West Ham’s starting line-up against Aston Villa contained six Englishman. By today’s Premier League standards that's quite a lot for a side who finished comfortably in mid-table last season.
Kevin Nolan has made it very clear that he is disappointed with Roy Hodgson’s selections excluding any West Ham players, but are any of these six capable of taking the step up?
Starting with Kevin Nolan, it’s very unlikely he will get picked by Hodgson. Not only is this because there are far better players in his position that are also younger; but Nolan just doesn’t have the technical ability or pace to keep up with most West Ham games, let alone international games. Yes he may be brilliant in the box, but in midfield (particularly against Aston Villa on Saturday) Nolan was sluggish and looked likely to be substituted.
James Tomkins is yet to reach his peak in a Hammers shirt. The Basildon-born defender was sidelined for a while as Winston Reid and James Collins formed a prolific partnership.
However, a sterling performance against Tottenham away has seen Tomkins begin to perform with more confidence; it seems like he can only kick on and improve from here. It’s still too early for James to be considered in the England set up I feel, but there is definitely a weak spot in central defence that is there to be taken in the future.
Matt Jarvis and Stewart Downing are both of a similar position, desperately needing games to bring them back to their best. Both players have already played for England, although for Jarvis it was only 20 minutes against Ghana. Downing and Jarvis are starting to look sharper in the Premier League, and both played extremely well against Villa.
The problem with playing with no recognised striker is that there is no one in the box that can convert their crosses. With Andy Carroll apparently out until Christmas after breaking down again, the January transfer window cannot come round soon enough. Only then will we perhaps see the stats starting to back up Downing and Jarvis’ performances, and Roy made me inclined to take note.
The majority of Hammers’ fans have been crying out for Mark Noble to be given an international call for a considerable amount of time. Noble was captain of the Under-21 side but has failed to make the step up, probably due to the fact that Steven Gerrard has deepened his role and managers preferred to play safe with trusted names, like Gareth Barry.
Noble is 26 years old and in prime form to start mixing it internationally. He has been outstanding in nearly every game this season, pulling the strings in midfield and creating a lot of chances.
Up until the game against Aston Villa, only three players had created more chance than Noble in the Premier League. Against Manchester City, Noble was not out of his depth in a midfield containing Yaya Toure, David Silva and Samir Nasri, showing just how far the Englishman has come.
Mark may be the perfect candidate to play alongside Gerrard in a holding role in midfield, but I fear he may be overlooked for somebody younger once Gerrard feels it is time to hang up his England shirt. A friendly call-up must surely be round the corner for Noble?
Ravel Morrison has set the Premier League alight and shocked many with his fast emergence into the West Ham first team. A memorable solo goal against Tottenham brought him into the spotlight of many, but it was clear that Morrison had the potential to go far when he was a Manchester United youngster.
Now that his attitude problems seem to have been curbed, Ravel is thriving under Sam Allardyce at the moment, and even though he is only 20 years old it may be time for the likes of Morrison, Ross Barkley and Luke Shaw to perhaps play in a friendly and show what they can do. There is no doubting that the ex-Man Utd player could be a serious consideration for Hodgson come next summer if he keeps up his current form.
The chances are that Morrison or Noble are the most likely West Ham players to be called up into the England squad if it is to happen, but there is certainly an opportunity for Stewart Downing and Matt Jarvis. Of course once Andy Carroll is back it is likely he will be picked, provided he can replicate the form he showed last season... and keep fit.
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