The Run of Play is a blog about
the wonder and terror of soccer.

We left the window open during a match in October 2007 and a strange wind blew into the room.

Now we walk the forgotten byways of football with a lonely tread, searching for the beautiful, the bewildering, the haunting, and the absurd.

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Before the Croatia Match, a Lonely Voice Calls Out

1. Steve McClaren is brilliant for choosing to drop Paul Robinson for Scott Carson in goal. There’s been what could perhaps kindly be described as a seismic overreaction to this development from certain members of the media and the goalkeepers’ fraternity, but it’s really the sensible move. Carson has looked solid all year for his club, Robinson has been a goose for both club and country, and was reportedly even more goose-like in England’s closed practice this week. Robinson’s confidence is by all accounts in ruins, and a match in which qualification for Euro 2008 is on the line isn’t the place to rebuild it. This doesn’t have to mean that Robinson is finished as England keeper or that his relationship with McClaren will go up in some sort of soap-opera bonfire. It simply means that a player who hasn’t done well lately is being dropped in favor of one who has. Isn’t that the kind of decision you want a manager to make, and the kind of consequence you want your star players to expect?

2. Steve McClaren is a buffoon for choosing to drop David Beckham for Shaun Wright-Phillips on the right. This is a confusing decision for the simple reason that Peter Crouch will be playing as a lone striker in this match. Crouch is easily capable of scoring against Croatia but will need to have the ball delivered to the right place. And who’s better at delivering the ball to the right place than Beckham? Certainly not Shaun Wright-Phillips, who will add pace and be a minor scoring threat but who also presents the real possibility of passes being relentlessly kicked all night to the solitary Croatian defender standing seven feet away. Well, hey, he did look great against Estonia. And Beckham can still come off the bench. And maybe Beckham’s fitness is worse than anyone thought.

I’ll tell you all about how wrong I was after the match.

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Before the Croatia Match, a Lonely Voice Calls Out

by Brian Phillips · November 21, 2007

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