Rebrov is a racist, Adebayor is scared of flying, Zola will be a Hammer, and “every analyst agrees if England lose – again – to Croatia tonight, it could end our World Cup dreams.”

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “A lot of dark-skinned people live there [White Hart Lane area]. So naturally the crime rate is higher than anywhere else. It’s not nice to be a robbery victim. So I suggest that Roman [Pavlyuchenko] doesn’t walk but drives around that area.”- Sergei Rebrov 

Runner-up: “I know there is a rivalry between Chelsea and West Ham, but that is not a problem. This is a new adventure for me. I spent seven years at Chelsea and they were seven of the best years of my career. I loved playing there, but the fans must understand that I have a new career now and my playing career is in the past… The temptation to manage in England is too much. I love London, I love the lifestyle. Whenever I think of London, it has good memories.” – Gianfranco Zola.

Today’s overview: Today’s round up begins with David Barnes’ fantastic story about Emmanuel Adebayor, who has found himself at the centre of controversy after refusing to board a plane with Togo.

In Premier League news Gianfranco Zola is poised to become the new West Ham boss. Gabriele Marcotti has doubts over the appointment (“Yes, he’s a bright guy. Yes, he was a great footballer. Yes, he has the necessary coaching badges. But then what?) while Rob Hughes argues that “of all the foreigners who influenced the English, who inspired a fresh passion for the craft, I would place Zola at the top.”

The main bulk of comment this Wednesday focuses on the Croatia-England match tonight, Ray Daition claims that “every analyst agrees if England lose — again — to Croatia tonight, it could end our World Cup dreams.”

David Pleat picks out his key battle, while Kevin McCarra argues that England must attack to have any chance of doing well. However for Jim White, whatever happens in Zagreb, Fabio Capello is not going to lead England to glory.

Martin Samuel is also downbeat in his pre-match forecast saying “Fabio Capello says that he goes into every game to win, but nobody is buying that, either.” Sam Wallace all wonder whether the Walcott-Cole-Rooney attack can work, with Henry Winter already laying out the repercussions of an England defeat – “The ramifications of a setback… would run painfully deep.”

For Croatia, Richard Williams and

Other England stories include Rob Bagchi’s attempt to silence the England boo-boys by pointing out the error of their ways and Ian Ladyman goes on the offensive against the terrestrial black-out of tonight’s Croatia-England game.

In the best of the rest, Matt Scott reports that the FA may be about to sell off parts of the new Wembley stadium in order to cover costs, Louise Taylor claims Gus Poyet is out of the running for the Newcastle job but Deschamps and Zico have entered the frame and Helen Carter reports on the latest burglary suffered by a Liverpool player.

The Daily Express’s David Barnes brings a fantastic story about Emmanuel Adebayor, who has found himself at the centre of controversy after refusing to board a plane with Togo. “Adebayor had already persuaded his team-mates not to fly the day before because he said there were rumours the plane would crash. His one condition for making the flight was that the president of the Togo Football Federation should be a passenger with the team. Adebayor said: “My life is very dear to me and, if we have to go down, we’ll all go down together with the president. There are rumours that, if we get on, the aircraft will go down [crash].”

The main Premier League story is that Gianfranco Zola is poised to appointed the new manager of West Ham, but Gabriele Marcotti (The Times) has doubts over the appointment. “Yes, he’s a bright guy. Yes, he was a great footballer. Yes, he has the necessary coaching badges. But then what? Zola has spent the last two years as a “technical consultant” to Italy’s Under 21 squad, coached by Gigi Casiraghi. He’s effectively the assistant coach, but, because he didn’t have the necessary badges, he got that goofy title. Do we know what he actually contributed on the training pitch, that is, do we know where Casiraghi ended and Zola began? No, not really. Was Italy’s Under 21 side some kind of all-conquering juggernaut? Nope. They failed to get out of the group stage at the European Under 21 championships and were knocked out by Belgium (!) in the quarterfinals at the Olympic Games.”

Rob Hughes (IHT) also wonders how Zola has found himself in line for the West Ham job. “Why would Zola, once a fabulous player but with no practical experience in club team management, head that list? Because West Ham’s decision makers have talked to him, twice. And because once you are in Zola’s company, you feel a zest for life, for his beloved sport, for the challenge of taking size and stature out of the equation. Of all the players who came to England over the past decade, Zola, at 1.66 meters, a shade over 5-foot-5, would be the smallest. Of all the foreigners who influenced the English, who inspired a fresh passion for the craft, I would place Zola at the top. He gave work ethic a good name. I struggle to recall one match in which he played for Chelsea and did not leave a mark on the performance, a smile on the face of the game.”

