Roy Hodgson’s last England squad of 24 players contained 19 players from the teams branded ‘the top six’. The regular players like – Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard were all there. Which is fair enough. As they are some of the finest players England had to offer.
However, England managers of late have become too accustomed to relying on footballers from the top six: the top six being Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur.
Roll the clocks back to 1966; the year England won the World Cup. 13 out of the 22 England squad members played for teams like Wolverhampton Wanders’ and Blackpool.
Similarly, in 1990; our best finish in an international tournament since 1966. England’s squad contained five players who played away from the English top-flight. 14 out of the 22 taken to Italy played for teams not in the ‘top six’.
When we look at England’s dismal 2010 World Cup campaign – 16 out of the 23 players taken played for the top six. The European Championships in 2012 proved to have similar numbers of players taken: 20 out of the 23 players taken to the tournament were players from the top six.
The general rule for being an England manager is: If you play for a top-six side, you are an automatic selection.
A great example of this is that of Andrew Carroll. He set the Premier League alight in his and Newcastle United’s return to the Premier League in 2010, netting 11 times in 20 appearances.
This only gained him one poultry England cap; where he was lumped off half way through to make way for Peter Crouch – then of Tottenham. Carroll’s phenomenal form earned him a big-money move to Liverpool in the January of 2011.
From there Carroll’s form dipped, but he received more call-ups. 11 goals for Liverpool in two years earned him a place in Roy Hodgon’s England squad.
If 11 goals in two years warrants a place in an England XI, then surely being the highest scoring English player behind Wayne Rooney, deserves the starting berth alongside him?
Norwich striker Grant Holt outscored Edin Dzeko and Mario Balotelli in the 2011/2012 season by grabbing 15 Premier League goals. Outscoring all of his compatriots who were selected before him to go to Euro 2012.
However, people say that it was his age that kept him out of the England side – being 31 at the time.
But surely, this cannot be the case. Roy Hodgon’s recently selected Rio Ferdinand, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard – who are all at least a year older than Grant Holt. So was it his age that put Hodgson off? Or was it that he played for a team that finished 12th in the Premier League?
Another player who is frequently over-looked despite being the most prolific English striker playing in a top-flight division is Gary Hooper of the Scottish Champions – Celtic FC. Hooper has scored 77 times in 130 games for Celtic. He has a wealth of Champions League experience. At 25 years old, how much longer can England ignore him?
The argument is that because he plays away from the Premier League, he has yet to be proven. If this is the case then how come Wilfred Zaha, got an international cap?
David Beckham is a soon to be 38-years-old, who plays for PSG. Beckham debatably is the best passer and set piece taker in the world. He has a tremendous understanding of the game and a wealth of experience to pass onto the younger generations, he is also the only Englishman left playing in the UEFA Champions League but he is overlooked.
The argument is: England is building for the future.
But what are we building for? Another quarter-final exit at the hands of a team far superior?
This is going to happen time and time again, until we get it right. Regardless of your age: if you play good enough, and prove yourself to be a good ambassador for the Three Lions then why should you be left on the side-lines?
More recently the fantastic form of Southampton’s Rickie Lambert has led to the media asking for him to be given a chance with the national side. With 14 goals, making him the highest scoring Englishman in the Premier League, he deserves his chance
The reality for players like Rickie Lambert is that a call-up may never come. Playing for England has become more of an exclusive club for those privileged enough to represent a ‘big club’.
Over the last ten years, England managers have over-looked players worthy of a call-up due to playing outside the elite. Look at Kevin Nolan - a fantastic finisher and an inspirational leader. But he was overlooked because of his ties with Bolton, Newcastle and more recently West Ham United.
Players like Grant Holt will find they will never fit into the star-studded English side that the FA desires. The FA wants an all-star side, and the idea of the English national team has become more of an aesthetic one than a competitive team.
This trend needs to be broken.
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