The number 7 shirt has always held a dear and fond respect in the England camp. If you look at some of the players who worn the shirt, you begin to understand it’s weight. It’s our equivalent to the Brazil 10 shirt. Or the Dutch 14. So, looking at the Super 7’s that have played for England: Bryan Robson, David Platt, David Beckham, Kevin Keegan…and our latest, and most unlikely hero, Owen Hargreaves.
Owen Hargreaves. Crikey. I’m still saying sorry to him. For months and months, you could hear me saying things like "What is Owen Hargreaves?" and "He’s terrible… the only reason he’s in the squad is because he’s got some dirt on Sven…" How very very wrong I have been. On the back of a World Cup that saw Hargreaves as England’s only outstanding player, I feared that he would revert to old ways after the tournament. Perhaps he was the only player who could handle the pressure of the World Cup Finals? Or maybe the dour performances of the rest of the squad made him look a better player? (I’m a worrier if you hadn’t guessed… it comes with being a Bolton fan).
With all that taken into account, last night, Hargreaves pulled on the number seven shirt and guess what? He was phenomenal. In an age that has seen football become more focused on playmakers and lightning quick strikers, it is easy to forget there are tackles and tidy passes to be made. We should start calling him ‘Owen The Mop’… not because of his hair, but because he soaks everything up in the centre of the park and cleans up the scrap.
Compiling my starting XI before the game, ‘The Mop’ was first on my sheet. First?! I couldn’t have imagined me saying that 12 months ago. Last night proved Hargreaves quality in an England shirt. Ok, the opposition weren’t that hot, but it matters not. Keiron Richardson looked out of his depth. Stuart Downing offered little. KD Langpard huffed and puffed, but failed to blow any houses down… but Hargreaves looked assured, solid and, I’ve not been able to say this about any England player for a while, dependable. When Steve Mac talks about his ‘evolution’, let’s hope that the team is built around ‘The Mop’, and not some average striker from West Ham with a broken ankle.