Why Barry must be on the World Cup plane
Mark my words, the winners of the World Cup will definitely have at least one destroyer in the holding midfield role.
If England are to have any aspirations of reaching the Final, Gareth Barry must be on the plane this Wednesday, fit for the first game or not.
It is quite amazing that one player’s incapacity can affect the hopes and ambitions of an entire nation.
But Barry’s importance to the team is such that no one else can fill the position in front of the back four with anywhere near the same authority as the Manchester City midfielder.
It is uncommon in the Premier League for an Englishman to play in the midfield holding role.
Michael Carrick has been occasionally selected there for Manchester United but his performance for England in the friendly against Mexico last Monday did not fill anyone with real optimism.
Chelsea have John Obi Mikel; Arsenal use Alex Song; Liverpool have Javier Mascherano; and Tottenham have Wilson Palacios.
Every one is a foreign player adept at breaking up the opposition attacks and sliding across the midfield acting as a screen in front of the central defenders.
The concerns over Barry’s ankle injury mean England are preparing once again for the World Cup finals with an injury crisis threatening to disrupt all the best-laid plans of the head coach.
It feels like déjà-vu as another piece of ill fortune threatens the success of the tournament.
At least there are no broken metatarsals this time but Barry’s ankle ligament damage will certainly have given boss Fabio Capello as much trouble as Sven Goran Eriksson encountered in the build-up to his World Cup attempts.
Why’s Barry so important? He provides a base for the more attacking personnel in the England side to join the strikers or lone striker without having to worry too much about racing back to defend.
This is where England can utilise the talent of both Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard in a central role without having to play the Liverpool skipper in the ridiculous position on the left-hand side.
For me, the system picks itself, and means Gerrard and Lampard, plus Wayne Rooney, all play in their naturally best areas, thus providing a real goal threat down the middle.
Pace on the flanks is imperative to get behind what will be stubborn opposition in the Group matches, but when it comes to the knock-out stage an ability to counter-attack with speed and effectiveness could mean a longer stay and possibly ultimate glory.
Today’s friendly with Japan only really gives Fabio Capello 90 minutes to confirm his final selection for the flight on Wednesday. Scott Parker must be given a decent chance to impress as cover for Barry, otherwise it’s been a waste of his time being with the squad.
The same could apply to several others who have not been allowed an opportunity to grab a last-minute boarding pass to Rustenburg.
My only concern is in midfield, where one place is up for grabs with too many inexperienced options available in the form of Tom Huddlestone, Scott Parker and Adam Johnson.
One of these rookies would be in my final 23. I think the defenders and strikers pick themselves, although I have gone for Michael Dawson instead of Matthew Upson because the Spurs centre-half has had a wonderful season and his confidence is high.
I have omitted Michael Carrick because he would not fit into my preferred system of 4-1-4-1 as he does not impress enough in the holding midfield role. If anything, I would put Ledley King into that position ahead of Carrick before Barry regains fitness.
Fortune favours the brave and there is no point in Capello trying to hedge his bets from the first whistle. England supporters do not want another episode of failure and empty promise.
The build-up has been steady and solid –but it will soon be all about results rather than performances, which has always been an Italian trait. As Capello should know so well.