A stag weekend and a loss of internet connection have prevented me from blogging over the past week, but in truth there has been very little to talk about – the Cesc saga rumbles on without a solitary bid from Barcelona, who have rapidly descended into being the most despicable club in terms of how they go about their transfer business.
But with the announcement of the final England squad yesterday, there was at last some news regarding someone else in the squad. Unfortunately, that news was a hammer blow to Theo Walcott, whose apparently nailed on position in the squad was ripped from under his feet by Fabio Capello.
In fairness to the England manager, Walcott has been inconsistent at best since that memorable hattrick in Croatia. There have been glimpses of his outrageous ability, but they have been fleeting. Too often he is sent on as an impact substitute, only to make no apparent difference. In the end, his one-dimensional play has cost him his place.
While his omission can be explained in those terms, it is still surprising for two reasons. The first is that Walcott is a big game player. Look at the matches he is remembered for – his first goal for the club in the Carling Cup final, his run against Liverpool in the Champions League, the Croatia hattrick, and his display against Barcelona a couple of months back – there is a pattern. While he disappoints in the ‘regular’ games, he has sparked to life against the top opposition, precisely the sort he would have been asked to face this summer.
But more than that, his absence is a surprise when you look at the man replacing him – Shaun Wright-Phillips. If Walcott has missed out due to inconsistency, why is the City man there? Even though I had an inkling that Walcott was in danger (due to him playing both friendlies and not doing much in either), I figured that if he was dropped, Adam Johnson was his obvious replacement. After all, the youngster has been comprehensively outperforming Wright-Phillips since joining the same club.
Walcott’s reaction was mature, but now he needs to get angry. He needs to take this as a personal rebuke and use it to spark a determination never to have another unhappy World Cup experience. Not many can say they have suffered from World Cup selection drama twice by the time they are 21. He needs to improve, and he now has a few months to refocus and start again. As Goonerholic points out, his preparations for last season were hampered by playing both senior and Under-21 internationals in the summer – there are no such problems this time around.
So now eleven remain – we still have a decent representation at the World Cup, although if you take the departing Gallas and Senderos out of the equation we have nine travelling to South Africa.
Speaking of the World Cup, the lovely people at Sportingbet are putting together a terrific promotion for all those who fancy their chances of predicting results at the event. All you have to do is pick which team will win each of the 48 group stage matches (team 1, team 2, draw) and also who will lift the trophy. If you get 45 or more correct (and the tournament winner), you will win a share of £1,000,000. Even if your prediction skills are as ropey as mine, you start winning prizes as soon as you get 25 games correct. You don’t even need to predict the scores – just the match winners.
Here is the full prize list (all prizes shared between those qualifying for that particular band):
45+ games correct and outright winner: £1,000,000 cash
40-48 games correct: £40,000 in free bets
35-39 games correct: £35,000 in free bets
30-34 games correct: £30,000 in free bets
25-29 games correct: £25,000 in free bets
Not too shabby. To play, you need to place a qualifying bet (£10 on any sport between now and June 11), and you’ll get a play code. Further bets will earn you more codes.
As an extra bonus, if you are a new user, click here or on the banner in the top right, and you’ll get a £25 sign-up bonus after registering. If you already have an account, you can get straight to the prediction action by clicking here.
Enjoy. And buy me a pint if you win, m’kay?