Green hopes go up in smoke

IF YOU had asked a group of England fans which player was most at risk of losing his place in the starting line-up, chances are Robert Green would have been high on that list, WRITES DAVE EVANS. Now it seems that the West Ham goalkeeper is on everyone s l

IF YOU had asked a group of England fans which player was most at risk of losing his place in the starting line-up, chances are Robert Green would have been high on that list, WRITES DAVE EVANS.

Now it seems that the West Ham goalkeeper is on everyone's lips to be dropped after he was sent off after just 14 minutes of Saturday's World Cup qualifier in Ukraine.

And to add insult to injury, his replacement - former Hammer David James - came on and put in the sort of performance that had the pundits drooling.

Unfair on Green? Well, to a certain extent, yes it was. To use a colloquial term, the former Norwich City goalkeeper was largely 'stitched up' by one of his increasingly hapless central defenders - another former Hammer in Rio Ferdinand.


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The Manchester United centre half coped with a high ball like a nervous schoolboy, allowing it to bounce and for Ukrainian striker Artem Milevskiy to run in on goal, where he was upended by Green inside the penalty area.

The referee seemed to send off Ferdinand at first, before being corrected by his linesman, and showing Green the red card, his first ever in competitive football.

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England coach Fabio Capello was quick to castigate the official for sending off the goalkeeper: "When the referee decided the red card for Green, that was a big mistake," he insisted. "He was not too close to the moment of the foul.

"He gave a red card for Rio, he thought it was Rio who made the foul, but he was running and the keeper was on the ground diving."

It is something of a technicality that Capello is arguing about. Green brought down his man, and whether the referee had a good view of it, or whether it was all down to Ferdinand is irrelevant - he had to be sent off.

In his absence, James showed that there is still plenty of life left in his England career.

He did let in a goal - a deflected effort off Ashley Cole - but he also made two excellent saves to keep England only one behind.

Green is suspended for tonight's clash with Belarus, with James likely to take his place once more, and it would seem that the pecking order has suddenly changed.

England's next international is a friendly clash with Brazil on Saturday, Nov-ember 14 and that must now be the start of Green's comeback at international level.

He had played the previous six internationals on the trot, but he may well have to start all over again, competing with the likes of Ben Foster and Paul Robinson to be understudy to James.

The 48-cap Portsmouth goalkeeper though is 39-years-old and has been hit by injuries over the past couple of seasons.

Green knows that if he stays fit and in form, then he may well get another opportunity to prove himself before the World Cup Finals in South Africa next summer.

What he doesn't want is to be known as the first England goalkeeper ever to be sent off and for nothing else.

Green's seven-cap international career has been already been something of a rollercoaster.

He was mysteriously left out of most of the squads selected by Sven Goran Eriksson and Steve McLaren, before finally winning favour under Capello.

But even though the Italian has shown faith in his abilities, the 29-year-old has been continually criticised by the national media.

Some suggested that he was too deep when the aimless ball was played over the top for Ferdinand to miss, others that he was just too slow to see the danger.

One thing is for sure, Green has it all to prove if he is to be the England number one when the World Cup starts in earnest next June.

West Ham fans though, will not be so quick to write him off.

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