Another Roy Hodgson England squad; another confusing blend of experience and potential, with little imagination in between.
The experience comes from England regulars such as Ashley Cole, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, the potential from debutants Ross Barkley and Andros Townsend. An interesting mix on the surface, but in realisation one that simply completes the usual uninspiring England we are now accustomed with.
For England managers it is no longer the impossible task of utilising the so-called ‘golden generation’, it is now overseeing the transition, and Hodgson’s squads reek of that unbearable English reluctance to do so.
The problem has brought down many of his predecessors, who have similarly been caught in two minds of whether to embrace the next generation. As Hodgson furrows his brow in indecision, his pacifying solution is now to simply introduce the names of a few of England’s youngest wonderkids to distract us.
That’s all they are, distractions. The media have spent the past few days debating the readiness of Townsend and Barkley, pondering whether a combined 33 Premier League appearances warrants the right to take the big step up. But in reality it’s a step they’re not really taking, and they will most likely spend these crucial World Cup qualifiers consigned to the bench.
Regardless of Barkley and Townsend’s inclusion, England’s fate will rest in the hands of the familiar. While the youngsters’ call ups have dominated the headlines, it is those of James Milner and Ashley Young that should have. Having over the years offered consistently little at international level, these are two players who now find themselves on the fringes of their respective domestic sides also.
Young’s Manchester United career so far consists of a medley of injury and disappointment, while Milner continues to struggle against the challenge of the constant influx of world class midfielders at Manchester City. They have earned their place on the merit of their club’s standing rather than form or ability, the customary backwards thinking has now defined England for many years.
On the other hand, Rickie Lambert’s recent call up proved that quality can still be found at the lower end of the table.Despite his old-fashioned style, it took Lambert only a cameo appearance against Scotland to stamp an impression not yet achieved by fellow internationals Jermain Defoe and Danny Welbeck.
Rickie Lambert’s sensational debut must now become the precedent for England. The always average regulars cannot be allowed to withdraw further into complacency. Rather than being told he is England’s indisputable number one choice, Joe Hart must instead be told that the resurgent Ben Foster would be taking his place if fit.
Experience brings no guarantee of success at international level, and neither does the promise of youthful exuberance. The regulars must consistently excel domestically to even be considered for contention, while the youngsters must continue to graft for Premier League experience and establish themselves fully at this level, ensuring that their eventual inclusion cannot be considered premature.
Only then will we have an England squad with the capability to compete. Right now, it’s all just a little too familiar. Hodgson’s England are in essence no different from Capello’s, the usual overly hyped names with an equally undesirable style. They will probably qualify for next year’s World Cup, but one thing’s for certain, with these increasingly uninspired squad choices; they’ll do nothing once there.
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