So What Are They Thinking In England?

TSG had the occasion a little more than a week ago to speak with a fellow reporter across the pond, ESPN’s Rebecca Lowe.

ESPN UK's Rebecca Lowe

Lowe is formerly of both Setanta Sport and the BBC, but now co-hosts ESPN’s Premiere League show. She’s an ardent Crystal Palace supporter and childhood acquaintance of Peter Crouch, who she says was known more for carrying a tennis racket around before playing soccer…or making ladies swoon.

Here’s an excerpt of what we spoke about.

TSG: If you ask American fans and they look at the England team, they see a little bit of infighting, challenges at goalie position per usual, and questions in the holding midfielder role.

What’s your take?

Rebecca Lowe: I think the interesting questions for England are in the midfield. We’ve got the Gareth Barry issue who some would say that his name is the second one on the team sheet after Wayne Rooney. He’s an unsung hero, you just don’t notice him…..possibly that means…some people say that makes a great player, especially in midfield.

He works hard and does the hard work. And he’s very very good at it.

However with the injury, his exact place on the team is still up in the air.

I think Fabio Capello desperately will try and get Gareth Barry playing in the World Cup.

As for the team, I think the general feeling amongst the team is good.

I’m a little worried that it’s been such a good build up.

I think sometimes with World Cups…sometimes a couple of defeats in the warm-up games or a couple of difficult things going on in camp can sometimes pull the squad together.

And although we had the John Terry saga, that’s kind of blown over and I thought it would.

And now everything seems to be fairly peaceful. I just wonder whether that’s a good thing.

Sometimes some infighting and some scandal; a seige mentality, perhaps,  is good to pull a team together.

I don’t want them to travel to Africa thinking it’s a breeze.

Unsung or vulnerable?

TSG: That’s truly spoken like the English media!

I’m going to follow up on Gareth Barry for a second. There is no question he’s a good player, but there are some questions about whether he can play the cover defense that’s needed in the holding midfielder role and then help link the offense.

If you ask me, that’s a place where the States can attack the Lions the most. Thoughts?

RL: Well, that’s really interesting. So interesting to hear another point of view on the England team from outside. I don’t get to hear from other football writers in other countries all too often.

I would agree with you.

I think Gareth Barry is a top class player but he hasn’t had a ton of international experience.

Even if he does play, I don’t think you’re wrong. I wouldn’t say he’s world class.

I think he’s a good solid player, but I take the point, but that’s not greatest area of strength for England.

Michael Carrick’s a patchy player and I don’t have a lot of confidence in him and that’s who else we have.

I take on board what you’re thinking about Barry and I concede it. I wish we had Owen Hargreaves of course.

TSG: Always holding out hope for Hargreaves, like the Yanks were for Charlie Davies earlier this year.

How are the English viewing the Americans right now with a little more than 10 days left? What’s the general tenor towards the game on June 12th?

RL: I think there is a difference between the people in the game and the fans.

I think the general England soccer fans are taking it quite lightly because the United States don’t have a great pedigree in international football.

And they haven’t produced stars that tend to play on Champion’s League-winning teams, for example.

The one man who slightly has changed everyone is Landon Donovan with his successful stint at Everton.

He was fantastic and really started to make people stand up and take notice of the Americans.

Whereas the other players in the Premier League have been up to the standard, but none of have really been stars.

I though Landon Donovan was a star when he came over here. I think the fans are taking it more lightly than the people in the game.

Capello: Not taking the Yanks lightly

I don’t think Fabio Capello is taking the American team lightly.

I think the progression the American team has made over the past ten years has been very rapid.

And those in the game know they are a dangerous, dangerous team that shouldn’t be underestimated. I don’t think the press and the team are underestimated.

TSG: You keyed on Landon Donovan, there seems to be an identity crisis around another player, Clint Dempsey. He has the skill but sometimes the charisma doesn’t show. However, when I talk to English media they bring him more maybe than the States. Talk about Clint Dempsey.

