Thursday, December 14, 2006

Barton set for England call?

Picked up by sections of the press yesterday were comments mde by England manager Steve McLaren (also coming on the heels of recent praise from Terry Venables) regarding the possibility that Joey Barton could be in line for an England call-up in the near future.

McLaren identified the midfielder as one of 'seven or eight' players who could make the leap into the squad:

"I tried to buy Joey when I was at Middlesbrough so
yes, he is a player who interests me," said McClaren. "He has had his troubles
but he has come through them and he is a player who has matured over the last
McClaren was in Manchester at the weekend to see Barton do his best,
but ultimately fail, to engineer a first City derby win in 32 years at Old
"Joey is a leader," he said. "He has great character. You need
people like that, forthright people, not just on the field but off it as well."

How much the comments were merely a recognition of his recent form - and turnaround of his off-field fortunes, or an actual statement of intent that he is in his plans will probably only be seen when McLaren names his next couple of squads.

However, there is no doubt that Barton has improved - and matured as a player and person over the past eighteen months and his form does put him in the top section of English midfielders that are around at the moment. If Gerrard's move out to the right-hand side becomes permanent then potentially there could be an opportunity for him in the centre.

Behind Lampard, the current challengers appear to be the likes of Carrick and Jenas - and whilst they have only sporadically for England, neither can claim to have made a spot their own. Whilst Barton may have a lot to do to get into the England side, I do think it is conceivable for him to get into the squad - and as Micah Richards showed, once you get into a squad opportunities can come your way.

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