be competing for the number 1 shirt yet none of them are certainties because none combine the quality and consistency to make them a shoe-in. The defence is of just as great a concern. Baines may be a good developing player but is unproven on the international stage. As for Brown and Upson, are these players good enough to cope with the best attacking players in the world, not for me.

In midfield Walcott is nowhere near the 'finished article'. Barry is a safe player who does a good job while Lampard and Gerrard are both quality players who's place in the team is unquestionable. Rooney is one of, if not the, best players in the world on his current form and no doubt all England fans will be hoping he remains on this form and injury free till June. Unfortunately we lack a second world-class striker to play along side him. Heskey may help Rooney's game but in himself is not a great player. Defoe can score goals but is not the ideal strike partner for Wayne. This leaves Crouch and Carlton Cole as the other options but I would not rely on either to deliver on the biggest stage in football.

I am not saying that these are not good players, they are just not great players. To win the World Cup then you will need to beat the likes of Spain, Brazil and Argentina and I would not put my faith in some of these players to help us do so. Many of the players I have isolated as worries are not, of course, first choice options. Cole, Lennon, Johnson and Ferdinand are all usual starters who are unavailable. Yet this does act to highlight the lack of strength of depth there is in the England squad right now.

We still are relying so heavily on a handful of top quality players. Beyond these players, however, is where the concern lies. If we lose Rooney or a couple of other starters, like in defence tonight, then I do not believe we would be able to beat our other main World Cup competitors. It will be interesting to see how tonight's game unfolds and how the team is able to perform in a game they ought to win even against an Egypt team that is not without it's strengths.

One of our great strengths lies in the form of our manager. Capello has generated much of the optimism as he finally seems to be getting the best out of the players. His comments on the problem of the huge wages in the squad was refreshing to hear from a manager as his no nonsense approach has been a great success. Despite my worries about the squad, the management of the squad does go some way to ease such concerns.

Perhaps I am being too pessimistic about England's chances but tonight's team has revealed the fragility of the squad and it is because of the lack of quality in depth in all positions that I see the 11/2 odds as very flattering. Of course, the need to keep key players injury free is a universal concern, I would believe the other main contenders are better equipped to cope with such problems if they arise.

Thoughts, comments and opinions please...

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