With a gap in Six Nations action, rugby correspondent Sam Harrison rounds up the action from week 15 of the Aviva PremiershipWritten by Sam Harrison on 23rd February 2017
Out with the old and in with the old as Hodgson names Euro 2012 squad
Josh Hunt gives his take on the England squad for the tournament and names the 23 players he would have liked to have seen selected...
If any other international side were to name an attacking player with no league assists or goals to his name this year, the news would be met with astonishment and amusement in equal measure. When Roy Hodgson named Stewart Downing in the England squad for Euro 2012 there wasn’t any shock; disappointment and anger perhaps, but no shock.
Like every recent England manager, from Sven Goran Eriksson onwards, Hodgson has named a squad that the FA can parade as new and exciting thanks to the inclusion of talented but inexperienced players like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (a decision I wholeheartedly agree with incidentally) and Jack Butland on the standby list, a 19 year old whose highest domestic appearances to date have been with Cheltenham in League Two. The truth, as it always appears to be with England, is that this squad is as safe a selection as it possibly could have been.
In all likelihood, Oxlade-Chamberlain will see very limited action in Poland and Ukraine with the perennial disappointment Downing backing up Ashley Young and Theo Walcott on the wings. Butland is talented, but a risky player to take as a backup, much like Walcott was back in Eriksson’s 2006 World Cup squad. Barring injury to Robert Green, John Ruddy or unquestioned number one Joe Hart he will be left to develop with the Under 21 side for a while yet.
Up front, Andy Carroll is given a chance to prove that he has what it takes, presumably on the basis that he’s played at a mediocre level for England in the past. After all, it can’t be for his form throughout the season at Liverpool–a couple of good games to finish a horrible campaign for his club do not constitute a good season. The same goes for Glen Johnson, inexplicably selected ahead of Micah Richards. Johnson’s attacking ability, which normally masks his glaring defensive deficiencies in the eyes of some pundits and managers, has been lacking this season, though the quality of players he has been asked to feed, i.e. Carroll, has been questionable. Still, considering Rio Ferdinand was left out of the side for ‘footballing reasons’ Johnson is fortunate to retain his place in the England setup.
I am in favour of the omission of Peter Crouch -England should be looking to build for future tournaments and Crouch does not fit in with this. However, with Wayne Rooney’s two game suspension hanging over the squad, England are going into the tournament without a proven goal scorer for most of the group stages. Jermain Defoe has struggled to break into the Tottenham side this season and there is no reason to believe he will be any more impactful in June and July. Norwich’s Grant Holt scored 15 goals in the league this year and was touted by some for a place in the side, but at 31 years of age I understand the decision not to take him. Darren Bent’s fitness and all around contributions are doubtful, but I feel he offers a better threat from the bench than Defoe at a position where England are seriously lacking in depth. He should have scraped into the squad.
Hodgson takes five centre midfielders with him to Eastern Europe. James Milner no doubt gets into the squad thanks to his ability to fill multiple positions. Frank Lampard (33), new captain Steven Gerrard (31), Gareth Barry (31) and Scott Parker (31) take the other four positions, as Hodgson rejects the chance to prepare for the future. They say there is no substitute for experience and I don’t doubt that Gerrard, Parker and co. will do a reasonable job, but they aren’t going to win us a major competition. It is time to look beyond the not at all aptly named ‘golden generation’. Lampard has never performed to his highest ability in an England shirt and Barry is mediocre at best at international level. I am not a huge fan of Michael Carrick, but his fitness at least is not in question.
Phil Jagielka is a big omission at centre back. Probably Everton’s best player alongside Leighton Baines, Jagielka can fill in at right back or even as a holding midfielder if the squad were to be seriously depleted by injuries. I would much rather take Jagielka to a major tournament than Joleon Lescott, who showed his error prone ways to allow Djibril Cissé in for QPR’s first goal in Manchester City’s final league game. Taking Jagielka would have allowed Phil Jones to play in midfield, where I believe he is best suited. John Terry is a controversial pick given his legal issues, but is still England’s best centre back.
Joe Hart, John Ruddy, Rob Green
Micah Richards, Gary Cahill, John Terry, Leighton Baines, Chris Smalling, Phil Jagielka, Ashley Cole
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Adam Johnson, Theo Walcott, Michael Carrick, Phil Jones, Steven Gerrard, Jack Rodwell, Scott Parker
Wayne Rooney, Danny Wellbeck, Daniel Sturridge, Darren Bent, Grant Holt