Titus Bramble for England?

Last updated : 22 February 2005 By Craig Hope

Call up a possibility?
The burly centre back put in a display on Sunday that had many proclaiming it was his best yet in a black ‘n’ white shirt.

For over a year now I have backed Titus Bramble and found myself the subject of much criticism when he inevitably makes a mistake. It was our Champions League campaign of two seasons ago that first witnessed the progression of the ‘potential’ that persuaded Sir Bobby Robson to pay Ipswich Town over £5 million for the then 20 year old.

It is the nature of the beast with Bramble that with every good performance looms the ever present danger that his lapse in concentration will cost us dear.

The national press are particularly guilty of having pigeonholed the defender and with every mistake comes the subsequent ‘Bramble howler’ headlines. For Titus to silence the criticism that is quite often unfairly levelled towards him he has to do more than most. And, on Sunday, Bramble did indeed do that. In front of a national television audience he performed in the manner befitting an international centre back. He was strong, quick and decisive whilst displaying a tremendous authority in marshalling a previously disjointed backline.

But why is it that this particular performance that has heralded much praise is surrounded with a distinct air of surprise? Bramble has been playing like this for the majority of the season, most notably so since the turn of the year. It is one defeat, against the Champions, in ten now for Graeme Souness’ men. Bramble has been instrumental in this run of form that is yet to see
Newcastle concede more than one goal in a game. This run has arguably arrested a slide that was threatening to cut short any hope for the season and possibly the managerial tenure of Graeme Souness.

With regards to results, we are on a decent run. It is a pity that this run has been tempered with ill feeling amongst supporters following a string of execrable performances against Arsenal, Man.City and Charlton.

I have said before that when Titus Bramble partners Andy O’Brien he is forced to perform up to 75% of the defensive duties whilst the Irishman hides on the periphery of the action. On Sunday he was partnered by Jean Alain Boumsong. Bramble looked far more relaxed knowing that a player of significantly greater quality than O’Brien was ready to sweep up should his front line approach be penetrated. By this ‘front line’ approach I portend that Bramble executes a lot of interceptions and well timed tackles ten to fifteen yards in front of our back line with Boumsong in effect acting as a sweeper. He eradicates many attacks before they have the chance to gather momentum. In addition to this he can often be found in the flanks ‘cleaning out’ wingers who have evaded our full backs.

I spoke with Titus last year and he said that he would benefit from a prolonged spell alongside Jonathan Woodgate. The injury prone star has though now departed leaving Bramble with the opportunity to develop a partnership and understanding with French international Boumsong.

And, with Bramble putting in a performance on Sunday that even the semi-retired Woodagte would have been proud of, what price that within the next twelve months not only does Bramble fill Woodgate’s shoes in the heart of Newcastle’s defence but finds himself replacing the Madrid player in Sven Goran Eriksson’s England squad?

If you have any views about this article contact the editor Craig Hope at nufctalk@hotmail.com and he will reply to your comments