Football is all about opinions. Passionate fans gathering around boasting and waxing-lyrical about their teams, players and managers. Refereeing decisions are scrutinised, pundits on your television criticised and supporters mocked. Another way of airing your disagreements is on social media or picking up the phone and ringing radio stations to tell them what you think. It’s a very beautiful thing, and this is why we love our beautiful game.
The one thing I personally love about football when it comes to opinions is (I’m also incredibly guilty of this, and you will see why soon) after an intense 10+ hours of a blockbusting session of Football Manager we gain our “Uefa A license” and we automatically become real life world-class football managers. Formations, transfers, player positions, salaries, disciplinary; we know it all. We become bastions, we have great sagacity and we know better than our own club managers who have had years of actual experience. It’s as if we are almost demanding to be made the ultimate decision makers on all club affairs from top to bottom. It might sound like I’m slating this, but again, it’s a beautiful thing.
There are a few things that grate though. When I see fans’ opinions on Twitter about where the manager should position certain players. “Why is the manager going with that formation against this team” and so on. Some opinions are actually very sensible, but some are just ridiculous and facetious. But it’s an opinion, and we are all entitled to ours.
So with that being said, I’m about to give my own opinion on why I believe England’s squad for this summer’s World Cup should automatically include mainly the best youngsters playing top flight football. It’s a touchy subject for most, probably purely down to the frustration that haunts England fans, so I felt the need to state that it’s only an opinion and hardly me slating a loved one. Anyway, wish me luck.
To gain experience on football’s biggest stage, rather than to put in more experienced members who probably won’t play in another World Cup again which would indicate a short term plan, England should be looking towards the future, something that I believe is crucial and pivotal for the Three Lions in moving forward. I keep hearing pundits and journalists almost demanding the return of John Terry back into the England team for the World Cup. Why? These are the same pundits and journalists who relentlessly denigrate the lack of progression with the national team. Yet, they would love to bring back a 33 year-old defender out of retirement, to go to a World Cup that we clearly aren’t going to win, instead of nurturing our future international stars to indicate the progression they so vigorously go on about? They want to go backwards.
Some people might say that they do want to see England progressing and giving youngsters the opportunity, however, they don’t want a host of kids representing and potentially embarrassing us on the world stage. What I’m saying is, it’s time to let go of the quotidian of the last remaining generation that didn’t give us anything (such as Ashley Cole, John Terry and Frank Lampard) and push forward with the likes of Luke Shaw, Phil Jones, Raheem Sterling, Jack Wilshere and Ross Barkley, and really nurture them. Have a bit more balls, if you like.
Why don’t we see Brazil as a learning experience? By France 2016, these promising youngsters would have developed and would have become even better. We can then go into a major tournament with genuine hope and belief. A core would be built, it’d be a vital experience and we could realistically aim to go far. By then, hopefully, there will be even more quality and hungry youngsters coming through. We could then merge the best ones with the class of 2014, and finally, we might actually go into Russia 2018 as one of the favourites.
Now I know that there are a few risks in taking such a big chance and experimenting so hugely with the national side. One obvious question that I even ask myself with my opinion is concerning player development; how do we know that the likes of Sterling and Barkley will eventually develop into world beaters by 2018, or even, still be playing top flight football? And then I come up with the obvious answer – who knows. If we don’t try it, we’ll never know. Injuries and a drop in form are part of football, but England need to plan for the future with what we’ve got, and not what we might have or might happen. I don’t think Fernand Sastre and Stefan Kovacs had such negative thoughts when they came up with the idea for Clairefontaine in 1988; an idea and a production line hugely responsible for France’s World Cup success in 1998, and it’s still producing.
Playing safe can be reassuring, and at times sensible, but it can also be seen as cowardly and short sighted. We all have our opinions about football and we all have, in our minds, the squad that we think Roy Hodgson should take to Brazil. In my opinion, he should fill the first eleven with the future and then take a few experienced members for tournament guidance. It makes perfect sense. Will this happen though? Sadly, probably not. This is England we’re talking about.
By Mo Kemokai – Arsenal fan – @Mohamedk87