In a ridiculous article, showing off the very worst of tabloid writing, The Sun’s Ray Daition claims that “every analyst agrees if England lose — again — to Croatia tonight, it could end our World Cup dreams.”

David Pleat (Guardian) picks out his key battles ahead of tonight’s Croatia-England match. “Modric is diminutive, quick and skilful and is the instigator in chief of Croatia’s approach play. But he has a weakness in that sometimes he enjoys being on the ball so much that he ends up dropping too deep to receive and demanding it from his colleagues in non-effective positions. When Modric retreats Barry must not be overly concerned with tracking him and trying to nail him. It is when he comes forward into dangerous areas to supply the hard-working Ivica Olic and the bright star Mladen Petric that Barry must make sure that he is closed down quickly and efficiently to disrupt the rhythm of Croatia’s attacks.”

For Kevin McCarra in the Guardian, England must attack to have any chance of doing well in Croatia. “Croatia do hold that undefeated record in competitive matches in Zagreb reaching back to 1994. The statistic nudges a rival coach towards picking an iron-clad line-up and Capello, in any case, is never known to be fanciful, but it would be shallow to think solely of resistance. These opponents would best be deterred by making them worry about England now and again.”

For the Telegraph’s Jim White, whatever happens in Zagreb, Fabio Capello is not going to lead England to glory. “This is not my opinion. This is according to Alex Fynn. And he should know: the Premier League was his idea in the first place… Fynn sees the Premier League growing ever stronger; driven by mega money, sucking in the best from around the globe. There will be no need to wait to host the 2018, the World Cup will be played out on our doorstep every weekend. Most seasons, the Premier League will provide the four Champions League semi-finalists. If it sounds good news, the corollary is that England will continue to decline, the advancement to major tournaments the exception not the rule. In other words, our football will become a 10-month-long equivalent of Wimbledon fortnight: an opportunity to see the world’s finest in action, a game in which we are observers rather than participants.”

The Times’ Martin Samuel, regurgitating England’s low ebb, is downbeat in his pre-match forecast. “Fabio Capello says that he goes into every game to win, but nobody is buying that, either. There has been a reevaluation of England’s standing in world football in recent years, and this is the first significant match after the brutal reality check that came with the failed qualification campaign for Euro 2008… There used to be arrogance in English football’s attitude to Europe, but that has been eroded as formerly inferior nations have caught up. England once beat Turkey 8-0, but now watch as Turkey defeat Croatia on the way to the semi-final of a tournament for which England did not qualify. The swagger has been replaced by a snivel.”

Fellow Times journalists As if to emphasise that this is the start of a brave new era, Capello is giving serious consideration to using Theo Walcott, Joe Cole and Wayne Rooney, his most talented forwards, and recalling Rio Ferdinand, who is fit again, Wes Brown and David Beckham. That would represent a considerable gamble at a ground where Croatia have not lost in 35 competitive matches, but it would be one based on bravery rather than trepidation.”

Back to the doom and gloom, Sam Wallace (Independent) questions whether the Walcott-Cole-Rooney attack can work. “Playing a relatively untried formation would require discipline from Walcott (only three England caps so far) and Joe Cole (shouted at by Capello for moving out of position against Andorra on Saturday), not to mention David Beckham, who would play as part of a more defensive midfield three. The pace of Walcott and the form that Cole has shown over the last two England games must be a tempting combination for Capello, but it does risk Rooney becoming isolated and losing his effectiveness.”

Henry Winter (Telegraph) lays out the repercussions of an England defeat. “The ramifications of a setback… would run painfully deep. After the forensic units have investigated the warm corpse of defeat, the broader inquest would begin, inspecting every cause from club-versus-country to lack of technique, self-belief and responsibility-taking. The debate about youth development and the foreign invasion of the Premier League would intensify. The FA would be placed under even greater pressure to get the academy house in order, to produce more footballers capable of living with Modric and Rakitic. Following Fabio Capello’s observation that Wembley is a hindrance, rather than a help, the game’s governors would again face questions on why they spent £757 million on a white elephant when they could have built eight National Football Centres nurturing players and coaches.”

