After new England boss Roy Hodgson revealed his 23-man squad for this summer’s European Championships, Will Ridgard looks at the selections made.
The Championships, jointly hosted by Poland and Ukraine, kick-off in little under a month and Hodgson has certainly made some very contentious and interesting decisions.
Players that missed out
The main exclusion has been that of 33-year-old Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand. There has been much talk of Ferdinand not being able to cope with the physical and mental requirements of international tournament football and Hodgson might have felt this was a decisive factor.
Add to that the inclusion of controversial ex-skipper John Terry, who is still to be trialled for racially abusing Rio’s brother Anton, and you can see why he was left out.
Ferdinand will probably seem to think that there is a vendetta against him from ever playing at a European Championship. He missed out back in 2000 when Kevin Keegan was in charge and was banned in 2004 for missing a drugs test. Add to this England’s pitiful failure to even qualify in 2008 and you can see just how strong this vendetta is.
Ferdinand’s England career does look to have come to a stop, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he announced his international retirement shortly. Upon hearing the outcome, he even tweeted “Absolutely loved playing for England... To say I am gutted is an understatement of the highest order."
Another surprise omission is Micah Richards. Considering that Richards has just won a Premier League medal with Manchester City and one of his main rivals for the right-back spot in Kyle Walker, ruled out with a toe injury, surely he would have been assured a place in the squad.
But Hodgson opted to go with Glen Johnson and the versatile Phil Jones. Richards started the season like a house on fire but was slowly replaced by the impressively consistent Pablo Zabaleta throughout the season.
In fact, Richards was limited to just three substitute appearances in the last month of the season. Ultimately missing out on time on the pitch cost him a place in the squad.
Michael Carrick also missed out. After a solid season in the centre of the park for Manchester United, many thought he would at least be in the squad. Despite being a valued club player, Carrick has largely been overlooked for England (amassing just 22 caps in a 10 year period). Hodgson settled for Scott Parker (providing he recovers from an Achilles injury in time) and Gareth Barry as holding midfielders but I personally thought Carrick and his passing range could have been an asset to England’s chances.
Another player who many thought may go is Aaron Lennon. Lennon possesses all the attributes to be a very dangerous player at international level but has found himself behind Theo Walcott, Ashley Young and the uncapped youngster Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the pecking order. Like these attacking players, Lennon has a frightening amount of pace but his season faded away after Christmas following a hamstring injury. It may seem as not much of a surprise to some but he is another player with quite a big reputation who has missed out.
Upfront and Hodgson has decided to leave out Peter Crouch. Love or hate him, you can’t argue with Crouch’s goal record for England (22 goals in 42 matches). And although a lot of you will be saying – yes but look at the opposition he played – I feel he would have really offered something in the tournament. After all, he has a host of attributes: his 6”7 presence mean he is a handful for defenders, he holds the ball up well, he has experience, he can finish and he is not afraid to have a shot (as you saw with his wonderful volley against Manchester City).
It seems as if he lost out in the ‘target man’ role to Andy Carroll. More on Carroll later but with Hodgson only selecting four strikers and one of which a suspended Wayne Rooney, I struggle to see why Crouch has been left behind.
Others who also contentiously missed out:
Adam Johnson – Although his talents are obvious, like Richards, a lack of playing time has ultimately been his downfall.
Daniel Sturridge – Endured an up and down season at Chelsea, fluttering in and out of a largely inconsistent side in the league. Similar style to Danny Welbeck, who just got the nod.
Darren Bent – Although a proven and natural goalscorer, many don’t believe he is cut out for international football. He ruptured ankle ligaments in February (which coincidentally mixed with Villa’s slide down the table) and has only just returned to fitness. Hodgson must have his doubts over this, and although I do think he would have been a risk, I would have taken him.
Phil Jagielka – Phil is very unfortunate in my opinion. A solid player who has often been overlooked for England despite his consistent and impressive performances for Everton over the years. He can operate at full-back as well as centre-back. I would have taken him.
Paul Scholes – The hopes were false. Many thought that since he came out of retirement to play for Manchester United, the ginger prince would do the same for England. Unfortunately this is not the case as Scholes has stuck to his word and will watch the tournament at home.
Players who made it
After leaving out a number of big names, Hodgson has raised the eyebrows of some by selecting a few debatable players.
The main criticism he received was the call-up for Stewart Downing. After a rumoured £20 million move to Liverpool last summer, Downing has flattered to deceive this season in an equally struggling side. With a grand total of 0 goals and 0 assists in 36 Premier League appearances this season, you can see why Hodgson has taken a lot of criticism for this selection.
