Smart
Tue 15 August 2006

Hunting season is officially 'open'

Yes, of course I’ll give McLaren a chance, and yes, of course I support my country.

Steve McLaren has been in the job for only a short while now, and after his name-making “I’m dropping Beckham” spiel last week – a rousing affair to stir the hearts and minds of every English man exiting the churches after praying we don’t have a Mini-Sven on our hands – he announces the starting line-up for his first international in charge. (By the way, don’t be surprised if Beckham comes back now that dust has settled on that bombshell.)

Whilst McLaren is enjoying the usual “honeymoon period” allocated to each new England manager before the press decide to go on a duck shoot, I thought I’d be different and get my shot in early.

The biggest thing for me is the role of Gerrard. Sven was accused of trying to fit square pegs into round holes – or putting players into a formation and not a formation based around the players - most notably Gerrard, Beckham and Lampard.

So in comes the new regime – and what do we find? Well blow me if its not the same problem with the same solution. Not having the balls or perhaps tactical mind to drop Gerrard or Lampard – and lets face it, "Barndoor" Lampard has been shocking for club and country for long enough now – he decides to keep them both and play Gerrard out of position on the right.

Surely dropping Lampard at this ‘friendly’ stage can only be beneficial. It’ll give Lampard a kick up the behind, and make players realise that there places aren’t ‘assured’.

Instead, we have Gerrard playing in a position which he "doesn’t mind" – but one to which he has commented on before, saying its not his preferred role. To add more fuel to the fire, its not as if we don’t have other options on the right. Aaron Lennon and Shaun Wrong Phillips are just two alternatives – both are in the squad.

As I said at the start, I support my country and after posting the above I wouldn’t be surprised to see both Lampard and Gerrard on the score sheet – and a large amount of ridicule to boot.

Such is the nature of the beast.

England team to face Greece: Paul Robinson; Gary Neville, Rio Ferdinand, John Terry (captain), Ashley Cole; Steven Gerrard, Owen Hargreaves, Frank Lampard, Stewart Downing, Jermain Defoe, Peter Crouch.

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