RL: Well I think with Clint Dempsey…It doesn’t surprise me he doesn’t have a huge profile in America.

He doesn’t come across as a star player, he comes across more as a “team” player. What I mean by that–he’s been a permanent fixture in the Premier League of course for Fulham–and they play more of a team game.

This season he’s slightly risen above what he’s done before.

Fullham’s had a fantastic year, but they’re not full of one-off stars. They are not a team like Liverpool that has Gerrard and Torres and then pretty much a bunch of standard players.

Clint has always scored about 10 goals a season. Which says to me he hasn’t shot out in front and said, “I’m the star.”

However, this season because Hodgson and Zamora have done such a great job. the team has been lifted so Clint has gone with that.

I’m not saying he’s a changed player or a star, but his profile has risen. But same with Bobby Zamora. If you asked anyone this time last year, no one would have said Bobby Zamora would have twenty goals or be in a Europa League final.

Clint Dempsey’s perceived as a good standard Premiere League player, but nothing more.

TSG: Okay interesting, so more on Donovan.

Landon on the ball against Turkey (courtesy, Matt Mathai)

RL: When Landon Donovan came over here, he was a success for a number of reasons. His assists were fantastic; he was creative.

His corners were just brilliant. His set pieces were unbelievable. He scored goals. He was passionate.

His interviews–a whole different conversation here Matthew–the way he did interviews for our soccer shows won hearts.

In America, sports stars and television go together “like bread and butter.”

Over here, sports stars don’t want to talk on television.

He on the other hand was fantastic and charmed a lot of people. As a result more people watched him and his performances then backed it up.

After only having been here for four or five months, he would not be able to walk down the street in Liverpool and not be accosted massively for interviews or autographs.

But in America, most wouldn’t bat an eye lash if he was coming down the street.

He certainly made everyone starting thinking about the United States, especially coming over here right after the World Cup draw.

Here comes Landon now and runs rings around our defenders and people are like he’s a bit not so bad.

He possibly put England more on their guard.

TSG: Wow, serious affirmation there. Okay Jozy Altidore?

RL: I would say a player that England is particularly concerned about Jozy Altidore.

He played for Hull and Hull were woeful so that’s part of it, but he certainly hasn’t proven himself.

I would think he’s someone most look at say “Oh look he played for Hull,” but not “Oh gosh, he’s good.”

The perception of Altidore is no where near the perception of Landon Donovan or Clint Dempsey.

TSG: And Tim Howard? Is he looked at as World Class there or Robert Green is better?

RL: Most England fans would have Tim Howard in their England squad, possibly at number one, if not for number two for sure.

He’s certainly regarded as a top quality keeper. A really good keeper.

I personally think he’s better than Robert Green. I might have David James..but if I could have Tim Howard for his number two.

He’s a serious goalkeeper and has been doing it for a long time.

And if came down to a penalty, people would not be surprised if he’d save it. He, Donovan ad Dempsey are seen as top quality.

Spector: Applauded, but hardly feared...

TSG: Well, the same can’t be said for Jonathan Spector. Who was recently voted the worst player by a fan group for West Ham.

RL: See, I think Jonathan Spector has had a quiet good career here. First at Charlton and now at West Ham. I think he’s done quite well.

He may be viewed as weak link considering who he’s playing, but he’s not bad.

But Jonathan Spector would never make the England squad in a million years either.

TSG: Okay, back to the England team. What exactly is David Beckham’s role?

RL: That’s a very good questions and it’s a little bit muddy right now.

In this country right now, we’re fully obsessed with this World Cup 2010, but we’re also full obsessed with winning the World Cup 2018.

Beckham "scouting" the US.

David Beckham turns grown men into “wobbling jennies.”

He’s an unbelievable  ambassador for football and England in general. He’s a fantastic player and will be missed on the pitch.

But I think his role will be general staff for the squad.

