In 2002, it was Beckham, in 2006, Rooney, in 2018, Harry Kane? With a recent injury to England’s star goalscorer, Gareth Southgate will be asked the question many England managers have so often been asked: should I take him anyway?
There have been a number of cases in recent history where a pivotal player for an England team has sustained a significant injury leading up to a major tournament, and managers have taken them in spite of this. What factors make them come to this decision?
Most of the time these moments stick in the memory because it happens to a talisman of the team; and 2002 was no exception. After his immature retaliation where he kicked out at Argentinian Diego Simeone and got sent off in the quarter finals of the Wolrd Cup, David Beckham had completely redeemed himself and become captain of the side. He had rescued England from the embarrassment of not qualifying for the 2002 World Cup with a last minute trademark free kick and was now considered the foundation of the side. Then, disaster. With seven weeks to go until kick off in Japan and South Korea, Beckham sustained an injury to his foot whilst on Champions League duty with Manchester United. He managed to recover, and Sven-Göran Eriksson decided to have faith in his captain.
One school of thought is the relentless pressure mass media places on England’s performance at major finals, and that this pressure has a detrimental affect on the manager’s judgement when selecting his squad. Sven-Göran Eriksson could be forgiven for thinking, ‘If I don’t take him and we lose, I will be slaughtered for it.’ In 2006, six weeks before the World Cup in Germany, Wayne Rooney broke a bone in his foot whilst playing for Manchester United. Using advanced techniques such as an oxygen tent, Rooney made it to the plane. However somewhat predictably, he was not back to his best and failed to get on the score sheet in any of England’s four matches.
Just the Rest they Needed?
With the latest addition to the list of England injury woes being Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane, has it come at perfect timing? Commentators often cite the lack of a winter break in English football as a potential issue when approaching major tournaments. Rival European leagues such as the Bundesliga opt for an annual winter break, and the Germans often look dramatically more refreshed than their premier league counter parts. With double Golden Boot winner Harry Kane suffering a setback not quite so close to the tournament as some of his predecessors, it could leave him with ample time to recover match fitness and release him from his club duties for a good rest leading up to the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
One thing is certain, if Gareth Southgate were to opt to leave out Harry Kane, morale would be low and the media would crucify him!