England Camp Focus – Opening game produces contrasting fortunes for Green and Heskey

Whilst the nation dissects Robert Green’s deficiencies in goal, one man will unfortunately remain unspoken of. Indeed, when he is remarked upon, people will merely point to his inability to score a perfectly good opportunity. They will forget of all the good he did. Emile Heskey was tasked by Fabio Capello to provide the perfect foil for England’s most attacking threat, Wayne Rooney.

Instead, Aston Villa’s infrequent performer outshone the purportedly world’s best striker completely. Not only did he assist Steven Gerrard for England’s goal, he bullied the United States defence, opened spaces for Aaron Lennon, and proved an absolute nuisance for the games entirety. Comparatively, Rooney and England looked out of sorts and lost. Prior to the game, Heskey was one of the five men in a position that was still being deliberated up and down the country. As soon as the squad was announced to the world, Heskey’s detractors will have no doubt dismissed his selection as idiocy from Capello, suggesting Peter Crouch or Jermain Defoe as better options.

The old adage commonly attached to Heskey is because he is a striker that does not score frequently, he should not be in the England squad let alone the starting XI. Hopefully this man of the match performance will have drastically changed the opinions of those doubters. Of course, he should have done better with his effort against Tim Howard in the second half but he is certainly not to blame – had Howard fumbled a difficult catch, Wayne Rooney would have been in an excellent position to dispatch the rebound. Unfortunately for England, Howard did something Robert Green was unable to do.

An all too recognisable sight was visible at the Royal Bafokeng stadium – once again, England had to witness an absolutely shambolic goalkeeping gaffe. England’s deficiency in goal has held them back from getting the result a performance deserved. West Ham’s Robert Green, tasked with proving Fabio Capello’s judgment in selecting him over Joe Hart and David James correct, made a mistake of epic proportions – England’s collective footballing heart sunk as the ball crept past Green after a speculative 40th minute effort from Fulham striker Clint Dempsey. For Green, fundamental goalkeeping deserted him. Having your entire body behind your hands when collecting a shot is one of the earliest techniques taught to any ‘keeper and on this scale, one of the grandest in the world, Robert Green was devoid of that early teaching.

Just over a year ago, Green was speaking to the media about his chances of becoming England goalkeeper. He pointed towards David James, nine years his senior, and suggested he would have ample work to do to replace the veteran. Yesterday’s appointment as England number one for the World Cup shows that Green has (or as it may be in the future, had) replaced James. However, in a comment that may now be resonating round Green’s ears, he spoke of his understanding of the pressure that comes through being in a position subject to more mistakes than any other. When asked about this pressure, Green remarked: “As an outfield player you get lost in the game again, you’re everywhere running around. As a goalkeeper it’s having the mentality to get on with the game and concentrate, as opposed to dwelling on it. That is the toughest part. That comes, ironically, from making mistakes. That is how you become a better player.” Now Green has unequivocally made a mistake, he will be hoping he is given the chance to become a better player in this competition.

Giving Green that opportunity will be Capello’s biggest conundrum following Saturday’s disappointing draw. It all depends upon which risk Capello is more willing to take. Risks will need substantial calculating- does he opt to err towards Joe Hart or David James, or does he stick with a man who will be shot of confidence? Either decision will have its critics – does England have a goalkeeper that will be able eradicate those silly, menial mistakes from his game? David James certainly has form for making such errors and Joe Hart perhaps lacks the experience to cope with a position of such magnitude. What is most patently worrying though is the knock-on effect that Green’s mistake had and will continue to have. Capello has already sought to rid Green of any blame for the goal: “Sometimes a forward misses a goal and sometimes the keeper makes a mistake, this is football.” Whether the nation will be as forgiving remains to be seen.


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