Has Roy Hodgson got the strongest England squad of recent times?

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England-manager-Roy-Hodgson-Euro-2012The narrative during the build-up to England’s double header of World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Montenegro has been chiefly focused on the selection in the squad, and subsequent withdrawal, of Rio Ferdinand.

Following the Manchester United man’s declaration that the “intricate pre-planned programme” he adheres to in order to manage a long-term back injury would make his participation impossible, sharp focus has been thrust upon the sudden “paucity” of central defenders available to Roy Hodgson.

Such have been the plaintive murmurings that injuries to Michael Dawson and Gary Cahill, which left only Chris Smalling standing among Hodgson’s original centre-half picks, have been interpreted in many quarters as proof that the country of Bobby Moore’s birth is now bereft of credible candidates to fill either of the two pivotal defensive berths.

In reality, the current hot topic surrounding the national team merely evidences football’s transient nature and, in particular, the necessity for 24-hour debate.

Principal scrutiny has fallen upon Ferdinand and the player’s subsequent trip to Qatar to work as a television pundit analysing England’s clash with San Marino.  To maintain the storyline which has been developed among a large section of our media, the 34 year-old has been pilloried to the point of one national newspaper casting the 81 time capped player in the light of a traitor.

That is to conveniently ignore the fact, that the likelihood of Sir Alex Ferguson merrily waving off one of his key men for a jaunt that had the remotest possibility of disrupting his delicate fitness regime is on par with the idea that United’s martinet boss might invite Rafael Benitez for a cordial Sunday lunch.

Ferdinand is presently the finest home-grown defender operating in the Premier League, but his absence is far from fatal.  The same is true of the missing Dawson and Cahill.

The latter of that pair has only this season established himself as a first-choice selection at Chelsea – having failed to do so immediately after his arrival at Stamford Bridge in January last year.  Nevertheless, the 27 year-old’s recent form has been erratic – never more so than in his side’s recent high-octane F.A. Cup tie at Old Trafford.  The former Bolton player is blessed with pace and ability on the ball, but his development is still at a stage where he cannot be considered integral to the England unit.

Dawson started this campaign as an unwanted figure in Andre Villas-Boas’ Tottenham Hotspur plans and looked on the verge of a transfer to the less celebrated environs of Queens Park Rangers.  Displaying the force of character and determination which epitomises his on-field persona, Dawson remained at White Hart Lane and since forcing his way back into the team at the end of 2012 has become a fixture, captaining one of the Premier League’s form outfits.

So powerful has been the ex-Nottingham Forest man’s resurgence, that the hamstring problem which has rendered him unable to join an England squad after his first call for two years is added to the mix in order to heighten the sense of a national defensive dearth.

The fact that a trio of entirely capable replacements have been drafted in though, should be a matter for some satisfaction.

Joleon Lescott was an ever-present only last summer during England’s Euro 2012 campaign, off the back of forming the base with Vincent Kompany on which Manchester City’s championship season of 2011/2012 was constructed.

Steven Caulker was widely acknowledged a year ago as one of the success stories of Swansea City’s first term back in the top-flight for 28 years, and has continued to progress at his parent club Spurs to the extent where the gifted 21 year-old made a goal-scoring debut for his country against Sweden last November.

Newcastle United’s Steven Taylor is yet to make a full international outing, but has experience of 29 under 21 appearances and is presently a first-pick in a rapidly improving Magpies team.

Smalling himself continues a fairytale rise which has taken him from non-league Maidstone, and through two years at Fulham, to a move to Manchester United at 21-years of age.  The London born man assuredly and quickly adapted to life at Old Trafford and has the faith of the sternest judge of all – Ferguson.

Smalling’s versatility – he is comfortable shifting across to right-back – is bettered by that of his club-mate Phil Jones.  The ex-Blackburn player’s development has been stymied by a variety of ailments.  When Jones can see off his injury hoodoo, he possesses all the attributes required to become a cornerstone of his national team for 15 years.

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1 comment

  • wise says:

    England team not better or stronger than past team,
    just more confident , experienced and ready to win.

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