Paul Parker

Walker deserves England chance

Paul Parker

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It looks like none of us are ever going to understand how Fabio Capello works. He arrived in the England job with a reputation for being a logical, methodical manager but he has made some baffling decisions during his first international job.

He has often picked players when they have been consistently underperforming, and omitted others who have been on form.

The Italian has done it again by not selecting Micah Richards for the upcoming friendly matches against Spain and Sweden at Wembley. Richards is the first-choice right-back for the Premier League leaders, who are currently playing some of the most exciting football anywhere in Europe, and yet he does not even make it into the squad.

What makes the decision even stranger, though, is that Capello has selected Glen Johnson ahead of him.  Johnson has only recently come back from injury, rather than playing week in, week out all season, and he has not exactly been electrifying upon his return to a frustratingly inconsistent Liverpool side.

More crucially than that, Johnson was one of England's worst performers at last year's World Cup. Given the debacle that passed for their campaign in South Africa, that is quite an achievement.

Has Capello forgotten about that? It seems bizarre that he would persist with a player who was so disappointing there, and also that he seems so unwilling to explore the other options available to him.

I am not necessarily saying Richards is world class, but it is surprising that he has not earned more than a dozen caps in the five years since he made his senior debut. I think he is a decent Premier League full-back, but have always thought his build would better suit playing at centre-half. It is interesting that he has only played in one of City's four Champions League games, with Roberto Mancini usually plumping for Pablo Zabaleta in Europe.

It is Richards's pace that has probably seen him shifted to right-back early in his career: speed is a prerequisite in that position in the modern game. Full-backs these days are required to contribute to the attack so much more than in the past, often to the detriment of their defensive duties. You see some players in those positions who seem to be little more than auxiliary wingers; that is fine, but they should at least know how to block a cross properly. 

That is why I believe that Kyle Walker is the long-term solution at right-back for England. The 21-year-old has shown this year - first while playing on loan at Aston Villa and now back at Tottenham - that he deserves a crack at claiming the number two shirt for his country as the most complete player in that position. He has plenty of pace and attacking intent, he is comfortable with the ball in all areas of the pitch, can deliver a good cross and score the odd goal too.

However, while those are all traits that Johnson and Richards can both claim to one degree or another, for me Walker is by far the best defensively of those three. He looks the best-equipped to face top quality attackers, something Johnson has failed to do in an England shirt.

Capello must have seen him impress for the Under-21s, so it is a wonder that he has not yet given him a senior cap. But then, given some of the choices he has made in the job, nothing should surprise us.

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