England set-up must change

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It has become evident over the past week, or so, that something is not quite right with the England set up. 

Of course, there are many fickle England fans who will claim ‘we’re going to win the World Cup’ and then, less than 90 minutes later when we concede a goal, they suddenly become the greatest manager ever to have lived, arguing that ‘Hodgson is useless’ and ‘the FA don’t know what they’re doing’.

From my point of view, the main issue is that there are far too many players, who are still of under 21 age, being picked for the senior England squad. 

The majority of these, similarly to the rest of the squad, play (or bench warm) for the so called ‘big clubs’, for example, Jack Rodwell and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. 

Of course, there will always be the select few that are more than ready for the full international stage, much like Jack Wilshere, but in general I believe too many youngsters are being ‘ruined’ by being thrown into the full England squad when they would benefit greatly from tournament experience in the younger age groups first. Theo Walcott is a great example of this. His ridiculous inclusion into the 2006 World Cup as a very unproven 17 year old has tainted his career since. 

He was obviously a shock selection into Sven Goran Erikkson’s squad, and because of his exposure to English football fans, let alone the world of football, the expectations on such young shoulders have prevented the progression that Walcott could have benefitted from, if he had gone through the age groups of the English international set up.

When Roy Hodgson was announced as England manager in 2012, I was delighted. Firstly because I couldn’t bare the thought of Harry Redknapp being given the job but secondly because he’s an experienced manager who knows the game inside out. Hodgson’s success at West Brom suggested that he can over-achieve with relatively average teams - which, if we’re being honest, is what England are. A perfect fit then?

As it’s turned out so far, the football hasn’t been wonderful, as usual, and I still find myself quite bored during England games, however, we’ve hardly lost a game under Hodgson yet, so maybe fans should have some faith in his managerial ability!

However, to return to the point of picking youngsters too early for international games, I have been surprised at some of Hodgson’s selections, given his knowledge of the 'lesser' Premier League teams, after managing Fulham and West Brom in recent years (I’m sure some would add Liverpool to that list, but that’s another argument!). 

Why pick Jack Rodwell, who chose money over football to sit on the bench for Man City every week, when the likes of Ashley Westwood or Adam Lallana have performed consistently well all season for Aston Villa and Southampton, respectively?

While I question some of Roy Hodgson’s decisions, I do wonder how much pressure is placed on him, and how this impacts his squad selections. I’m not suggesting decisions are made for him, but the expectation to continually select players from the bigger clubs by the media, and maybe even those higher up in the FA, means that the squad virtually picks itself. Imagine the uproar if Hodgson took a so called ‘risk’ and picked Billy Jones of West Brom and it backfired. 

There would be endless criticism, when actually, Jones would be just as worthy of a place as Glen Johnson in the right back position. The amount of criticism England managers face from the media is ridiculous - it’s like they want them to fail!

Overall, I believe that, once again, it comes down to money and the media and how both of these factors are having a detrimental impact on the beautiful game. 

Players leave smaller clubs for huge wage packets and expect to be picked, when actually no one, not even the untouchable players like Gerrard, Rooney and Lampard, should expect to play for their country. Yet the media, well they seem to disagree, and therefore mound the pressure on our managers. When will it end?


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