Following yet another World Cup campaign that failed to capture the public’s imagination, Roy Hodgson has selected an England squad that will struggle to inspire a Country of disillusioned supporters.
With Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard finally succumbing to age and retiring from England duty, Hodgson had the chance to blood England’s future midfield stars. Not only has he declined this opportunity, but the former Fulham manager’s selection in other areas is rather insipid.
Defence a concern
The problems start with the defenders. For me the World Cup highlighted, if anyone was ever in doubt, that Phil Jagielka and Gary Cahill are not world class centre halves. On their day they are both solid and dependable Premier League defenders, who have both formed admirable careers for themselves. My reservation is that when Euro 2016 comes around they will be 33 and 30 respectively.
Having already proven themselves not to be up to the task of marshaling England’s back four against the very best, where is the logic in keeping them on for another two years, when they will have significantly declined as footballers? Come 2016 I will be very surprised if they still hold down first team places at Everton and Chelsea, let alone England.
If Hodgson needs replacement ideas he need look no further than Gareth Southgate’s Under-21 squad. Two centre halves that are more than deserving of a place in the squad are Eric Dier and Liam Moore.
An unusual route
Having progressed through Sporting Lisbon’s academy, Dier has burst onto the scene following his summer move to Spurs. Despite being something of an unknown quantity in this country, his fleeting career has constantly been monitored by England, having represented them at Under-18 level through to the Under-21s.
Liam Moore is a versatile defender who can play at right back and centre half. He was a key part of the Leicester side that won the Championship last season, playing 30 games and earning rave reviews from the Foxes faithful. At 20 and 21 these players are the future of England and, alongside Calum Chambers, are worthy of a place in the squad.
In midfield the selections of Jack Colback and Fabian Delph are questionable. They both had impressive campaigns last season, much improved on previous years. Colback was a vital cog in Gus Poyet’s Sunderland side that avoided relegation and Delph scored some sublime goals while being voted Aston Villa’s player of the year. However are they potential England quality? I’m not convinced.
Prior to last season Colback had been used regularly as a left back, as a result I feel he needs another season playing in midfield to perfect his game and be truly worthy of an England call-up.
When first making a name for himself at Leeds, Delph attracted interest from some big clubs including Manchester City and Spurs. Following his move to Aston Villa he suffered a cruciate ligament injury and subsequently an ankle injury, having recovered from these he has been a regular in the Villa side for the past two seasons.
Other options better?
However both these call-ups feel somewhat premature, for players that haven’t exactly set the footballing world alight with their performances. Many West Ham fans are astonished that Mark Noble hasn’t been given a chance, after years of consistent performances at Premier League level. I don’t come from the same school of thought as West Ham fans, nevertheless there are viable alternatives that Hodgson could have pursued.
The heartbeat of Derby County’s run to the play-off final last season was 19 year old midfielder Will Hughes. A creative midfielder much alike to Jack Wilshere, he was named the Football League young player of the year last season and has been touted for moves to England’s elite clubs.
His potential is there for all to see and far surpasses that of Delph and Colback’s current ability. Others worthy of Hodgson’s consideration are James Ward-Prowse, Nathaniel Chalobah and Nathan Redmond, all exciting young prospects with who have shone in recent seasons.
Embarrassing striker choice
The most ludicrous selection is that of Rickie Lambert. It is glaringly obvious to everyone that Lambert won’t get anywhere near the squad in 2016, which deems his selection utterly pointless. He has had his moment in the sun, but his brief England career was nothing more than a sentimental nod, to a player who has carved out a respectable career from humble beginnings. The quicker the likes of Saido Berahino, Danny Ings and Charlie Austin are given a chance the better.
I would also call into question the decision to appoint Wayne Rooney as captain. I’m a huge Rooney fan but would have much preferred Joe Hart taking the captains armband. Rooney is seemingly destined to retire after Euro 2016 at the age of 30, perhaps Roy feared Rooney may turn his back on England had he not been made captain.
For longevity alone Hart is a more sensible candidate, both his leadership and talkative nature are consistently evident for Manchester City.
Worst in a while
This is certainly the weakest squad selected by an England manager in recent times, a sign that the perceived golden era of English football is well and truly over. Hodgson will have to navigate his team through this testing transitional period, and in a sad reality the restructuring process the FA are planning to embark on, won’t bear its fruits for some time to come.