With Roy Hodgson picking his squad for this weeks Euro 2016 qualifier with Slovenia and friendly with Scotland, now is a great chance to assess exactly the sort of players which Hodgson is favouring and which he is consistently overlooking.
The standout selection is obviously 21 year-old West Brom striker Saido Berahino. The front man has netted an impressive 7 times for the Baggies this season in just 10 matches – making him the highest English scorer in the Premier League. The fact that Berahino’s selection has caused such interest is not merely because he is a young exciting striker, but because he is somebody from outside Hodgson’s chosen few; his go-to men. Like it or not, Hodgson runs his side on a system of favouritism and past glories. While there is blatantly a need for experienced heads, the reluctance of Hodgson to pick purely based on recent form is somewhat concerning. Berahino has practically made himself impossible to overlook with his goal scoring form and his selection is certainly a move against the grain from Hodgson.
Once again, both Rickie Lambert and Andros Townsend are featured in the squad. They are both fine players; Townsend in particular has the potential to be a world-beater. But they each lack game time for their clubs in recent weeks. Both men have been used as bit part players by Brendan Rodgers and Mauricio Pochettino respectively. While you can perhaps argue a case for Townsend inclusion as he is capable of giving England that little vital spark of creativity in the middle of the park. The constant naming of Lambert in England squads is surely a farce. We all love his ‘local lad done well’ story and his uncompromising style of play, but in reality he has not performed in an England shirt over the last year and barely gets a look in at Liverpool. But of course, he is one of Hodgson’s got-to men, so is automatically in the squad.
A further controversial selection is that of Theo Walcott. The Arsenal attacker has been out injured until recently and has only managed 11 minutes of Premier League football this season. I would argue that a fully fit Walcott is not an automatic selection for England anyway, let alone when he’s barely played 10 minutes. However, Walcott is one of Hodgson’s favoured few and appears to be in favour with the boss. He is another player who has failed to live up to his early hype as a teenager and has seen his career stall somewhat.
In Hodgson’s defence, he has included as least one ‘form’ player in West Ham winger Stewart Downing. The 30 year-old last played for his country in 2012 in Hodgson’s first match as England manager. Downing has been in scintillating form for West Ham, guiding his side to the dizzy heights of the top four and turning many a head on the way. Of course, it is one thing for Hodgson to select Downing in his squad, it is entirely another to put him in the starting XI ahead of Milner, Sterling, Townsend, Carrick et al.
I admire that Hodgson is attempting to inject some youth into the squad with England having such an easy ride to the Euro 2016 finals. But he is doing so to the detriment of skilful players who are at the top of their game. While Nathaniel Clyne and Luke Shaw will undoubtedly be fine players, you have to feel sorry for the likes of Ryan Shawcross who are performing week in week out at the highest level without even a sniff of further honours.
Hodgson appears to have a rigid policy of picking players based on their past performances rather than current form. Alongside the selection of Walcott, the England manager has also picked Michael Carrick and Ross Barkley in his squad this week. Both players are returning from lengthy injuries and their places would perhaps best be placed in the hands of fitter players. Mangers often complain that their players come back from England duty crocked, if that is the case after the latest international break then fingers can rightly be pointed at Hodgson for selecting so many players who are so soon back to full fitness.
So in truth, this England squad is simply a continuation of Hodgson’s confused, clique driven selection policy. There will still be enough quality to see off Slovenia and perhaps Scotland too, but tougher challenges lie ahead and Hodgson needs to start picking his squads based on form and fitness as opposed to past glories or he and his side may well end up paying the price.
Jack is a Masters student at Cardiff University studying Media. Jack produces betting previews for Howtobet4free as well running the popular @howtobet4free_ Twitter account for major sporting events.