England, Heskey and Bent: measuring failure and success


Imagine the scenario: Emile Heskey has a blinder of a tournament, setting up Defoe and Rooney for winners in two games, feeding Crouch for a couple in another and even scoring himself as England storm to World Cup triumph. Sunderland fans who moaned about Darren Bent’s exclusions begin to look small-minded and absurd. But none of this has happened yet and we are entitled to question not only the nature and basis of decisions made on our behalf, but also whether Bent was ever more than a token member of the provisional squad. Let Jeremy Robson do battle …

Once, I worked with someone who described his boss as being “more content at the centre of failure, than at the edge of success”.

Psychologists often speak of a personality trait which defends against failure. Kids at school will often say that they “didn’t try” in an exam, thus providing an excuse to protect against the embarrassment associated with failure.

Of course, there is no guarantee that effort will necessarily lead to success. Success is uncertain, and depends on the coming together of many factors.

Failure of course can be guaranteed by a lack of effort, particularly if that lack of effort acts in combination with a lack of ability. This is a combination which in most walks of life provides a guarantee of failure… unless, that is, you are Emile Heskey. When effort and ability combine themselves in tandem the outcome is usually success, unless of course your name is Darren Bent.

Darren of course has failed where bizarrely according to most observers, Emile has succeeded, having been included in the England World Cup Squad. Darren’s objective success in scoring 24 goals in what we are constantly reminded is “the toughest league in the world”, has been judged subjectively as not being good enough to make the squad for South Africa.

It is worth noting that Darren just keeps consistently scoring goals wherever he has been. Emile on the other hand has more splinters in his not inconsiderable backside than he has Premier League goals: five in 45 games for Villa, (Jermain Defoe got that many in a single game against Wigan last season); 15 in 82 for Wigan; 14 in 68 for Birmingham.

So, for his last three clubs he has managed a grand total of 34 goals in 195 games. Darren Bent on the other hand has scored 42 goals for his last two clubs (Spurs and Sunderland) in 98 games. (That’s eight more goals in half as many games, Mr Capello).

Well, apart from the obvious gulf in achievement between these two players what is the major difference? Well, Heskey is going to South Africa and Bent isn’t. It’s the most clear case of who you know and not what you do since the European Golden Boot winner Kevin Phillips was overlooked for Darius Vassell.

Bent’s exclusion would be understandable in the presence of consistent goal scorer in the squad. There isn’t and his exclusion to the benefit of Heskey is simply ridiculous, In what formation, and under what circumstances is Heskey going to be selected to play?

Were it not for leaving out Theo Walcott then you could be excused for thinking the team was still being picked by a dull Swedish bloke with an abnormally active libido for someone of his age wearing glasses like that.

The so called “golden generation” of English players that went to the World Cup in Germany glittered about as much as a discarded Kit Kat wrapper, as they floundered without a proper forward line, in the same way that they floundered without a proper forward line in the preceding European Championships some two years earlier.

A dismissal or a single injury and the English boat is sunk. The definition of stupidity that I like the most proposes that stupidity can best be observed when the same behaviours are repeated time and time again, and then wondering why the outcome never changes. This squad is like the last one, the one before that, and arguably the one before that too.

Capello came with an early flourish, seemingly ignorant of the fact that the media would be picking his team for him. In one sense he has been a quick learner. He understood the principle before he really grasped the language of his adopted nation. He’s also readily grasped the need to defend against failure too. When the English team come home with their collective tails between their shaven tanned legs, after Wayne Rooney gets sent off for taking a foul throw against the USA, Fabio will be able to tell the English public that he only picked the team that the Evening Standard had been telling him to, just like MacLaren, Eriksson, and Taylor.

Does he realise how far it is from central London to Wearside? It’s several hours on the train mate, and we want to be back home to tuck up the kids and have some supper! Bloody cold as well! The North Sea isn’t the Adriatic Fabio!

It reminds me of that song by The Who, Meet the old boss, same as the old boss. ”I can see the Sun headline now “Capello pasta best,” as he trots off to take over from Jose in Milan. Capello has put himself right at the centre of failure with his pick of 23. There is no ambition, no hunger, and most importantly a complete lack of judgement, objectivity or conviction.

Roll on 2014. Heskey will be too old, and his place will go to promising young Walcott. By that time we can hope that the England coach has been replaced by some Civil Service Committee or ConLib back benchers. God knows they could hardly do worse.

11 thoughts on “England, Heskey and Bent: measuring failure and success”

  1. And if Rooney’s not at his best? What happens then? The team starts revolving around a lame duck. This whole idea of Rooney as a talisman is fraught with peril. It doesn’t work, it hasn’t worked, it won’t ever work.
    “We always seem to deliver — to a degree” is a very telling statement, its implication being that England never seems to deliver beyond that degree. The team invariably falls short.
    No one was expecting Bent to LEAD England to World Cup glory but rather to be a bulwark of a strong, well-balanced side — one that would be able to compensate better in the event of its supposed fulcrum, Rooney, falling down on the job.

  2. It was always going to be the case. As much as I love Bent, whether it was him or Defoe on the plane it doesn’t matter because if we were forced to rely on either of them to lead us to World Cup glory then we wouldn’t get anywhere. We need Rooney, we need him at his best. He’s our talisman and, rightly, the team revolves around him.

