“I have seen the crystal ball. And it looks awful.”
Steve McLaren is hoping that the English fans will express their displeasure to their shrinks and not on the field when England takes on Estonia. He has implored patience. At stake England’s Euro campaign. At stake too, McLaren’s job.
England unveils its new weapon which is its old but now best weapon. David Beckham will be asked to deliver the goods as England take on Estonia in a must win Euro qualifier. In doing so, Steve McLaren is hoping fans hold their tongues in asking the obvious question. Why is England’s attack being entrusted to two forwards coming back from season ending injuries, at best 60% operational, with England’s Euro campaign on the line. Michael Owen and Alan Smith are as rust encrusted as Spanish galleons sunk in the Saragossa. So the good news is that Peter Crouch is back, replacing Alan Smith.
Will Mart Poom, Estonia’s goalie (Gunners will recognize him), and now on transfer to Watford and the defense be able to keep England at bay? Estonia is without one of their best players, central defender Raio Piiroja, through suspension. Their best striker Anders Oper who plays for the Eredivisie is out through injury. Estonia’s game plan is clear. Their coach Jelle Goes hopes they “play like Macedonia – who are a pain in the arse for big football countries”. Well, if you can’t qualify, and Estonia with no points so far is well past that stage, then you can play spoiler. I am sure Russia and Croatia would approve.
Crouch’s injection means that Beckham has an obvious aerial target to hoof the ball to. Wayne Bridge returns in the starting line up as left back. McLaren might also start Kieron Dyer on the right. Both Bridge and Dyer should shorten the distance to the Estonian goal with their speed and inclination to attack. However, the Jamie Carragher swap for Wes Brown does not make too much sense. Carragher has played well even out of his natural position. Estonia’s Ragnar Klavan who likes latching onto the end of a free kick can cause all kinds of problems. He came close to scoring against Croatia. Tarmo Kink is Estonia’s main threat at open play down the left flank. Carragher is a better man marker neutralizing them.
It is not just Steve McLaren feeling the pressure but for almost a year after the World Cup, pudgy Frank Lampard has supplanted Owen Hargreaves as most reviled player. For Lamps, another substandard outing would have him pining for the olive gardens of Spain and the awaiting arms of his paramour, Ellen Rivas. The choice is clear. Lamps needs to perform or the boo birds will have another field day.