Archive | March 2014

Not very Cleverley

It's OK, Tom. I'll sort it out on my seldom-read blog.

It’s OK, Tom. I’ll sort it out on my seldom-read blog.

This Cleverley thing’s escalated quickly, hasn’t it?

Once touted as one of England’s great young hopes, the Manchester United midfielder’s decline has become so great that Glen McConnell, on t’Internet, has started off a petition to get him banned from the national team. At the time of writing, it’s reached 18,145 signatures.

And, as so often with football-related things on the Internet, it’s really stupid. I’m going to recite the manifesto here, line by line, and explain why it’s less well conceived than Jesus:

Tom Cleverley, owner of 13 England caps, six more than Ross Barkley, Adam Lallana and Leon Osman combined, has been regularly selected by Roy Hodgson in his squads without possessing any genuine qualities whatsoever.

Is that the Ross Barkley, 19, who only broke into the first team this year? The Adam Lallana that’s only been in the Premiership for two years, was at a relegation struggler last season, has only displayed consistent form for this half of a season and is still a dead cert to go to Brazil? The Leon Osman who is a neat passer and offers pretty much nothing else to a team (the English Jo Allen, perhaps?)? Gosh, isn’t it a travesty that a footballer at the centre of a title-winning Manchester United team for two years, providing energetic running, passing as neat as Osman’s and experience of top-level European football should have a few more caps than these players?

In fact, I’d argue that it was these “genuine qualities” (as opposed to all those fake qualities you see lying around) are exactly what England’s midfield needs if, which is another cert, Gerrard is our midfield lynchpin. Just like Scholes and Carrick, whom Cleverley has thrived next to in Manchester United’s midfield, Gerrard is a fantastic passer of the ball who needs some energetic protection to make up for his failing legs, and a neat passer to give him the ball in some space. You might argue that, at the current moment, Jordan Henderson possesses these qualities to a greater degree than Cleverley, and you’d be right; but that’s not been the case for the last two years, and it goes a long way towards explaining the 13 caps Cleverley’s amassed over two years. Incidentally, Stewart “No goals, no assists” Downing, Wayne “On the Bench” Bridge and Jermaine Jenas all have more caps than Cleverley, despite being utterly, soul-destroyingly dire, but I can’t find that fact in the manifesto.

Ok, point made. On to the next bit of lunacy:

We believe for the reputation of this proud footballing nation that he should be prevented from participating in this summer’s international showcase.

Sorry, the “reputation of this proud footballing nation”? What reputation? As serial bottlers who, one tournament on home soil excepted, have been beaten by pretty much every competent footballing nation every time we’ve played them in a game that mattered? As a team that can’t keep possession, can’t form a cohesive unit, can’t win anything, and not so long ago couldn’t beat Algeria in a World Cup? Frankly, even if Cleverley is as  piss-poor as the petition manifesto makes out, there’s not a lot he can do to ruin England’s reputation; in fact, a bit of genuine ineptitude might provide some light relief to the despair at watching straitjacketed talent lose out to the mighty Costa Rica this summer.

Whilst England are considered to disappoint at major tournaments, further embarrassment could be avoided by not having his inept performances undermine the rest of the team’s efforts.

Well, he’s got the first clause right, but his argument doesn’t really hold up when you consider that, Cleverley or no Cleverley, England are going to be embarrassed at the next World Cup. It seems dreadfully unfair to single out one mediocre player in a squad full of mediocre players with a mediocre manager and one of the dullest styles of play since Tony Pulis’ Stoke heyday. England haven’t got a prayer of winning the World Cup-I’d be amazed if we even got out of the group-and frankly even the idea of scapegoating one player like this smacks of pre-emptive excuse-making. Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard to stomach that England are so poor, and it’s a human thing to look for someone to blame; but directing this much hatred towards one youngster isn’t going to change anything, and what’s more is passing into the realms of cruelty.

Look, Tom Cleverly isn’t that great a footballer. He’s never going to be Xavi or Iniesta, or even Steven Gerrard for that matter. But to direct such abuse and vitriol towards a player who is only 24, has shown glimpses of genuine talent when playing under a manager who sets up his team to play football (as in not Moyes, whose Man Utd team display more pointless crosses than an evangelical church), and who wasn’t necessarily getting in the squad anyway (what with Lallana and Henderson’s improvement this season)… well, it’s frankly ridiculous.

*Oh, and to the commenter on the petition who compares Cleverley to “footballing genocide”, well done-I didn’t realise people with single-figure IQs had the necessary motor skills to type things, but thanks for enlightening me there.

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