'Guiding a team to safety whilst being a regular fixture should surely deserve more recognition than being a bit part player at a bigger team'
With the dramatic end to the Premier League title race, quest for the Champions League and battle against the drop, Roy Hodgson’s first major task, after dealing with a pretty relentless first interview at Wembley, is to select his 23 man squad for the European Championships. The selection perhaps hasn’t been given the column width it deserves, as this squad is potentially one of the most difficult to predict. Every pundit, journalist and blogger has had their own unique say; some predicting the emergence of youth in an England shirt, some claiming this is a time for experience and more remarkably Paul Scholes.
Not long now: Hodgson squad announcement is fast approaching
Perhaps this type of squad is what we, as England fans, are all crying out for. In the early Capello regime, the squad picked itself.. Capello’s star studded squad in South Africa faulted; the likes of Terry, Gerrard and Lampard were all questioned but not dropped as Capello vowed to give the younger stars a chance. This particular qualifying campaign has seen the emergence of Jack Wilshire, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling who have shown in the future they will be the jewels in the crown of the English national team. But with Hodgson in charge the question is will he choose to rebel against England’s glitz and glamour and opt for an honest, hard-working team of Englishmen proud to wear the shirt.
One of the biggest issues regarding squad selection for Capello, was his attraction to players at bigger clubs. Often he ignored mid-table sides (arguably also sides from the North East) in favour of the ‘bigger clubs’ in England. This preference was highlighted most notably for Darren Bent. A prolific striker at Sunderland, Bent had only made a handful of substitute and friendly appearances for the National team. Following his big money move south to Aston Villa, Bent shortly made his first competitive start and became an important cog in the team through qualifying for Euro 2012. Andy Carroll also made his England debut shortly after his big money move from Newcastle.
The following two players are right wingers currently in the Premiership. Both are under 22, one has played 39 games in the Premiership this season, scoring 6 goals. The other playing 16 games (mostly as a substitute) notching up 2 goals. One is being touted for the European Championships, the other is not. One plays for lowly Wigan Athletic, the other for Arsenal. The first of course is Victor Moses, still hardly on England’s radar despite a brilliant late season surge with Wigan, sweeping aside Man United, Liverpool and Arsenal themselves along the way. The other is England’s next big thing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, a hot prospect yes, but surely Ukraine is too soon for the young lad. The point here being that guiding a struggling team to safety and being a regular fixture throughout the season should surely deserve more recognition than being a bit part player at a bigger team. Chamberlain has impressed, but not consistently enough, not enough to be fast tracked ahead of the likes of Moses.
Moses has been key to Wigan's revival, whilst the Ox's first team appearences have been limited
A slightly different case can be found at the heart of our striking crisis. After some bullish performances, Andy Carroll looks back to his best, despite a year of being slated from all angles, his 4 PremierLeague goals look set to move him ahead of (if he was ever even behind) the ‘New boys’ Grant Holt of Norwich and Danny Graham of Swansea, who have weighed in with 17 and 14 respectively. And they say strikers are judged on goals. The same case can be made for Man United’s Phil Jones seemingly moving ahead of now experienced centre-back Ryan Shawcross and even Championship Robert Green above the likes of John Ruddy and Ben Foster, who have had excellent seasons in the top flight. What more can these players do to get a look in?
For years England has been crying out for a manager who can get the best out of his players, in major tournaments neither England’s gems or backup players have shown or put in the performances they do so comfortably week in week out in the league. Hodgson’s CV backs up that he is the man to do this, often working on tight budgets meaning squeezing every ounce from his team to get results. Having managed recently managed (and done a very respectable job with) mid-table teams Fulham and West Brom, one can only hope Hodgson respects the unsung heroes of the leagues ‘smaller’ clubs who have caused more than a shock or two against the big guns. In doing so he will break the habit of choosing an England squad based on who makes the most front and back page headlines and ultimately merit will prevail over hype.