Steve McLaren: When instinct and introspection get switched around

David James latest article in the Guardian: “Don’t blame Carson – the real gaffe was exposing him to such pressure” has an introductory blurb which reads:
The weight of qualification for Euro 2008 should never have been on Scott Carson’s shoulders.
Its a bit bombastic to say that this was a singular responsibility and not a collective one. But James makes a very good point by saying that the goalkeepers on the bench never seriously challenged the number one goalie causing less pressure on turning in a better performance. This continued even after Robinson was ridiculed for his performance against Croatia. McLaren started him in every match even after that. With a series of wins it seems that his faith in Robinson was vindicated.
So it seemed odd that McLaren would give an inexperienced lad like Carson the nod. But lets scratch the surface. I think the problem with McLaren was that he decided to become a last minute shrink. With Robinson’s gaffe prone goalkeeping against Croatia in the last encounter weighing heavily on his mind and David James reputation for momentary lapses of reason, he chose Scott Carson. It is not unreasonable and had this gamble worked, he would have been hailed as a thinking man’s coach and Carson as a hero. Except that he should have played shrink right after the Croatia game and benched Robinson and brought in Scott Carson, Robert Green, or Ben Foster to put pressure on Paul Robinson and to give the goalies some much needed experience. But for the big game he should have brought back Paul Robinson.
Leo Beenhakker benched Jerzy Dudek after his lapses cost Poland their opening match against Finland. The instinctive thing would have been to bring experienced Celtic and World Cup standout Artur Boruc. Or even Arsenal’s Lukas Fabianksi and Man Utd’s Tomas Kuszczak. Instead, he chose to show that reputation would not be enough and called on 30 year old Wojciech Kowalewski of Spartak Moscow with very little international experience. Kowaleswski who has been outstanding at Spartak and has a reputation as an excellent penalty saver came through for them in the next three matches including Poland’s crucial win against Portugal’s. Only when Kowalewski was sidelined with injuries was Artur Boruc called up to start. It would be safe to say that Kowalewski would have continued if not for his injuries and it is safe to say that Kowalewski’s start put Boruc on notice. Of course, when you have the depth in goalkeeping talent that Poland has, such problems become easier to tackle. But Beenhakker’s tactic of benching Dudek and bringing in a lesser known goalie paid off.
But erring goalies are nothing new. The England story should be more about the players who took the field and did very little on it in the biggest game that counted. IMO, Joe Cole was the only player who with his creativity and industry sought to lift the game from the tedium of the one dimensional Wayne Bridge to Peter Crouch long ball.

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