If Bobby Zamora makes his debut for England tonight, and all reports suggest he will, he’ll be only the fourth Fulham player to feature for the national team since we arrived in the Premier League 10 seasons ago. At 29 not even Bobby’s greatest fan could have predicted this opportunity a year ago but having completed one of the most amazing seasons in his career thus far he undoubtedly deserves his chance.
England are at a low ebb right now. If nothing else, our performance in South Africa opened a few eyes. We’re not quite as talented as we once thought and need to improve in a lot of areas if we’re going to compete with the world’s best. In the short term this means building a team for Euro 2012. Could Zamora be a genuine contender to be a part of the squad? The experience of Fulham’s other recent English hopefuls suggest it won’t be easy.
In February 2003 Sean Davis became the first Fulham player to be selected for England since George Cohen’s last game in November 1967. The friendly played at Upton Park saw England lose 3-1 to Australia and despite Sven-Goran Eriksson using 22 players Sean remained on the bench. Davis played one more full season for Fulham before moving on to Spurs but has yet to be selected for England again.
An injury crisis in defence gave Zat Knight his chance during a summer tour of the USA in May 2005. England played two friendlies and Zat featured in both. The first match, a 2-1 win over the States in Chicago, saw Knight replace Sol Campbell at half time. Zat earnt his first start, and played the full 90 minutes, three days later as England beat Colombia 3-2 in New Jersey. The tour was more about financial rewards than developing a team for the 2006 World Cup but in truth Zat didn’t do enough to suggest he deserved to be any higher in the Centre Back pecking order. Much like Sean Davis, selection for England raised Zat’s expectations but it was another two seasons before he moved on to Aston Villa.
The inimitable Jimmy Bullard secured our most recent brush with the three lions. Selected for back to back World Cup Qualifiers in September 2008. An unimpressive 2-0 win against Andorra was followed by a stunning 4-1 victory over Croatia in Zagreb. Both games were negotiated without the need for Jimmy to remove his tracksuit and after less than four months JB was on his way to Hull with a price tag befitting an England International.
Can Zamora stake a claim to feature in the squad for more than just one game? Can he be the first Fulham player of the Premier League era to earn a cap in a competitive match? To do so he would need to convince Capello that he has something to offer in qualifying for the 2012 European Championships. Despite a poor World Cup, Wayne Rooney remains key to a successful English team. Bobby may well provide the perfect foil for Rooney’s talent. He’ll certainly bring a work ethic to the side that appeared seriously missing in South Africa.
I’ve made the mistake of getting over excited about Fulham players picked for England in the past. I really upset some scousers when Jimmy B got the call and with hindsight they were probably right. I do hope that Bobby does himself credit and will be very proud to see him take the field however long he gets.