If I was to say I was underwhelmed by the announcement of Roy Hodgson’s provisional 26 man squad for Euro 2016 it would be an understatement.
Was it always this straightforward and dull? Maybe I’m allowing my mind to be clouded by the memory of the hullabaloo surrounding Gazza’s exclusion from the France ‘98 squad but there just doesn’t seem to be the same competition for places and contentious decisions to be made.
As the squad list was released, there seemed to a collective Alan Partridge style shrugs of the shoulders as if to say “Yeah, so?”.
Just for argument’s sake, I tried to drum up a bit of interest by questioning Jack Wilshere’s inclusion in the squad, only to be met by a hoard of whiny Arsenal fans screaming “Six man of the matches in his last seven game for England!” at me. As if that’s any evidence a player who had barely kicked a ball all season would be ready to be playing at the pinnacle of the international game.
There’s no denying that if Wilshere had not been injured all season and unlikely to break down again, he’d be a certainty for the squad. It’s not like we’re awash with stellar players these days.
The faux outrage at Wilshere’s inclusion aside, I was disappointed for Jermain Defoe that he didn’t make the squad. He was certainly in the England manager’s thoughts enough to send one of his scouts to cast an eye over him at the Everton game and I thought he deserved recognition, not just for his form but his goalscoring record for his country too. 19 goals in 55 appearances isn’t too shabby and if there’s one thing he gives you, is that goal threat.
I’ve no arguments in Marcus Rashford being called-up to the squad as long as the intention is there to use him. He has shown a real fearless attitude when breaking into the first team and is a wonderfully talented player, but when it comes down to the crunch and you need a goal, who would you bank on to come off the bench at get it for you – the experienced knowhow of Defoe or the unknown quantity at this level in Rashford? It’s a surprising decision given Roy’s naturally cautious persuasion.
This could be the sign we all wanted though. A sign that this tournament might be treated as a freebie gamble. Let the young players loose, gamble on them and if it ends in failure then persist with the bulk of this players to carry on and build for the 2018 World Cup.
I’ve already picked my starting XI to play in a 4-1-3-2 formation; Hart in goal. A back four of Clyne, Stones, Cahill and Rose. Dier in front of them. Alli, Drinkwater and Barkley together as a three in behind Sturridge and Kane up front.
The only other change I would have made was if Jack Butland had been fit, I would have started him ahead of Joe Hart. I actually think Joe has had his best season yet and it might have been a tough call to make but this could be a team that can carry us through the next four tournaments and Butland, Stones, Dier, Alli and going to provide the spine throughout that side and we would be best served starting that dynasty now.
I know many people would question the inclusion of Danny Drinkwater, a player who wasn’t guaranteed a place in Leicester City’s side last year, but then again, neither was Jamie Vardy. It was conceivable that both players could have left the club last summer if Nigel Pearson had still been in charge of the newly crowned champions but it isn’t as if you can compare both players paths to where they are now.
Danny had a great education at Manchester United and has an excellent passing range. Although different players, his frame and the way he drills those raking long passes reminds me Paul Scholes.
One glaring omission from that XI is obviously Wayne Rooney.
I know there would be some who wouldn’t include him in the squad at all but that would be foolish. His pass through to Ashley Young for United’s third goal on Tuesday was perfection and showed he is still capable of the sublime if played in a more withdrawn role.
What he lacks today is the intensity he once had that made him dangerous and effective and if England are to make any kind of impression at this tournament, then they will need that intensity at the front because of how fragile we look at the back.
Actually, just thinking about it, this could be the last big hurrah for Rooney, as the age of his legs catches up with his hair; the last of the golden generation, venerated before their time.
You might not feel sympathy for multi-millionaires who’ve had everything of they have dreamed of, but there’s I find something sad in the failures of Beckham, Ferdinand, Terry, Gerrard, Lampard and Rooney to replicate their success at club level in a white shirt.
Go on then, Wayne, prove us wrong.