He’ll probably talk to the press a lot and take the pressure off the team and Fabio Capello.

He’s so England and if he wasn’t there fans would be disappointed because he’s such a legend.

TSG: Great answer because we had no idea what he was doing besides taking the heat of those playing.

Ok, England’s bigger worry Ferdinand’s injury or King’s dicey health issues.

(Note: This interview was taped before Ferdinand’s World Cup-ending injury.)

RL: Good question. God, that’s a tough one.

Lowe, words on Rio before the injury...

I actually would not be worried if Ferdinand didn’t pay at the World Cup. Not only has he been injured all year. but when he has played he has not looked like the Rio Ferdinand of the last 10 years, or even 5 years.

When he has played he hasn’t been in form.

I don’t know if you can find your form swiftly and play your heart out when you’ve been injured all year.

Rio Ferdinand used to be one of England’s best defenders, but he’s certainly not anymore.

As for Ledley King, I’m not worried, and I don’t think most are, about his fitness.

Towards the end of the domestic season he played two games a week. It’s not a new thing for him and I think he knows how to manage it.

TSG: Bigger problem or challenge for the Three Lions? Finding who pairs Wayne Rooney or Glen Johnson straying too far up the pitch?

RL: Um, Glen Johnson straying too far off the pitch….which is why I think Capello reached out to Jamie Carragher who I think will see some time at right back. He’s certainly a good option to bring as Johnson is a liability.

In terms of Wayne Rooney up front, I don’t think that’s a major issue because he can do it alone and proved that for Manchester United this year.

There are more pressing issues for and Rooney will carry the top himself if he has to.

TSG: So you’re thinking Rooney as a lone striker? (RL: Yeah.)  So no Defoe, Heskey or Crouch?

RL: I think he’s gone off Heskey. I think he might start with Crouch and Rooney, but not side-by-side. Capello might drop one back into the hole.

If he’s going to start with a pairing, I think it will be Crouch who’s excellent.

I don’t think it will be Defoe at all.

TSG: It must be frustrating in terms of the potential of Jermain Defoe up top. He’s lights-out in the Premiership, but he just can’t get it done internationally.

RL: I agree. It’s very frustrating. He’s, like you say, an immense talent domestically, but he’s got a lot to prove for England.

Well, he definitely won’t start, but he might used as a sub to change things around.

I do think whoever starts with Wayne Rooney, it’s not a major problem. Even if it’s Heskey.

TSG: Okay, Rebecca, lets end with a question about you, if you don’t mind….specifically aboout your gender and whether that plays a part in attaining interviews or just doing your job? If you wouldn’t mind lending your perspective….

RL: There is not getting away from the fact that I’m a woman.

TSG: No kidding.

Lowe, presenting...

RL: <Laughs>. I think you have to gain respect. Rightly or wrongly everyone’s expects a man immediately in my role, because they’re a man and it’s generally presumed that a man knows what he is talking about when it comes football.

If a man makes a mistake, he makes a mistake. Whereas if a woman makes mistake it’s because she doesn’t know enough about what she is talking about.

So I am always open to a lot of criticism, which makes the job a high pressure one. I  I live with the fear of making a mistake that will undo all the good work that I’ve done in the past seven years of my career.

I approach interviews differently than men and I can ask, sometimes, the tougher questions because I can phrase it softer than a man does.

Talking to footballers and, if you’re woman and phrase something in a softer or kinder way, you can get a better answer. Doesn’t always happen but it works sometimes.

I do have certain people who will never respect me, despite interviewing them countless times. I know they don’t have respect for me and that can get frustrating from time to time.

There are good sides and bad sides, but I don’t have to do this job. No one is forcing me to do it, but I do it and I enjoy it.

TSG: Rebecca, thanks for your time. Best of luck to England in the World Cup except on June 12th.

RL: Best of luck to the United States and likewise.

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46 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by BW on 2010/06/06 at 11:55 PM

    on Donovan….”he’s a bit not so bad.” Haha, classic!

