Has he forgotten his age?
I’ve always looked down on players trying to make their managers decisions for themselves. If you aren’t getting what you want, knuckle down and work for it rather than moan to the media. On most occasions I can actually sympathise with the player and see his point of view, Theo Walcott is the recent outburst that comes to mind. However, when I heard Grant Holt’s criticising remarks about Roy Hodgson’s selection policy I was left scratching my head. Has he forgotten his age?
Is Grant Holt in the right?
Firstly, Holt describes the decision not to select him for Euro 2012 as ‘ridiculous’. Let’s put aside the comment I made earlier about what I think of players making comments like this and focus on if he really should have been selected. It’s a debate that has been discussed before so I will only summarise the argument. Grant Holt clearly believes he should have been included in the squad, due to his 15 goals in 36 Premiership games. This is one stat in his favour, but the stats regarding his international experience (nil) and his age (31) work against him. It seemed to be a bit of a shootout between him, Peter Crouch and Andy Carroll for the ‘target man’ spot in the team. Carroll was the lucky one (a decision that I believe has been justified). Breaking it down as simply as possible; Holt scored the most goals in the season, Crouch has the most international experience, Carroll is the youngest. Conclusions? Hodgson has made age a strong factor in his selection process.
Holt has also questioned why Nathan Dyer, Danny Graham and Rickie Lambert haven’t been selected. What sticks out with these players is that they’re at relatively small clubs; I say relatively because I am comparing them to the kind of teams that international players usually play for. Now, Lambert is 30. As I have already alluded to, Hodgson does not pick players his age who do not have a wealth of international experience. Moving onto Dyer and Graham, there may be a case for their selection. However I will discuss this further in the section regarding selection policy, focusing on the status of the clubs that they play for. I might also add that I would not rate Danny Graham as one of England’s top five strikers, but I’ll try to leave my opinion out of it.
Holt finishes with the mystifying statement; ‘I think any neutral looking at that list [England squad list] could have written it down beforehand and not been far off’. I don’t quite understand what he’s saying; do you have to be a rose-tinted, die-hard fan to disagree with the current England squad? Well surely that therefore means that it is a good squad, there are no selections based on sceptical persuasions. I can say that this neutral agrees with the current squad!
The selection policy
I will now discuss the points regarding Roy Hodgson’s selection process, made earlier in the article. The first point is the evidence that he has made age a persuasive factor in his selection process, the example offered being Andy Carroll’s selection for Euro 2012. There is also the inclusion of Jack Butland in squads, even being given a cap, as well as Raheem Sterling being given a last minute call up to the most recent squad. Clearly, these two players are not in the top twenty-five or thirty English footballers; the idea behind their selection is that one day they will be. If you look at the England squad, barring Rooney and Hart, you can see that the key players in the team are aging. Steven Gerrard (32), Frank Lampard (34), Ashley Cole (31) and Scott Parker (31) are all unlikely to be able to be relied upon in two years’ time at the World Cup in Brazil, the next coming tournament. Clearly looking ahead two years, and even further than that, there is a need to introduce the next generation of England stars; I point to Carroll, Tom Cleverly, Kieran Gibbs, Steven Caulker and Kyle Walker, amongst others. Once again going back to Holt’s comments, the inclusion of himself would mean sacrificing the place of one of the future stars. I would therefore like to turn his statement onto its head, and say that his inclusion to an England squad would be ridiculous!
The second selection point made is an interesting one, the size of the clubs that the prospective England players play for. Holt refers to Dyer and Graham and I would also mention Danny Welbeck and Cleverly. Both of them went on loan to smaller Premiership clubs but began to make strides into the England team as soon as they returned to Manchester United. For me this makes it clear that playing for a larger club enhances your chances of playing for England. The two arguments in support of this fact are firstly that lower level Premiership football is a step below top level Premiership football, which is in turn a step below international football; making the jump from low level to international is too much of a leap. Secondly, if you’re good enough to play for your country, why aren’t you playing for a good team? Both are convincing arguments, but you would like to think that selection is only dependant on your ability (as well as your age). There is no escaping the fact that a majority of players in the current England squad are selected from top six teams, teams that are notorious for having few domestic players.
In conclusion of the points that I have raised, a 31 year old Grant Holt does not deserve to be anywhere near an England squad that is rightly building for the future. It is obvious that Hodgson is focusing on promising, young players and giving debuts to players over 30 would not feature highly in his plans. It should also be asked if it’s right that most players are selected from the top teams, when there is a much wider choice lower down the table. For me, Holt has no right to make the statements that he has and Hodgson is fully justified in opting for the selection process that he is deploying.