Roy Hodgson’s latest England squad has generally been met with a huge amount of apathy. From Wayne Rooney’s appointment as permanent captain, to the inclusion of Fabian Delph, the general opinion seems to be that this is the weakest England team for many years, and that the manager really seems to be scraping the bottom of the barrel. But is it really all doom and gloom?
Let’s get the criticism out of the way: Townsend, Colback and Welbeck have done absolutely nothing to justify their inclusion in the England team. Welbeck is a striker who has been employed on the wings and does a fairly poor job of it, Colback (the “ginger Pirlo", apparently) has just left a relegation threatened team having done very little to enhance his reputation, and the only thing Townsend does is cut onto his left foot and shoot – often very, very poorly. Delph has had some good spells in recent occasions with Villa, and clearly works hard, however he’s another one who hasn’t done anything to really justify his inclusion in the squad.
Wayne Rooney’s appointment as captain of the national side is a diabolically poor decision, based on no real rationale. Hodgson stated in his press conference that Rooney’s appointment as Manchester United captain played a role in the decision. This is the captain of a disappointing Manchester United side yet to win a game this season, who hasn't done anything to inspire his team, and is widely thought to have been on the slide for some time now, yet the national team manager believes that this is the person who shall inspire great things for England. Let’s not talk about the fact that he agitated a move away from the club he is captain of, not once but twice, and has failed to do anything of note when it matters for England, particularly in the World Cup or European finals.
That concludes the critical portion of this piece.
Yes, the team is young and there are some very inexperienced heads, but why is that necessarily a bad thing? For years, England fans have been crying out for a new broom to sweep away the under-performers, be more like Germany and bring through a group of youngsters with nothing to fear and no experience of the failures of the old, not-so-golden generation. At least some of that is true of this squad. Most of the squad have had only one (slightly depressing) World Cup experience behind them, and there’s enough time for them to write that off and have a couple of solid experiences as a group.
As a point of discussion, it smacks of poor long-term thinking that so many young players have been brought through at the same time. For at least two international tournaments now, doubts have been hanging over whether the likes of Ashley Cole, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, John Terry and Rio Ferdinand have another competition in them and whether they should be slowly phased out in favour of newer faces before the inevitable happens. Yet England still relied on them both in qualifiers and in tournament action, without any real planning for the future. Now, surprise surprise, the old guard has left and England have a group of players with one tournament behind them and not a lot else.
Hodgson has included a number of individuals who, while still very young and inexperienced, are exciting talents and could restore some pride to a national team whose reputation has been damaged by recent cup competitions. The likes of Calum Chambers, John Stones, Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge have all made an impression in the Premier League over the last couple of years, and there’s no reason to think that together, they won’t bond to form an exciting, cohesive unit. Stones had a great season at Everton last campaign, Chambers has started impressively in the heart of the Arsenal defence, and Sterling and Sturridge have carried on from where they left off last season.
A cursory look at the names not included in the squad – the likes of Walcott, Barkley and Lallana stand out – should give cause to some optimism that if Hodgson can name his first choice squad, it’s not a bad one. You can almost see the partnerships that could go a long way to restoring some pride: Chambers and Stones in the centre of defence, Wilshere, Barkley and Henderson in an all action, box-to-box midfield, Walcott and Sterling running at defences, and Sturridge replicating his Liverpool form. Throw in Oxlade-Chamberlain, Baines and Lallana, and suddenly there is cause for real optimism – not that England will win the World Cup any time soon, but that they could ruffle a few feathers.
Euro 2016 is clearly too soon for this new look England team, but there are still reasons to be optimistic. There is a core of players who, at club level, have either looked very impressive early this season, or have been very good over the last couple of seasons. There is enough about them to suggest that, if Roy is able to pick his strongest squad – or at least a core of them – and stay consistent with his selection over the next few years, then there’s no reason to think they couldn’t make a statement in a few years’ time. The players may not have the same reputation as the previous generation, but let me ask you this: did the previous generation have that reputation when they were establishing themselves in the England team?
By Raj Devandran - Arsenal fan - @