movement and you see it, you’re automatically going to take a step in the same direction to combat that. But if he checks back again and you lose him for a split second, he can get the time and space he needs to punish you. If forwards run in straight lines and don’t try to pull defenders all around the penalty area, then you start to get a feel for where they’re going to be when the ball goes out wide to the wingers. That makes it easy for you to defend against them. But if the striker’s always moving and you’re not sure where he’s going to move next – if he keeps you guessing – then it’s so much more difficult. We’ve got players here now who do that – players like Chicharito and Wayne Rooney, who’s bringing a lot more of that into his game now. And Louis Saha used to be a master at it.
Do you think defenders who come up against Chicharito are worried about him?
Yeah, for sure, because not a lot of strikers make the sorts of runs he does. It’s physically demanding – you have to be really fit to make those movements for 90 minutes. If I was a coach I’d be telling every young striker that he should take note of how Chicharito plays because that’s what you have to do if you want to be a top player. It will certainly give you a head start.
Would you rather defend against a burly forward or a forward like Chicharito?
I don’t really have a preference. Each sort of striker poses his own threat. If you’ve got somebody who’s tall and strong in the middle then he doesn’t have to move as much as somebody who’s shorter because he’ll automatically have more chance of winning a header and dominating a physical battle. But if you’re shorter then you might have to check your run and make one or two extra movements in order to get onto the end of a cross.
As a defender, how do you prepare to play against different strikers?
Yeah, definitely. Before games you’ll watch videos and go through possible scenarios in your head so you’re mentally prepared. I wouldn’t prepare to play against somebody like Kevin Davies in the same way as I would if I were coming up against Ian Wright or Andy Cole.
You’ve talked about Diego Maradona being your football inspiration, and being agog as a seven-year-old at the famous mazy dribble he scored against England. What would you have done to stop that one?
I don’t know if I would have been able to stop him. I think the only way you could have prevented that goal was if you took him out! But you’d have had to get close enough to him in the first place…