Writer: Steven McInerney
Date:Friday January 11 2008
After a confidence boosting Christmas period football managers do tend to get carried away, maybe it's the sherry or the festive spirit, or maybe they're just dreamers like the rest of us.
Sven-Goran seems to be no exception. Ever the optimist, admittedly, Sven has come out this week and lavished special praise on Michael Ball. Justified? Or a load of twaddle to be tossed in the bin like those naff presents you got from distant relatives?
Well, let's look at the facts.
Actually scratch that. Let's just take Martin Petrov as an example. I think it's fair to say that Martin has hit a purple patch. He's twisting defenders veins inside out. I'm pretty sure Lucas Neill probably fancied heading straight to Gatwick and flying back home to Australia after the first half roasting he received.
Now as with everything, there tends to be a catalyst. It just so happens that this catalyst seems to be stood about fifteen yards behind him. He goes by the name of Michael Ball.
Every now and then you hear football pundits talk of 'textbook' examples of football at its highest quality. If you opened up a defensive manual then I couldn't think of a better man to showcase a 'textbook' tackle, Richard Dunne aside of course, than our current left back. Michael Ball is Mr consistent. He loves to defend. He loves the satisfaction of snuffing fancy dans out of games. He's all about controlled aggression (that one moment of ********** (fill the word in at your own discretion, to suit your own needs) aside against Ronaldo) and reading of the game. He's a defenders defender.
As much as I love Javier Garrido, and I do, I personally felt he was fantastic up until the Chelsea mauling which resulted in his head dropping, there's an air of inexperience and vulnerability to his game. This will naturally come with time, as Michael Ball himself would probably attest. In the meantime however Sven has made the right choice. Michael seems to be reaching a peak in his career. He's arguably playing at the highest level of his career (Is the Eredivise really that good?) and he's rose to the challenge, trying to make up for lost time.
Everyone loves an unsung hero. This could just be Michael's year. The timings perfect...
Step forward Mr Capello. The new England manager.
Capello is a tactician. A general. An iron fist. He doesn't expect anything less than one hundred percent. He expects consistency. He demands consistency. He wins, regardless.
As with most foreign coaches, he seems to be a bit more tactically astute than most British coaches (I'm just saying what I see) and knows the importance of a good defence. The early signs are that he'll look to solidify the defence. You don't lose games if you don't concede goals after all. He's the kind of coach that is happy if his defenders just do their defensive duties. If they do that right then it's the more creative players turn to do their bit.
Bearing this in mind, how many natural consistent English full backs can you think of currently plying their trade at a high level? Ashley Cole? Check...err...Wayne Bridge? Um...probably not so reliable. Joleon Lescott can play there? Right - Let's ask Shaun Wright-Phillips about his defensive credentials shall we?
I'm a realist. I cannot see him replacing Ashley Cole, who on his day is genuinely top class, but there's a spot to be grabbed, and I know if the hatches were down, and the men had their backs against the wall, then I'd be ecstatic to have Michael on my side.
The timing couldn't possibly be more ideal for Mr. Ball to win his second cap. He's solid, consistent, and playing at a high level week in week out in the premiership. I think Mr Capello would love a guy with his attitude. I think there will be one or two surprises when the next England squad is announced. Our Bally could just be one of them, and can you honestly name a single football fan who'd begrudge him that honour? (Once again, United fans aside) He'd definitely sure up the leaky defence, and allow whoever is in front of him to get forward, Joe Cole more than likely...
Step forward Mr Ball. It's going to be a good 2008 for you I think! Here's to the unsung heroes!
Oh and I'm Steven by the way. This was my first article. It took me a while to work out how to post this. I'm sure there will be a few who think I shouldn't have bothered, but I hope I'll win you over. I thought I may as well start on a positive note with my first entry!
So what do you think? Does England beckon?
Date:Friday January 11 2008
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