    Reply

    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/06/07 at 5:27 AM

      “He scored goals” ? He score 2 goals in 10 goals (more than a quarter of the league season). If you extrapolate that stat… He did very very well, but I would like to see if he could produce that form over a potential 50+ match season. Just like you cannot be too critical of the German loans, you cannot be too praising for the Everton loan.

      But she has brilliant taste in who she supports! RED BLUE ARMY!

      Reply

      • Posted by Colin on 2010/06/07 at 6:30 AM

        on top of that, how many goals did he set up? from set pieces or open play…i really have no idea, but I am thinking 5 more…really have no idea tho. I remember at least 2 corners and one from open play after he scored against Hull.

        Also, he came in and shined during a really tough part of Evertons schedule.

        Reply

        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/06/07 at 6:40 AM

          When the shortest man on the field (Leon Osman) scores with a header from a corner, is that an assist or bad defending?

          I am not saying that Donovan isn’t a very talented individual, and England will need to pay attantion to him for sure. But I feel Americans think he’s better than he actually is. That is all I am saying.

          Reply

        • Posted by Antonio H. on 2010/06/07 at 7:19 AM

          When David James whiffs on a pass from his defender and it goes into the net, is that an owngoal or bad goalkeeping?

          Reply

        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/06/07 at 1:20 PM

          That was Paul Robinson vs Croatia away during the Euro 2008 qualifiers. Huge GK error, but officially an OG.

          I cannot wait until Saturday. I cannot wait to serve you a (super-sized) piece of humble pie…

          Reply

        • Posted by kaya on 2010/06/07 at 2:03 PM

          It seems to me like Matt was saying that he learned from Rebecca that Donovan is the “american star” according to the english while we think Dempsey is.
          I half expect us to not hear from George again after Saturday, given the way he’s going.

          Reply

        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/06/07 at 3:18 PM

          What do you mean, “the way I am going?”
          You are correct, you will not hear from me for a while, but that will have nothing to do with the result of the game.

          Reply

        • Posted by kaya on 2010/06/07 at 3:58 PM

          You’ve heavily committed yourself is what I’m saying.

          Reply

        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/06/07 at 4:59 PM

          Look, the USA has everything to gain and nothing to lose in this game IMHO. If you win, it will be a major upset, but if you lose, then nobody will be surprised – they will say ‘look at the talent you have on that squad, you should be beating the likes of the USA’.

          I don’t mean to p1ss anybody off. I am just very very excited for the WC to start, and am having trouble thinking about anything else (apart from going to SA, that is).

          Reply

          • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/06/07 at 5:02 PM

            Oh see George, I think the US have a lot to lose in this game if they don’t get at least a draw.

            Here’s the thing, the scenario, that I’m not sure a lot of US fans are thinking about at this moment.

            ENG beats US – very possible
            SLO beat ALG – very possible

            Slovenia goes into the US game knowing that if England hold serve against Algeria that a win puts them through to the next round.

            If the US lose and Slovenia win, you have the US in a fight for their World Cup lives in the 2nd match of the tournament!

            A draw is nearly a necessity for the Americans.

            Reply

        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/06/07 at 5:23 PM

          My point is that you’re not expected to win on Saturday. If it is a draw, that’s a point gained for the US rather than you dropping two points. Whereas, the US are expected to beat Slovenia and Algeria. A draw for us wouldn’t be the end of the world but it would be seen as two dropped points and a loss would represent a disaster.

          I wrote about that scenario in my last WC piece – who to fear more out of Slovenia vs Algeria.

          Reply

        • Posted by Kevin on 2010/06/07 at 5:45 PM

          Matt although you’re right about being fighting for their lives in the 2nd match of the tournament, you should also be able to confidentally say we SHOULD beat Slovenia. I’m not saying go into the game feeling over-confident, but certainly you do not want to be pessimistic (spelling?) as we are more than capable of advancing out of our group.

