First time writer Joe Tambini asks for some belief in the young England squad at this year’s World Cup.
Roy Hodgson’s World Cup squad selection received a largely positive reception when announced earlier this month.
The only real quibble is with regards to Ashley Cole’s omission, a decision that has been scrutinised by some corners of the media and the public. They argue that Cole’s replacement, Luke Shaw (18), is not ready for the international stage.
Skeptics of Shaw’s inclusion claim that an England manager ought to always pick his strongest team for a World Cup, putting promise and potential to one side; understandable. But the truth is Cole has had a season on the fringes of the Chelsea first team, meanwhile, Shaw has been in the Southampton’s starting eleven consistently throughout the campaign. Bearing in mind that Shaw will likely be playing second fiddle to Leighton Baines, he’s surely done enough to justify his place on the bench.
Joining Shaw in Brazil will be Southampton chum Adam Lallana and former teammate Rickie Lambert. Lambert has already proved his worth for England, netting on his first two appearances for his country. Lallana might struggle getting any game time in a midfield already saturated with both talent and experience, but could have a devastating impact coming off the bench. The same could be said for 20-year old Everton star Ross Barkley. In his breakthrough season for the Toffees, he played a vital role in their chase for Champions League football.
Amazingly, only five members of Roy’s 23-man squad have played in a World Cup before, but this shouldn’t be considered detrimental. Anyone that follows England will know that previous set-ups have lacked the verve the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Raheem Sterling provide. Watching England shouldn’t be a chore, but in recent years our hopes and dreams have rested on the shoulders of players that, when playing for their country, interact like a team of headless chickens – who were either feeling a bit poorly that day, or didn’t get that free kick that they definitely should have had, or hadn’t slept much that night because they were sleeping with a teammate’s wife (not naming any names).
It’s clear that Roy’s selection is somewhat less fragmented than in previous years. For instance, along with the three Southampton lads, there are five Liverpool players; four from Man U and many that have been teammates for the England Under 21s. This familiarity will give us a bit more fluency on the pitch, as the players should already be on a similar wavelength. What I think we’d all like to see is our boys passing the ball positively without it rolling to touch due to a complete lack of awareness. So many times we have seen a one-two ballsed up because we lack attacking drive. Moreover, it’s painfully frustrating when we can’t get basics such as communication right. This is an aspect of our game that Roy may have solved with his attack-minded line-up.
Then there’s the enigma that is Wayne Rooney in an England shirt – someone who could unquestionably do with a kick up the arse from time to time. He put in an abject performance in South Africa and had a pretty uninspiring season with Manchester United. I do have a degree of sympathy for the guy; he’s never really lived up to the potential he showed at Euro 2004 that the media have constantly reminded us he should be living up to, he’s been made into a bit of a scapegoat by the press, and England’s reliance on him as a poster-boy puts a lot of pressure on to perform. This time round, he has assured fans that he’s ‘working hard’ and wants to ‘show the world’ what he can do. With any luck, he can stay fit and find a bit of form, otherwise Daniel Sturridge had better be able to make the step up.
Being an England goalkeeper is a position that hasn’t been covered in glory in the past decade; we have been conditioned to expect one horrific blunder per match. However, Joe Hart retains the No1 shirt and remains head and shoulders (sorry, couldn’t resist) above his rivals. He had a shaky 2013, spending some time on the sidelines, but pulled himself together by the end of the season. He’s England’s most reliable option between the sticks, and regular playing time will be invaluable to his development. Fingers crossed there are no Rob Green-esque incidents this time.
This is certainly the most raw and potentially creative England team we have seen for a long time, and perhaps that’s what we’ve been missing. The younger lads will go to Brazil without the deadweight of disappointment already slumped on their shoulders – their ‘innocence’ could well be influential enough to rejuvenate the old guard and act as a springboard for future prosperity.
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