Not since Graham Taylor’s ill-fated and much documented reign as manager has the future of the England team looked so bleak.
Yesterday Roy Hodgson named yet another underwhelming squad, with such short-sightedness that we’ve come to expect from a man who has once again proven his inability to manage at the highest level.
Following a forgettable World Cup, Hodgson was backed by the FA, who were perhaps reluctant to part with him halfway through a four-year contract. Whether that was the case, or they believed that Hodgson had more to offer the national team, the truth is the decision was horrifically misjudged.
Prior to the Norway friendly in September, Hodgson and his backroom staff, which worryingly includes the much-lauded Gary Neville, had possibly the easiest qualifying campaign in history to preside over.
This presented Hodgson with an opportunity to recapture the imagination of a long-suffering nation of fans, whilst salvaging his own reputation which had taken a severe knock in Brazil.
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Through a process of dropping the tried, tested and failed regulars and introducing in-form consistent Premier League performers and the next generation of England players, Hodgson could have breathed new life into his ageing lions.
Hodgson must look to youth
With Euro 2016 as Hodgson’s expected endgame, any players over the age of 28 should have been dropped in the knowledge that in another two years they would have significantly declined as footballers.
In the current squad this would include Jagielka, Cahill, Baines, Milner, Downing, Carrick, Lambert and Rooney. This selection feels like Hodgson is firmly in his comfort zone, unwilling to take risks, to advance the careers of youngsters coming through the England teams.
When in reality, there is minimal risk in introducing the likes of Butland, Dier, Jenkinson, Moore, Hughes, Redmond, Ings, Kane and Bamford.
Additionally there are consistent performers that continue to be overlooked by Hodgson. QPR’s Steven Caulker and Charlie Austin, Hull’s Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore, West Ham’s Aaron Cresswell and Mark Noble and Swansea’s Nathan Dyer and Jonjo Shelvey.
I will allow Hodgson a small slice of credit, having selected one youngster and one in-form player in Saido Berahino and Stewart Downing. The selection of Downing, whilst deserved, seems somewhat dubious with his notable performances arguably owing more to the collective performances of his teammates.
So Hodgson can be applauded for his gutsy selection of Berahino, but in the same breath he can be slaughtered for retaining Jagielka, Smalling, Townsend and Lambert all of whom who have no place in an England squad, whether this be due to age, ability or a distinct lack of game time at club level.
Carrick and Walcott
Then there is the reintroduction of Michael Carrick and Theo Walcott, who have only recently returned to action following long-term injuries. I would imagine Arsene Wenger and Louis van Gaal will have questioned the necessity of their places in this England squad, when achieving full match fitness with their club sides is surely the priority.
Earlier I mentioned that incorporating a bigger percentage of the youngsters and in-form players into his squad carried with it minimal risk. In all honesty it carries no risk, we’ve already gone toe to toe with the Swiss in Basel, labouring to a 2-0 win with a team that included the rather comical selection of Fabian Delph.
Basically a 2-0 defeat was all that our toughest opponents could muster, which makes me believe that Gareth Southgate’s Under-21’s could top this group.
And it is in this assumption where the problem lies, we have an easy group and yet Hodgson is sticking vehemently to several players that have no right to be there. We will of course sweep all before us in the qualifying matches, draw with the Scots and lose to a remarkably poor Italy side in friendlies.
Then board the Eurostar in the summer of 2016, go out at the group stage and be left with the same mind-numbing debate about the state of English football in the aftermath of it all.
We are admittedly at a transitional stage as a national team, moving from the ‘Golden Generation’ to the ‘Generation in which a bloke who used to work in a beetroot factory can hold down a place in the squad’. As a result of this we should be blooding the youth and allowing them tournament experience, rather than giving the likes of Rooney another chance to let us down.
I’ve have attributed most of the blame to Hodgson, but it should fall at the door of the FA. They are the ones who appointed him and kept him on, they have also mismanaged the selection of previous managers, with Messieurs Eriksson and McClaren being two ill-advised appointments, and personally I’ll never forgive Sven for playing Scholes on the left.
FA opt to stagnate
It’s not only at senior level where they’ve messed up, the manager of the Under-20s is a certain Adrian Boothroyd known by fans of Watford, Colchester, Coventry and Northampton as ‘Hoofroyd’ for his pre-historic long ball tactics.
Forgetting what has gone on previously, the FA can only dictate what happens in the present and future. Sadly, it seems that they have opted to stagnate, rather than to learn, grow and ultimately enhance the potential of England’s future stars.
There is a saving grace in the form of the Under-21 European Championships next summer, with the likes of Wilshere, Sterling and Barkley hoping to be on the plane to the Czech Republic in order to gain that much desired tournament experience.