Had England manager Fabio Capello acted a few weeks earlier, Manchester United veteran midfielder Paul Scholes would now be just a few days away from a sensational comeback to the international stage. That opportunity was only lost because of Capellos hesitation, leaving England without his vast experience which could be so sorely missed in South Africa.
In an interview with the Oldham Evening Chronicle where the United legend still lives, Scholes has revealed that he would have had no hesitation in returning to the World Cup squad had be been allowed more time to think about such a momentous decision “I wasn’t given enough time to think about it.” he confessed “if they’d asked me earlier, I probably would have accepted. It’s a big decision”
The 35 year old quit international football in 2004 because he wanted to concentrate on his one club career at Old Trafford where he has now made more than 600 appearances. Additional time with his young family was also a big consideration but another large factor was the known fact that he was unhappy at being played out of position by Sven Goran Eriksson. At the time of his international retirement, Scholes had represented his country in two World Cups and two European Championships between 1997 and 2004
One of the major reasons that he resisted the temptation to don the white shirt of England once again was that he did not want to do the wrong thing by his fellow professionals. “There are players in the squad who have spent nearly two years flying all around the world helping England qualify for the World Cup, whereas I haven’t been involved for a long time” he explained
“It wasn’t a case of wanting to go on holiday, it was the fact that I got the call so close to the tournament and also I didn’t want to take the place of someone who helped get England to South Africa. The idea just didn’t sit comfortably with me” but then added “if they’d asked me earlier I probably would have accepted.”
It’s an admirable attitude which is sure to be appreciated by many in Capello’s squad squad. Liverpool’s Jamie Carragher saw the situation in quite a different way however. Despite not featuring in England’s World Cup qualifying campaign, he jumped at Capello’s offer to be part of his squad.
He obviously felt that England needed his experience and accepted the manager’s offer. It turned out to be a wise decision because Rio Ferdinand’s unexpected injury days before England’s first match against the USA gives Carragher an opportunity of getting into the starting line up.
Ferdinand’s injury shocked Scholes who expressed sympathy for his club team mate. “I really feel for Rio, especially getting hurt so close to the start of the action” he said “It’s not just sad for him but for England as well because he is captain and an important figure”
Instead of being in South Africa preparing for an international comeback, Scholes was speaking at the opening of Chadderton Park FC’s new changing rooms. The midfield maestro received a hero’s welcome from fans of all ages and was only too happy to do the honours. ”The facilities here are fantastic” he told the fans “everyone has clearly worked very hard to make it possible. I’m an Oldham lad, my children go to school in the area and I used to play cricket near by when I was younger so it’s nice to come back. The improvements here show this is a club with ambition.”
While England will be deprived of the experience that Scholes would have been able to offer in South Africa, Manchester United will undoubtedly benefit by the long summer break that the veteran will now be able to enjoy. By the time August comes around, he will be itching to get back into action.
Should Scholes have accepted Capello’s offer?