Former Bolton Wanderers skipper Kevin Davies believes Ross Barkley can hurt Italy in the World Cup
KEVIN Davies has urged Roy Hodgson to “go for it” when England open their World Cup bid against Italy this weekend.
The former Wanderers skipper, also capped by the Three Lions, is feeling confident Roy’s boys can get off to a winning start against an off-colour Azzurri.
But to break down the notoriously tough Italians, Davies feels it could be time to give some of the young stars a chance to shine and not rely so heavily on Wayne Rooney.
“Wayne Rooney hasn’t looked 100 per cent but I think he’ll definitely start – even though I don’t know where in that front three he will play,” he said.
“In the past, he’s been the main man and would start any game. But the way Roy has been talking, and how he’s looked in the last two or three games, he’s not necessarily a certainty any more.
“I think Ross Barkley has looked fantastic in that position and he reminds me of a young Wayne Rooney when he first burst on to the scene, playing without any fear.
“I think Roy has got decisions to make in the wider areas. I’d love to see him go with a Raheem Sterling, an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain or a Ross Barkley and have a right good go at Italy and take the game to them.”
England have arguably been drawn in the toughest group alongside Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica but Davies believes a place in the last eight could be up for grabs if they can conquer the tropical conditions.
“The conditions will be difficult but now we are here, and I’ve seen the preparation and the fit squad we have, I’m quietly confident we can do enough to get out of the group and play someone from Group C – Ivory Coast, Colombia, Greece or Japan. I’d fancy us, on our day, to beat one of those and then obviously it gets difficult in the quarter-finals,” Davies said in an interview with the BBC.
“But I’m more optimistic now. Italy are not the force they were when they won it in 2006. They haven’t won since September and have struggled a bit with draws against Ireland and Luxembourg.
“The Luxembourg game was probably the team Italy are looking to start against England, so they should go into it full of confidence.
“Uruguay finished fourth a few years ago but they qualified in fifth and are not in great form. They’ve got a few great players up front in Cavani and Suarez who can win games on their day but I think we should be quietly confident looking at the players we have, particularly going forward. We can hurt teams.”
Hodgson is a man Davies knows well from working with him at Blackburn Rovers and he reckons his former boss has fostered a better atmosphere within the camp than his predecessor Fabio Capello – the man who gave him his international chance.
“Roy was brought in to get us through qualifying and he has done that undefeated,” he added.
“I know him from when he signed me at Blackburn and I think his man management skills have really come on since that time. He’s a lot more relaxed in himself and I’ve spent time with him, had a few beers down at St George’s, and he’s really relaxed about it all – I think that will spread within the squad.”