Confidence for Euro 2012 is not high amongst England fans. A perfect storm of untimely resignations, unfortunate injuries and avoidable suspensions has plunged the national team's preparation into chaos. Yesterday, Roy Hodgson's squad announcement pushed fans further into a pit of doom and gloom deeper than the North Atlantic Trench. But is this typical fan reactionary moaning or have they got a point? How does this squad stand up to expectation?
While Hodgson hasn't emulated the role of the pied piper just yet, there has been at least a slight nod to youth. Henderson, Welbeck, Phil Jones and Sturridge have all graduated from the u21s whilst Carroll we'll be given a chance to develop as a player. However, the selection that stands out the most is that of Alex Oxlade Chamberlain. The versatile winger-cum-midfielder shone whenever he played this season, relishing the leap of quality from League One to Champions League football. Hodgson is a man for rewarding form, and he has done so with the Ox, along with several other deserving players who, having been previously maligned, are welcomed back with open arms after fine seasons. Most notably, Barry, Milner and Walcott.
Another bold decision was leaving Grant Holt at home, despite forceful lobbying from press and fans alike for his inclusion. Playing well for a mid-table team is one thing, but stepping up to lead the line for England? That is beyond the 31 year old.
The optimism with the squad selection stops there. Football fans were united in their outrage at the omission of Michael Carrick from the England team. Boasting the best passing percentage (90%) and highest passes per game (78.5) of all English midfielders selected, Carrick has had one of the best seasons of his life. Whilst it is hard to leave out Barry after he has similarly played superbly, Scott Parker is starting to creak at the ripe old footballing age of 31. With doubts over his fitness, an announcement that he may even miss the Euros and little chance of a spot in the squad to Brazil come 2014, his inclusion over the head of Carrick is baffling. The United midfielder should arguably be starting for England in the Euros, not watching on passively from his sofa.
When looking at the current squad, we see worrying similarities with the listless team that crashed out with nothing more than a whimper to Germany in 2010 World Cup. 9 of the 11 starters that day are in the current squad again. A chance to provide a spark in midfield has been lost with the exclusion of Cleverley, whilst the distinctly average Glen Johnson has been selected ahead of the exciting talent of Micah Richards. Does Jermain Defoe, at 29, really deserve to be ahead of a young talent such as Daniel Sturridge? And what logic is there behind selecting Stewart Downing, who, at what should be the peak age of his career, recorded more arrests than premier league assists and goals this season? Hodgson could have used these Euros as a platform on which to build the future team, yet we are seeing same old faces with the same old ideas.
John Terry. Not only is he aesthetically an eye-sore, he's also a psychological sore, that could itch away at the spirit of the England camp. Whilst he is no doubt a passionate footballer, he is a divisive figure, and with a court case hanging over his head, will he really be the experienced pair of hands that Hodgson needs in his squad? Not only that, but, worse, Terry was chosen ahead of fellow veteran, Rio Ferdinand.
The classy central defender has been guiding both Smalling and Jones successfully through this season, and whilst he may not be a typical brash British defender who throws himself into tackles, he is calm in possession and his reading of the game is among the best. Granted he isn't the rock at the back that he once was, but does any defender who gets ripped apart by Andy Carroll inspire anyone with confidence, when facing the top European strikers?
Selecting a competitive squad, whilst at the same time developing youth is no mean feat when you have such meagre pickings to choose from. Yet Hodgson has made some debateable decisions, and some down right confusing ones. Of course we don't see what goes on behind the scenes, but let's hope our pessimistic attitude is proven wrong come June.
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