When Roy Hodgson got the call up to be England’s latest sacrificial manager to the slaughter, ahead of the what appeared to be the nailed on favourite Harry Redknapp, it appeared that history was repeating itself. The F.A, it seemed, were continuing with their theme of appointing managers who are willing to shut up and be moved around like a chess piece, more times than Mario Balotelli changes club.
The latest ‘yes man’ in a long line of yes men. The whole incident reeked of when Brian Clough was the runaway favourite to take the England job in both 1977 and 1982, but was considered to be too outspoken and too much of a firebrand by the ultra-conservative F.A.
Inevitably, as we approach the end of another domestic season and await the beginning of another major international tournament, the focus of debate has now switched to who should be boarding the plane as a member of the England squad, and furthermore who should start the first game.
For many years now we have seen incidents of an England player getting injured close to the end of the season and there being complete press coverage on the anatomy of a metatarsal, types of fracture and recovery times. Wayne Rooney is just one example.
However, what is probably more concerning for England fans and players alike is that there also seems to be a repugnant habit that recurs between the yes men in charge. They often stay loyal to players that are not in form or who have had patchy seasons and have barely done enough to justify his position in the team at club level. Yes, in some cases the personality of some of these players might just bring something extra to the squad. However, even that excuse is as thin as the width of a manager’s cigarette paper team sheet.
This season is looking like that very same pattern of spineless squad selection is set continue. Currently there are a number of examples being spoken about that have nowhere near justified their place in the England squad. Number one on that list is Jack Wilshere. The guy has not played a minute all season and is not likely to, yet his place on the plane is still an actual option that Hodgson is considering.
How is Wilshere even being considered when there are players like Eric Dier, Danny Drinkwater and Mark Noble that have not only played all season but have also performed and delivered. What kind of message does this send out to players of the future and to those players that consistently work hard to earn their place at a major championship, only to find out that that their work was in vain because of misplaced loyalty to players that have consistently underperformed.
The word ‘potential’ keeps cropping up as an excuse to not play the newcomers, yet failure is a word never uttered and leveled at the regulars who have only delivered self-inflicted disappointment in almost every major international tournament since the World Cup in 1966. What have Chris Smalling and Gary Cahill done this season apart from play poorly in mediocre teams; why not give John Stones and Ryan Shawcross a chance? I think everybody knows why…
England’s comeback in Berlin on the 26th of March was just the poke in the eye that the England management needed. From two nil down England came back to win 2-3, with a lot of players showing that tantalising ‘potential’. Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy and especially Dier proved that no matter what age, if they seem good enough and given the chance, they can prove that they have more than just potential.
Rose and Clyne were also more than capable with mixing it with the world’s best. Unless Roy Hodgson gets bold and addresses the stadium-sized elephant in the room, then Euro 2016 will just be another stitch dropped in England’s rotting tapestry of international competition history.
It could even be argued that being England captain should not guarantee you a place in the team, and the fact that Wayne Rooney and his temperamental metatarsal were mentioned earlier in this article is no coincidence. His form this season in comparison to Kane and Vardy has been inadequate at best. Some will say that Rooney deserves his space for the important goals he has scored, and the fact that he has recently broken Bobby Charlton’s scoring record, but England have to decide whether or not they want to win trophies or live with the never-ending contradicting mixture of disappointment and breaking relatively meaningless records.