THE BLOG
22/07/2014 13:06 BST | Updated 21/09/2014 06:59 BST

Why Must It Be Left to Players to Call Time? Is the National Set-Up Too Weak

Steven Gerrard announced his international retirement to a chorus of fans and experts claiming he did the right thing, but why is it left to players to make the call?

After captaining England at their most disappointing World Cup, Gerrard has opted to call time on his international career, just as he was expected to do.

The popular thought is that the Liverpool icon, who earned 114 caps, has made the right call with his club back in the Champions League this season, however, nobody seems to be asking why such decision must apparently be made by the player. Surely if it's right to call time on Gerrard's (or any other players') international career, then the national set-up must be strong enough to do it?

Let's use Frank Lampard as an example. Prior to the World Cup the debate was whether to include the midfielder in the squad, or whether to look towards the new generation. England boss Roy Hodgson elected to include Lampard in his squad, only to leave him on the bench - why?

Would a similar situation have happened at Euro 2016 had Gerrard not called time on his own international career? I like to think the national set-up are strong enough to tell a player that they will no longer be considered for selection, but let's take a closer look at the evidence.

One of the biggest embarrassments was the farce over Rio Ferdinand's England career. Hodgson left the recently-signed Queens Park Rangers defender out of his squad for Euro 2012 under a cloud of controversy after John Terry was accused of racially abusing his brother, Anton.

It was later revealed that Hodgson would no longer consider Ferdinand for international duty in October 2012, only to then recall the centre-back in March 2013. The former Manchester United defender withdrew from the squad due to "fitness concerns" and then announced his international retirement in May later that year.

Ferdinand was 34 years old when Hodgson attempted to bring him back into the England squad. He hadn't played for his country since June 2011 and was no longer a guaranteed presence at the back for his club. Ferdinand's time was clearly up.

Let's move back to 2014. Gerrard is 34 and looks likely to take on a reduced role at Liverpool to what he has been used to - mostly to assure his fitness for the Reds' Champions League campaign, especially considering they will immediately face European heavyweights as they will enter the group stage in pot three.

Here we enter the Ashley Cole zone. The left-back saw his place at Chelsea taken by Cesar Azpilicueta, although it was clear that the 33-year-old (younger that both Gerrard and Ferdinand when he was recalled) still presented a terrific option.

Despite Cole putting in a strong display in what turned out to be his final England appearance against Denmark in March, and eventually seeing more playing time at Chelsea towards the end of the season, Hodgson opted to take Leighton Baines and Luke Shaw.

Cole immediately announced his international retirement through social media, ending any future speculation of a potential recall. If Gerrard is set to become more of a squad player than the leading role that has assured his legendary status on Merseyside, would he have still been considered? Yes, as Liverpool and Brendan Rodgers will still continue to look towards the midfielder to be the driving force in times of need, especially now that Luis Suarez has departed for Barcelona, whereas Cole lost his place in the side

Fast-forward two years to Euro 2016 (assuming that England qualify, of course), would a 36-year-old Gerrard still be a starter? Or would he find himself looking on from the bench, just as Lampard did in Brazil?

The real question is, had Gerrard not taken it upon himself to remove himself as an option, would he have been taken to sit on the bench? Recent evidence suggests that he would, and that is a problem.