Tord Grip tells TheFA.com how the Birmingham centre half has sped...
Exclusive: Tord Grip tells TheFA.com how the Birmingham City centre half has sped into international contention this season...
For Sol Campbell and Rio Ferdinand read Gareth Southgate and Matthew Upson. That has been the press speculation in the build-up to tonight's game and, when he sat down for a breakfast cup of tea with TheFA.com, Tord Grip was doing little to dissuade us from drawing that conclusion too.
"We are lucky that we have so many good centre halves," he says. "Jonathan Woodgate, Rio Ferdinand, Sol Campbell, John Terry, Gareth Southgate and Matthew Upson are all excellent players.
"We have a few injuries but you can always rely on Gareth and if Matthew plays too it will be good for him to have someone so experienced to play alongside him."
It has been a truly remarkable season for Upson. He began the term in Arsenal's reserve side and looks set to end it in England's Senior team.
So where did it all go right? The answer, Tord reveals, is in Reading.
"I was at the Madejski in February to watch an England Under-20 game against Germany," he explains. "While I was there I spoke to some of the Reading staff to ask how Matthew had done while he'd been on loan there. They were very praiseworthy. They said he'd been brilliant for them.
"Then he went back to Arsenal and faced both injuries and a lot of competition but as soon as he went to Birmingham we started to receive very good reports again. He has improved too since he has been there. Playing regular football is so important."
While all of this is new to Upson, his prospective defensive partner has been around the international block once or twice. When Gareth Southgate is in the England camp these days, it's almost like having another coach at times - such are his levels of maturity and awareness of differing aspects of the game.
Tord agrees that, in Southgate, there is an excellent manager waiting to get out: "If you have your eyes open, you cannot help but learn and, of course, if you are at a club with a manager like Steve McClaren that is good for your education too.
"But you have to want to learn too. There is no rule about what makes a good manager. There are many, like Sven and Arsene Wenger who have not played to the highest level but then there are others like Beckenbauer, Cruyff, Bobby Robson who have. The most important thing is to have that passion for the game."
Although they are at differing ends of the age-range, there are more than a few similarities between Gareth Southgate and Matthew Upson. Intelligence and technical ability are two of the attributes they share. More than that, both will be desperate to make the most of their opportunity tonight.
From Daniel Freedman at the England team base in Ashby de la Zouch
Matthew Upson - The Stat Pack
Place of Birth: Hartismere, England
Date of Birth: 18 April 1979
Weight: 11 04
Height: 6' 1''
Club: Birmingham City
England v Serbia & Montenegro