England manager Fabio Capello must have most of the 23 man squad for South Africa already penciled in by now but there is one position which is still up for grabs – and it may well end up going to the 35 year old Manchester United veteran Gary Neville whose claims are being backed by none other than England’s 1966 World Cup winning right full back George Cohen.
The Fulham legend, speaking at the book launch of A Fans’ Guide To The World Cup 2010, feels that the United club captain is a better defender than current first choice Glen Johnson saying that “Neville has got so much experience and has been such a good servant for England, I don’t see any reason why Capello won’t take him”
70 year old Cohen claims that Neville’s inclusion will not be a gamble despite him not making an appearance for his country since winning the last of his 85 caps against Spain in 2007. He said “If you are playing regularly against the best in the Premier League what’s the risk? He knows how to play, he’s been at Manchester United for a number of years, has played in World Cups before and he won’t be overawed”
Cohen is not completely convinced about Johnson defensive capabilities saying that in his opinion “He is good going forward and his distribution has improved but he still needs to learn how to play full back. Neville’s back in the United team and he’s still got the enthusiasm. It will be tremendous fillip for him at this stage of his career to play in South Africa”
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson agrees with the assessment of the former England defender. The United boss has already raised the possibility of Capello squeezing Neville into his 23 man squad revealing that he would not be at all surprised to see him making a shock comeback.
“I don’t see why not” he said “It’s not my job to say he should go, it is difficult enough for an international manager, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Fabio chose him. Gary is unbelievable, when you are in your 30s and been out of the game for a year and a half it’s not easy for most players to come back to the level that he is at now”
The veteran defender has enjoyed an excellent season after two years which were almost totally wrecked by injury. Neville is yet to decide whether to join fellow stalwarts Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes in committing himself to another season at United, but Fergie does not envisage any problems. “There has been no dialogue yet but I am pretty sure that Gary will be here next year”
Experience is a huge factor in any successful World Cup squad and there won’t be many on show in South Africa who can boast as much of it as the Manchester United defender who may yet be given another opportunity to serve his country.
Does Gary Neville warrant a place in England’s World Cup squad?