Tonight sees Fabio Capello’s England take on Belarus in their latest World Cup qualifying match. Win would mean it is maximum points from the opening four games of the campaign, with the latest victory coming on Saturday against Kazakhstan at Wembley. Since this game though, England and Chelsea left-back Ashley Cole has been ruled out of the Belarus game with a hamstring injury. So – should the latest victim of the ‘boo boys’ be replaced by his Chelsea team-mate Wayne Bridge?
This is a difficult one for me. Yes, Bridge is more than capable of slotting in for England – he is a talented footballer, after all. However, he has had very little first team football of late and this will lead to many suggesting that he shouldn’t be playing in such an important game for England. It’s only three appearances for the former Southampton man so far this season.
There must be something about the left-back that makes many consider him to be a model professional who can constantly be relied upon to deliver the goods when called upon. One of the first things Scolari did when he took over as Chelsea boss was secure Bridge on a new long-term contract. That says a lot I suppose. He must be very impressive and hard working in training.
For England, he has more often that not been involved in the squad as well, regardless of how much he has been playing for Chelsea. More than anything else, I guess that this highlights the sheer lack of naturally left footed defenders in this country. Had Bridge been a right-back, I doubt he would have had as many England caps under his belt.
So, should Bridge play against Belarus? Well, it appears that the football odds are suggesting he is the favourite to replace Cole. The other contenders are Everton’s Joleon Lescott and Aston Villa’s Gareth Barry. However, I don’t see Capello choosing either of these. Lescott is a natural centre back and Barry hasn’t played in the back four of any team for quite some time now. Capello won’t throw him in when a player like Bridge can naturally fit in.
Overall, it seems very likely that Bridge will line up in England’s defence alongside Rio Ferdinand, Matthew Upson and Wes Brown. Because of the lack of football he has had, he is perhaps slightly fortunate to remain in the England reckoning. However, particular circumstances mean he is set to represent his country for the 31st time this evening.
By Thomas Rooney – A sports writer who blogs about football betting