          On specifically the England match, we should be worried if we lose by more than a goal, but I really think a 2-1 is probable. Based on the Turkey and Australia match, we won’t roll over and let England trample us. Also a game in our group against England is much more about progression of soccer in the US than it is the outcome. Once you’re in the knockout stages, none of that matters.

          Reply

      • Posted by tnnelson on 2010/06/07 at 10:04 AM

        he scored goals and got assists, but that wasn’t it. he was a great team player and elevated the level of play of his teammates. also, he was extremely consistent with his passing and tracking back on defense, as well as opening up defenses with his pace and dangerous runs. it’s no coincidence that Everton’s best run of form this season was while he was there. also, he could have had several more goals if he hadn’t been unlucky a few times (particularly when his shot was cleared off the line by an incredible defensive play vs. Sunderland) and hadn’t given the ball to a teammate unselfishly when he could have scored himself. he would have had several more assists as well if his teammates had finished their chances that he set up for them. there is no denying his success at Everton, especially if you saw every game he played, rather than just look at the stats

        Reply

      • Posted by Ian on 2010/06/07 at 11:08 AM

        CSKA Moscow are also the red blue army. I was in Sevilla after CSKA knocked them out of the Champions league and the drunk Russians were carrying on all night, Disappointing for Sevilla really.

        Reply

  2. Excellent interview, again, Matthew. Interesting take on how those “in the know” feel about the US, even though we still see the EASY headline flashed on the screens often on this side of the pond (but maybe that’s the US media trying to create some bulletin board material).

    Reply

  3. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/06/07 at 6:03 AM

    I also see USA legend, Lalas, has been running his mouth. He is the true bocanegra…

    Reply

    • Posted by Antonio H. on 2010/06/07 at 6:16 AM

      Haha wow Georginho has been working on his spanish. Good one

      Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/06/07 at 7:30 AM

      George — I wouldn’t put too much stock in Lalas. He has a running feud with Bradley. His schtick for this World Cup is too hype the ESPN fanbase and put pressure on Bradley. It’s a no lose situation for him.

      Most don’t put much stock in Lalas the non-player given his struggles at the MetroStars and his inability to guide the Galaxy in Beckham’s first year.

      Before you comment on Landon, tell us how many goals an assists Walcott will have in South Africa this Wor……oops!

      Reply

      • Posted by Bob on 2010/06/07 at 8:16 AM

        It is an interesting note on LD as I don’t think he has ever been considered someone who scores a lot of goals (I think he has won the golden boot once in MLS). Currently, he has only one goal this MLS season, but is leading in assists. I think his prominence in the U.S. is how he makes everyone around him better. Case in point: Edson Buddle. If Buddle is playing for any other MLS team, does he make the final 23? Is he even in the conversation without LD?

        When I was watching the Everton games, it seems to me that the fans there appreciated his spirit and energy and how he “hustled” on every play. He brought a new energy to a team that was down and helped them raise their game. Once LD came there, Everton had one of the best records from Jan. – May. Thus, without LD, does Everton play up a level and beat ManUnited, ManCity, etc.?

        Reply

        • Posted by Bob on 2010/06/07 at 9:27 AM

          Also, check out the U.S. Soccer video of LD’s time at Everton. See what Neville, Moyes, the Liverpool press, and of course the Everton fans think of LD when he was there. It is clear that they are not that concerned about how many goals he scored, but the intangibles that he brought to the club. Great stuff!!

          Part I

          http://www.ussoccer.com/Multimedia/Media-Center.aspx#/id=7c2bb29c-165e-4ae2-98aa-f9cbcfbb6994

          Part II

          http://www.ussoccer.com/Multimedia/Media-Center.aspx#/id=6b105c8b-0f1a-40f9-9c4c-2067a0e625fb

          Reply

        • Posted by Kevin on 2010/06/07 at 5:54 PM

          Oh yeah I forgot to mention this after the Australia match. Although Buddle scored goals, it is worth noting that on the first goal he didn’t look very comfortable on the ball, and that’s the type of small thing that could ruin us during the tournament. I’ll go ahead and say I’m a Buddle critic, so I’m going to throw in that it was nice finishing from Buddle. Ultimately, if he keeps scoring goals, thats what a striker is on the field for in the first place isn’t it?

