THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Saturday 11 October ~

After the glory of Croatia, on the morning of England's next international game it is still the usual questions that bounce around the back pages. Let's ignore the Gerrard-Lampard conundrum as tedious waffle of which enough has already been written and instead take time to witness the arguments over three types of player that will never fail to divide English football: the target man, the talented starlet and Chris Waddle.

Since his return to the England team Emile Heskey has seen a re-evaluation of his reputation from plodding joke to linchpin of a new era; kind of like Status Quo suddenly being lauded by the trendy young bands around Shoreditch as their main influence. How did this come to be?

Heskey has never been popular with fans because his game is based around his ability to do the donkey work up front. Just five goals in 48 internationals is, admittedly, not ideal, but then football is a sport that has always failed to transfer well into statistical breakdown. (Anyone who has read the Fink Tank column of former Tory researcher Daniel Finkelstein in the Times will know this. I'm sure I once read a piece in which he argued statistically John Arne Riise was more important to Liverpool than Steven Gerrard, but I digress.)

Heskey has always been a winner, however, with managers. Sadly for him, previously these managers have been Gerard Houllier, Steve Bruce and Steve McClaren, people English fans have long suspected to be not the sharpest blades on the Predator. Fabio Capello is a different story, whether through his performance and record, one result in Croatia or just a clever confidence trick, his reputation in this country is so far still standing as that of a footballing don who should never be questioned. He understands so much more than you or I mere mortals.

On the other side of the coin is Chris Waddle. Having written a pretty inoffensive piece for the Daily Mail earlier in the week about how Theo Walcott is not the finished article, Waddle woke up today to find two broadsheet columnists had used his words to illustrate how the English don't know how to handle young players with talent. "Throw them into the deep end and let them learn on the job, that's what Fabio would do" seemed to be the general consensus. A very different attitude to that expressed when Sven-Goran Eriksson did just that with Walcott. But then by that point we had already realised that just because he comes from abroad with trophies, he might not always be right. Josh Widdicombe

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