Even before this terrible season for the attacking left-winger, most people have questioned his ability for England anyway.
Roy’s decision regarding strikers is also another mysterious and interesting debacle. As previously mentioned, the choice to take just four strikers, with Rooney one of these and banned for two games adds to this.
£35 million pound ‘target man’ striker Andy Carroll made the squad. Often laughed at and ridiculed this season from football fans across the country, Carroll has hit some form just at the right time. Indeed he does look like a man transformed from earlier in the season. Maybe now he will use this tournament to justify his enormous price tag. So although a brave call from Hodgson, I can see why he has done it.
Equally, Carroll is still only 23-years-old and vastly inexperienced at international level so Hodgson’s decision to favour him over the older and wiser Peter Crouch is intriguing. Some suggested that Grant Holt, who endured a successful first season in the Premier League by scoring 16 goals with mid-table Norwich City, should have made the squad but I think these shouts were a bit premature as Carroll and Crouch were always more likely to be called-up.
The choice of the other two strikers – Danny Welbeck and Jermain Defoe are also compelling. Welbeck has enjoyed a relatively successful season with Manchester United, breaking through to a starting berth. His partnership and understanding with Rooney must have had some say in his selection and I can see Hodgson’s plan.
Jermain Defoe’s chances for Tottenham this year have been slim. Often used from the bench, I can see him occupying that role next month. It’s interesting how some players missed out (Richards, A. Johnson) after a lack of game time while Defoe, who has endured similar circumstances, made the squad. A proven goalscorer at club level, Defoe has produced for England as well.
The interesting thing in this is who will start upfront against France and Sweden? If Hodgson chooses 4-4-2 then a Carroll and Welbeck partnership seems most likely but they are largely inexperienced gambles playing against stern, experienced defenders. He could also play 4-3-3/4-5-1 but then who do you play a) upfront b) in midfield.
Other contentious inclusions/factors
Although many agree and so do I, the inclusion of 18-year-old Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is a little bit of a gamble, mainly due to his vast inexperience. It is a positive move from Hodgson nonetheless; it shows he is looking into the long term. Oxlade-Chamberlain took the Premier League by storm in a short spell this season and is certainly an exciting prospect that could be used as an impact off the bench. His inclusion is very similar to that of Theo Walcott’s surprise call-up to the 2006 England World Cup squad.
Another controversial outcome from the squad is the selection of both Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard. Several pundits and journalists alike have said how only one of these two should go. Although technically fantastic players, many have doubt their fitness this season as well as their ability to cope with international football tournaments. Some have also mentioned that they are not the force they are used to be and although you can relate a little bit to this, can you think of any other better English midfielders? There is always that old argument that they can’t play together as well but I’m sure Hodgson has a plan.
Gerrard has been chosen as captain and although he does not quite have the same presence as in previous years, he still has an instrumental part to play this summer. Injuries have taken their toll in recent seasons but he has shown flashes of his brilliant best this season; particularly when he scored a hat-trick in Liverpool’s 3-0 Merseyside win over Everton. It was his 400th league appearance for The Reds as well.
At the same time, Lampard has actually had another progressive season despite receiving wide criticism early in the season. He has flourished under the management of Roberto Di Matteo and has answered his critics by helping to lead his team to the F.A. Cup and Champions League finals.
Opinion of Hodgson’s selections have been varied and the ex-Blackburn, Fulham, Liverpool and West Brom boss explained - "It's not been an easy squad to put together. But I'm pleased with the squad I've put together and I think it's a well-balanced squad."
It will indeed be a testing tournament for Hodgson and the whole England squad but it could turn out to be a notorious one. For the first time in I can’t remember how long, England fans, pundits, etc have not even thought about mentioning England as potential tournament winners. And although it will take an extraordinary effort to win it, we can only hope. Maybe this group of players, many of whom have succumbed to the pressure and expectations all to easily before, will respond positively and do England proud. Again, we can only hope...
Goalkeepers - Joe Hart, Robert Green, John Ruddy.
Defenders - Leighton Baines, Gary Cahill, Ashley Cole, Glen Johnson, Phil Jones, Joleon Lescott, John Terry.
Midfielders - Gareth Barry, Stewart Downing, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, James Milner, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Scott Parker, Theo Walcott, Ashley Young.
Strikers - Andy Carroll, Jermain Defoe, Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck.
Standby - Jack Butland, Phil Jagielka, Jordan Henderson, Adam Johnson, Daniel Sturridge.
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