As we move ever closer to the announcement of England’s World Cup squad on 2nd June, it seems as though every Englishman putting in a half-decent performance on a Saturday afternoon is in contention for a seat on the plane to Brazil.
With it becoming increasingly harder for homegrown players to stand out amidst the sea of foreign talent on show in the Premier League, is it really such an issue that our best chance of progressing from the group stages this summer, could be by fielding a team consisting of in form players and rising stars?
With the likes of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole almost certainly playing their last international football this summer, Roy Hodgson must consider players such as Southampton’s highly rated 18 year old left-back Luke Shaw and dynamic Everton youngster Ross Barkley.
But is there any point taking such players merely to chuck them on in the last 10 minutes of the final group game against Costa Rica? As much as being in and around the dressing room would undoubtedly give them experience, it will be game time on the biggest stage in world football that will ultimately stand them in good stead for the future.
At the age of just 17, Theo Walcott was a surprise selection for Sven-Goran Eriksson’s 2006 World Cup squad. Perhaps what is more surprising than his inclusion is the fact that he did not play a single minute in Germany that year. Wallcot subsequently did not feature in Fabio Capello’s 2010 squad and many believe he has never fulfilled the potential he showed in his teenage years.
Hodgson has great reason to be thankful to young Premier League managers showing immense faith and loyalty to youthful members of their squads throughout this season.
Brendan Rodgers has given extensive game time to Raheem Sterling, Jordan Henderson and Daniel Sturridge. In England’s most recent friendly victory over Denmark, 5 Liverpool players were included in the starting eleven.
Mauricio Pochettino has fielded as many as seven English players in Southampton’s starting line-up this season. Jay Rodriquez was a certainty for a place in the squad this year before picking up an injury that will rule him out of the World Cup. However, the form of fellow team mates Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert means they could have pivotal roles in Brazil.
There is also an evident issue of players from the so called ‘big’ clubs being preferred to players from clubs towards the lower end of the Premier league.
Tom Cleverley is a prime example of this.
I don’t condone the petition to omit Cleverley from the squad this summer. The country’s media does enough to knock the confidence of young players as it is.
When you consider that so far this season he has featured in 21 league games for Manchester United, scoring just once and creating no goalscoring opportunities, there is reason for the fans to feel angry about Hodgson’s recent selections.
Compare these sort of stats to Sunderland winger Adam Johnson for example. Johnson has netted 8 times this season and assisted 4 goals, but with Sunderland battling relegation from England’s top flight, he has been overlooked in favour of players warming the benches at some of the country’s top clubs.
Tom Huddlestone and Steven Caulker are similarly unfortunate. Both left Tottenham last summer in search of regular first team action. With the influx of high profile signings following Gareth Bale’s world record departure from White Hart Lane, both were destined for a season on the subs bench.
They moved away from the club in order to be in contention for a World Cup spot. Despite consistent form shown by both players throughout the season, I can’t help but think playing for Hull and Cardiff has damaged any hopes of an England call up.
If you speak to any realistic England fan they will tell you there is absolutely no chance of their team lifting the cup in Rio on July 13th. Surely this means now is the time for the new crop of youngsters to be thrust into the action; thrown in at the deep to prove they’ve got what it takes.
So with expectations as low as ever going into an international tournament, Hodgson has nothing to lose. Failure can have a positive effect on young players. Enabling them to experience the feelings and emotions of not succeeding for their country will only drive them on in future tournaments.
The original article can be found on Ben Morris’ blog thinkingfooty.wordpress.com.