Richard Williams (Guardian) justifies why Slaven Bilic is so highly regarded as a manager. “In two years and two months under his management Croatia have played 26 matches, won 19, drawn five and lost two. At the finals of Euro 2008, where they won all three of their group matches before going out to Turkey in a tumultuous quarter-final, he was the youngest of the 16 head coaches… He seems to think of football as serious fun, which is surely how it should be. Whereas Capello was intimating yesterday that England now find it easier to play away from the £800m new Wembley, Bilic was able to make a joke out of his own team’s remarkable record in the ramshackle, outdated, decidedly unpicturesque Maksimir Stadium, where Croatia have lost only once, a friendly against France in 2000. They have not lost a competitive game at home since their creation in 1990.”

Perhaps benefiting from his relative youth, Bilic has excelled at inspiring his players on the pitch while managing to appear almost matey with them off it. In contrast to Capello’s austerity, he has no objection to a player drinking a glass of wine over dinner and he concluded yesterday’s press conference by joining a gaggle of players, cigarette in hand, for a chat and a laugh outside the team hotel. As well as ball-retention, Croatia could give England lessons in camaraderie.”

The Guardian’s Rob Bagchi tries to silence to England boo-boys by pointing out the error of their ways. “Now, I don’t want to come over Pollyannaish, or subscribe to Tim Lovejoy’s ridiculous notion that the laws on treason should be updated “so people who criticise the players all the time should be sent to the gallows”. There is nothing wrong with booing, per se – it has a rich and noble tradition when applied to a member of the opposition who has behaved abominably, such as Argentina’s Antonio Rattín in the 1966 World Cup quarter-final. He could not have been more of a pantomime villain had he been wearing a black hat and twirling the ends of his moustache. But the sickening treatment handed out to John Barnes, the Nevilles and Frank Lampard is dumb, counter-productive and often perpetrated by people who lament Jamie Carragher’s lack of patriotism and yet bring their own, identical “club first” baggage to international football.”

The Daily Mail’s Ian Ladyman goes on the offensive against the terrestrial black of tonight’s Croatia-England game. “Fans will be unable to watch the crucial World Cup qualifier against Croatia unless they have access to satellite channel Setanta, available in just three million homes, because no national broadcaster is showing match highlights. Not since the Sixties has a crucial England match been denied to terrestrial viewers and the news has triggered a furious reaction from fans, former internationals and MPs. ‘The FA have sold their soul for money without considering the supporters who have been loyal to them,’ said former England captain Alan Mullery.”

Matt Scott (Guardian) reports that the FA may be about to sell off parts of the new Wembley stadium in order to cover costs. “Secret plans have been drawn up by the Football Association to sell off to private investors part of the company that operates Wembley stadium. After two years of heavy losses, Wembley is expected to return a significant profit from next May. But there is a long-term risk over its profitability that the FA is keen to share by introducing outside investment. Wembley National Stadium Limited will still owe the banks £416.6m at the end of this year. Repayments on those loans extend to 2019 but the 10-year seat licences, which generated £80m in revenue to underwrite the project, expire in 2017. This means there will be a two-year gap between the end of income from the first set of Club Wembley seat licences and the final repayment on Wembley’s mortgages. In 2017, up to £80m could still be owed to the banks.”

The Guardian’s Louise Taylor reports on how the candidates for the Newcastle job continue to change day by day, with Poyet now out of the running but with Deschamps and Zico entering the frame. “Deschamps is keen to keep his options open and would welcome an approach from Tyneside. Accordingly a source close to the one-time France captain, yesterday suggested he would not be averse to re-kindling his relationship with Wise which dates from their playing days at Stamford Bridge… The former Brazil luminary and Japan and Fenerbahce coach is also currently clubless. Making a firm pitch for the St James’ vacancy, he said: ‘The Newcastle job is one I would be very interested in taking. It would be a privilege and an honour. I am used to working alongside technical directors so it isn’t an issue. It is normal for me to work in those conditions.'”

And finally, the Guardian’s Helen Carter reports on the latest burglary suffered by a Liverpool player. “Liverpool’s new striker Robbie Keane has become the seventh footballer at the club to be burgled while playing in an international match… Dirk Kuyt, Jerzy Dudek, Pepe Reina, Daniel Agger and Peter Crouch have all been burgled. Merseyside police confirmed last year they were linking the six previous incidents involving Liverpool players. The club put in place extra security for its stars and Keane is the first to be targeted since Gerrard’s home was raided.”

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