          And FSC’s (I think FSC it may have been Goltv) ticker on the bottom of one of their shows said “…US HITMAN…”

          Reply

      • Posted by Fireball on 2010/06/07 at 8:21 AM

        David Moyes just wrote something in the Times Online on Donovan, which everyone should read.

        I love reading about what the Brits think. It’s so interesting going back to an ESPN interview with Tyler after the Draw. Off the top of his head, he mentioned Dempsey, Donovan, and…..Jay Demerit.

        Reply

      • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/06/07 at 9:36 AM

        Matthew – I said that with a heavy dollop of sarcasm, evidenced by me calling him an “USA legend” – thought that was an obvious give-away!

        Reply

  4. Posted by KickinNames... on 2010/06/07 at 6:58 AM

    Wow. Gareth Barry is the key to England’s success? I’m feeling better every day. He should be in everyone’s top 5 most overrated players for club and country. Disappears in big games on a regular basis.
    Grown men? Wobbling jennies? Nice idea for the intvw but she comes across as the classic sideline reporter. Anymore than 30 seconds of camera and it gets pretty uninteresting.
    But if cute were a skill set…

    Reply

    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/06/07 at 9:45 AM

      The water carriers are essential for the better players to shine (think Dunga (94), Deschamps (98), Silva (02) and these unsung heros in CL) Who do you have at the base of your midfield who can do this job *effectively* at the *highest* level?

      Since people have mentioned her looks, I can go on record to say that I have never seen any crumpet as fit as her at Selhurst Park. Fact.

      Reply

  5. That was a fun read, interesting to get the UK media perspective on the Yanks from a slightly less official point of view. It’ll be interesting to hear what Martin Tyler and some of the other commentators have to say about Donovan/Dempsey/etc. as opposed to hearing Harkes & co this time around.

    Reply

  6. Posted by kaya on 2010/06/07 at 9:02 AM

    Well, they can keep David James as their number one and we’ll take Timmy.
    Between that comment and the ebullient praise for Donovan, I wonder how much difference there really is between the english sporting press and public.
    Even assuming the worst case scnenario and that the press are all basically Lalas with a lovely accent, I can’t understand why anyone would rather be interviewed by some ugly dude over her.

    Reply

  7. Rebecca Lowe, Very Nice! (in my best Borat voice)

    anywhoooo, good interview, top job in getting some of these better known people to come on the site and answer questions. keep up the good work

    Reply

  8. Posted by Tim on 2010/06/07 at 10:45 AM

    Matthew – a bit off the subject here – is there a posting for USA viewing parties up yet?

    Reply

  9. Posted by Jake Claro on 2010/06/07 at 3:46 PM

    Hey George…big whiffs by English keepers aren’t limited to Robinson alone…James’ whiff–roll tape

    Better make sure the pitch is tip-top

    Reply

  10. Posted by Kevin on 2010/06/07 at 5:58 PM

    You know, you did a draft for 2006 vs 2010 USMNT, but what about US vs England draft? sound interesting to me…

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/06/07 at 5:59 PM

      Wow. Good idea. Let’s see if we can turn it around in time.

      Reply

      • Posted by Kevin on 2010/06/07 at 6:31 PM

        I’d be happy to contribute, but I don’t much about the English squad, so… not a good idea…

        Reply

  11. Posted by Dylan on 2010/06/07 at 6:44 PM

    Is it me or is this girl a hands down Knock Out.

    Reply

  12. [...] touched on some of the topics we discussed in our first interview and discussed the future of English [...]

    Reply

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