Just over a fortnight after being handed the England job to a collective 'meh' from just about everyone, Roy Hodgson has been thrust into making what will undoubtedly be one of the defining decisions of his tenure; his squad selection for the European Championships. And, with a couple of key exceptions, it's a selection that looks rushed, ill-considered and packed with baffling oversights.
We can at least grant Hodgson one thing; he's picked the right goalkeepers. Round of applause. With Joe Hart between the posts, England possess one of the finest goalkeeping talents on the continent, and one who will hopefully occupy the No.1 jersey for the next decade. Let's just hope he doesn't get injured, lest we be forced to throw Rob Green in for a repeat performance of his howler against the USA in South Africa 2010.
Moving to the defenders, the stand-out decision is the inclusion of John Terry over Rio Ferdinand. In my mind John Terry, alleged stealer of teammate's girlfriends, kicker of Chilean strikers and suspected racist should never be allowed in an England shirt ever again. To pick him over the brother of the man whom he stands accused of calling a "black c***" is despicable; that's before we even consider that he's had a very poor season.
The majority of the defenders pick themselves, although Micah Richards missing out after a storming campaign for Manchester City is somewhat odd; the inclusion of Glen Johnson, who appears to genuinely forget where his position is after embarking on one of his trademark pointless runs doesn't exactly fill one with confidence. However, giving Phil Jones and Leighton Baines the chance to shine at a major tournament is a big plus, and hopefully they'll get some game time.
The midfield choices are a mix of the prescient and the baffling. The uncapped Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has had a fantastic, if at times inconsistent, debut season at Arsenal; whilst his runs often lack purpose, he's a great pick, simply by virtue of his capacity to make things happen (for example see his terrorising of the Manchester United defence at the Emirates). Contrast this with the likes of Stewart Downing (who has more arrests under his belt than Premier League goals or assists this season), or James Milner, who was relegated to a series of uneventful cameos for Manchester City this season (and looks like a pencil-topping troll, but let's not get personal). Presumably the justification for Downing's inclusion is that he crosses the ball well, a necessity if Andy Carroll is to play; however their failure to produce such a partnership this season would shoot down that logic. But to pick Milner over his City teammate Adam Johnson, an exciting, pacey and attack-minded winger who, like the Ox has the capacity to change games with a single darting run, borders on the absurd. England's chronic left-sided midfield problem has a natural solution, but Roy seems to have ignored it. Let's hope Milner or Downing fails to make it through customs and Johnson gets called up from standby.
Finally the strikers. First up, to pick just four forwards given that Wayne Rooney can't play for the first two games is alarmingly short-sighted, and leaves England looking woefully short of attacking threat for the crucial opener against France. Whilst Andy Carroll has found some semblance of form in the final games of the season, Peter Crouch offers the same aerial presence, has a proven record at international level, and is substantially better on his feet than the Liverpool man, and should definitely have been picked at some capacity. Jermain Defoe is an excellent finisher, and will be an excellent player to throw on off the bench, but a starting strike force of Danny Welbeck and Andy Carroll who have shared less than 15 goals in almost 70 combined Premier League appearances isn't going to scare any of Europe's defensive elites.
Roy Hodgson is coming in to the England job with low expectations, and a potential selection of players that is a hodgepodge of slow and ageing players with a paralysing phobia of international tournament success, and youthful talent with a point to prove.
Euro 2012 would be the perfect opportunity to give the latter group the chance to shine, yet too often Hodgson's stuck to the old guard, a decision that may prove costly in both the short and long term. I'm willing Hodgson's side to prove me wrong, and like Denmark and Greece before them confound all expectations and march to European glory; unfortunately however, this squad selection doesn't give me much hope.
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