Roy Hodgson claims he is 'pretty much sure' of what he wants to do with the England team ahead of the Wolrd Cup and is not looking at the last few weeks of form. He is believable and the reason is because he has very little choice.
A large chunk of his main XI from the 23-man squad is taken up by the primary level of England squad selection. The 'keep-your-job' selections are the players that Hodgson can lose games with, while keeping some credibility – and his job.
Here, we are talking the Gerrards and Harts of this world. If the manager leaves one of these out and fails, he is managerial toast - an inevitable member of the post-World Cup resignations club.
Then there are the secondary level of ageing stars whose omission can take up more column inches than the XI on the pitch, seriously undermining the Manager throughout the tournament build-up.
By this, I mean the likes of Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole this year. Omission of this level of player has been the source of eternal ridicule and scorn for unsuccessful England managers.
We remember Glenn Hoddle’s decision to leave out Gazza in 1998. He was saved by David Beckham’s red card but English football never forgave him. There was also Graham ‘Turnip’ Taylor and his decision to substitute Gary Lineker and Steve McLaren - or 'the wally with the brolly' - who dropped Beckham. There will be others.
If that is not enough to deal with, there is also the tertiary level of emerging English talent – Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw and Daniel Sturridge.
Sven-Goran Eriksson, invented another level of selection: the ‘feel good’ selection. He introduced fresh faced Theo Walcott into international competition, with no intention of playing him despite Michael Owen’s injury - but there were still smiles all round. Shaw will probably take that berth this time around, although he might actually get a kick.
Anyway, whatever, the ‘level’ of the player, their omission is where the problem lies for the manager in the absence of seven wins and an open bus ride around the capital. If the manager wins as Alf Ramsey did in 1966 without Jimmy Greaves, then you are a managerial legend, if not, it all unfolds pretty quickly.
The semi-finals seems to be the mark at which the nation (and the press) are satisfied with the performance and the point at which the England World Cup campaign is considered a ‘success’.
Bobby Robson at Italia ’90 enjoyed that kudos and Terry Venables was hailed a hero after the European Championships in 1996 although neither of them kept their jobs either.
So if Hodgson is to give himself a chance of having a relaxed, focused, media-supported, nation-backed crack at the World Cup and keep his job, he has to win the selection battle first.
Good luck with that one, Roy.
Possible England Squad: Hart, Forster, Foster, Cahill, Jagielka, Caulker, Baines, Jones, Johnson, Walker, Smalling, Barkley, Carrick, Chamberlain, Gerrard, Lampard, Wilshere, Lallana, Rooney, Sterling, Sturridge, Townsend, Welbeck
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