    I’m not sure what to expect from the World Cup, obviously we need to improve from our warm-up matches but we always seem to deliver – to a degree – in the tournaments, so we can hopefully go further this time.

    From the Japan match, I’m just glad Capello called up Own Goal from Man Utd. The kids had a great season and continued with a brace to bring us from behind, here’s to hoping he keeps it up in the tournament. We all know Heskey won’t, afterall.

  3. So, if Rooney gets injured then the whole reason for taking Heskey (to allow Rooney to flourish) goes out of the window. England then have TWO strikers to choose from. World class defenders will suss out Crouch in an instant, so our WC hopes rest on Defoe. Give me strength.

  4. Sobs. That one had me chuckling but it’s easy to be drawn into the argument that Heskey isn’t a striker. We know he isn’t but he’s supposed to be. He certainly isn’t a winger.

  5. Heskey’s an easy target for disaffected Bent fans, but surely it was always about Defoe vs Bent, and Heskey vs Crouch? It would have been the latter wto for me, but at least Defoe has scored more league goals than Heskey (in one game, as it happens) last season..and there area two goalkeepers who’ve scored more international goals than Heskey.
    As for Heskey chasing defenders down, I must have been looking the other way when that happened!

  6. It’s always dangerous when a player starts to believe his own press cuttings. It’s equally dangerous to build a team around one man, especially a guy who’s a bit of a loose cannon.
    It’ll be fascinating to see how much Rooney is allowed to strut his stuff. From game 1 he’s going to be a target for every big, nasty defender. He’ll either be injured or goaded into losing his temper and getting red-carded. And there’s no one to replace him.
    Bricks without straw — It didn’t work in the Bible. It won’t work in South Africa.

  7. An interesting question: If you were Wayne Rooney the darling of the media, waiting to strut your stuff on the worlds stage, told at every sycophantic turn how incredibly wonderful, gifted, and important you are. Would you let this goalscoring machine from a supposedly “inferior” football club whom you have only just beaten in consistency over a season in the premiership, would you allow him next to you , talented, hungry, focused, and with a huge point to prove in the world cup?….of course you would. Jeff Stoddart

  8. I would argue the Liverpool and Wigan, with Liverpool he helped them win the treble (Uefa/League Cup and FA Cup) and enabled Michael Owen to break numerous scoring feats. The thing with Heskey is he will never ever be a goalscorer and bringing up stats is an absolute waste of time in my honest opinion. Bent is a much better goalscorer than him, but then so is Agbonlahor. He was picked on his previous performances where he does the ground work for Rooney, lets be honest some of the World Teams will hate playing against Heskey, just his size and chasing them down, he is fitter now than when we first had him in reference to Keith. Bent is unfortunate as i really think he should be on that plane as he offers far more than Defoe, but what we have to remember guys, we have had great goalscorers who have never made it Internationally, just to name a few to put things into perspective, Les Ferdinand/Ian Wright/Stan Collymore/Andrew Cole/Kevin Phillips/Robbie Fowler, these are all quality strikers but did they do it at that level? Did Teddy Sheringham have a better record than the above, No the reason he played was to support Shearer. Basically the bottom line is for England to win the World Cup, now if were truthfully honest, to win it you need Rooney on form, in my opinion he is our only World Class player but its like if Heskey played with Bent, i’m pretty sure he’d do well for England, hopefully you sort of see the point i am getting at and if not then just ignore me, (Partnerships are also needed at International level)

  9. A very reasoned comment Villa fan. However, Heskey doesn’t seem to have suited Liverpool’s, Wigan’s or Birmingham’s style of play either. In fact since his cult days at Leicester he has been seemingly ineffective wherever he has been. I’ll wait with interest to hear what sort of offer Ferguson makes for him in the summer!

  10. England starting 11 is as good a team as any of the others but back up? Surely Heskey is a massive gamble, he looks over weight and has always been slow he can’t score. If Terry gets injured in comes King, we all know he can’t play 3 games in 7 days, so Upson & Carigher are up, a strength becomes a weakness, Gerard gets a red card in comes the woeful Carrick we become weaker, if anything happens to Rooney we are in serious trouble. The very fit and fast Bent will be a great weapon at altitude. Heskey will be breathing out of his rear end within 10 minutes. Walcott and Bent would be breath taking on the Highveld, Capello has missed a trick.

  11. I can understand where your coming from on this one, however I honestly believe Bent was competing with Defoe, two prolific goalscorers who are playing back up to Rooney. Heskey has been abysmal for Villa, does not suit our play however he seems to have a knack of allowing Rooney to flourish and if we want to win the World Cup we need Rooney on fire. People use stats when comparing Bent to Heskey, Rooneys last 10 games without Heskey 2 Goals, Rooney with Heskey Last 10 Games 9 Goals. If i had a choice i would have taken Bent instead of that little midget Defoe. Its all about performances for England, whether its right or wrong Heskey has proven it to Capello and to be fair Bent has had 3 games under Capello and with Rooney, either of them haven’t scored. Bent is top quality and i’m sure this will make him even more determined to succeed.

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