Fabio Capello insists he has enough strength in depth to ensure his impressive start to life as England manager continues, despite having to call on his fifth-choice striker for tonight’s World Cup clash with Ukraine.
When Darren Bent joined the casualty list yesterday and returned to Tottenham with a knee injury, Capello decided to place his faith in Peter Crouch rather than rip up his entire blueprint and shift Wayne Rooney out of his favoured position in the hole.
But Capello denies the need to call on a player who has not previously started a game under his charge represents a weakness for the Three Lions, more the strength of the players at his disposal.
“Yes, there is enough strength,” said Capello. “It is no problem at all.
“On Saturday Rio Ferdinand was injured so Matthew Upson came in and did well. We don’t have Theo Walcott but Aaron Lennon and David Beckham have come in.”
And Capello can hardly legislate for being without so many players in one position, as he finds himself tonight.
Gabriel Agbonlahor might have been considered had he not withdrawn from Under-21 duty with a hamstring strain last week. The Aston Villa man has recovered and been cleared for international duty by Martin O’Neill but with no training, will be a substitute at best.
“I have always followed Crouch, so I know him very well,” revealed Capello.
“He improved when he went to Portsmouth and now he is doing very well.
“He is the best forward I can put on there, so this is a big opportunity for him.”
As Crouch is more of a goal threat than Heskey but less able to hold the ball up and bring others, specifically Rooney and Gerrard, into the game, David Beckham is being considered as an alternative to Aaron Lennon on England’s right flank.
However, it is Rooney who holds the key to victory as he wins a 50th cap at the tender age of 23, especially as midfield anchor man Anatoly Tymoschuk is one of Ukraine’s star men.
With seven goals in his last four internationals, Rooney is in a rich vein of form and by finding space despite being faced with two holding midfielders at the weekend, Capello feels he is ideally placed to overcome the challenge presented by Tymoschuk tomorrow.
“Rooney is one of the best players in the world,” said Capello.
“He never played for the Under-21s. He jumped. Only the extra special players can do that.
“I remember when Sir Alex Ferguson bought him, I saw him at a UEFA meeting in Nyon. He said ’Fabio, I am crazy. I have just spent an awful lot of money on a very young player’.
“Now he is happy because he spent a lot of money on a very important player.”
A very important player for England because he can do so many jobs, including the role Crouch will fill tomorrow. However, that is not where Capello feels Rooney is best, which is why he was not tempted to make the change.
“I don’t know about goalkeeper but he could play anywhere else. But second striker is his best position because he is free,” said Capello.
“He runs a lot but he also needs to touch the ball and be at the centre of the team’s movement.”