Roy Hodgson this week announced his 21-man squad for England’s upcoming Euro 2016 qualifiers against San Marino and Estonia. Southampton right-back Nathaniel Clyne and Swansea City midfielder Jonjo Shelvey are the notable call ups in what is a very young squad.
This is Clyne’s first ever time in England’s senior squad, having previously played at u-19 and u-21 level. The injuries to Glen Johnson and Kyle Walker allow for the 23 year old to be rewarded for his performances in a flying Saints team. The hope amongst many is that, by the time the aforementioned regulars at right-back return from injury, Clyne will have cemented his place in England’s eleven.
For 22-year-old Shelvey it is pretty much the same story. He comes into the squad as part of a new wave of young or perhaps previously under-appreciated English players. He has already made his debut for the senior side, but it was exactly that – a debut, not a breakthrough. It came two years ago, the game was England against San Marino, and this is the first time he has been called up since.
The big talking point in the lead-up to the squad announcement was of-course whether or not Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge would be included. The striker has missed most of Liverpool’s rocky campaign thus far because of a thigh injury, and in fact his absence is perhaps one of the things accountable for such a rough start – this the reason why club side manager Brendan Rodgers is so eager to have him fit.
Hodgson is adamant however that Sturridge’s non-call-up is purely because the player simply isn’t fit enough, not because Rodgers or Liverpool need him fit for their upcoming fixtures. What has developed is really quite a childish rift- the age-old debate of club vs country: Hodgson doesn’t like being told what to do, and Rodgers doesn’t like letting go of his players.
Either way, it means England go into these two qualifiers with only three recognised strikers: Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck and Rickie Lambert.
Sturridge is of course a big loss, but just this once, the striker’s absence could be seen as a good thing for England, and certainly a good thing for Welbeck. It gives a chance for Welbeck to take centre stage.
Welbeck already seems like a changed player since his move from Manchester United to Arsenal. Reinvigorated is perhaps not the right word as he always provided energy and vigor for United and England in the past. But since being given a starting role at Arsenal, as a central striker, with quality players all around him, his confidence has grown and grown. Just this week he scored his first senior hat-trick against Galatasaray in a Champions League fixture. It would be a smart move by Hodgson to try him out in the same role for England, while he’s still hot.
Keiran Gibbs’ inclusion is another thing for Arsenal fans to shout about. A young, classy English footballer who is a regular for a top Premier League club, it is baffling how little he is talked about in regards of the English National Team set-up. With Leighton Baines of-course now an ever-present for England at Left back, Keiran Gibbs’ call up was a result of teenager Luke Shaw’s demotion to the U-21 squad, or perhaps vice-versa.
19-year-old Shaw joins former Southampton team-mate Calum Chambers, also 19, in the England under-21 squad, who, in the words of Hodgson is simply being ‘loaned out’ from the senior side.
Since joining Arsenal in the summer, Chambers has been heavily involved, indeed thriving on the amount of opportunities club side manager Arsene Wenger has given him. He is, however, a very similar player to that of Everton youngster John Stones, who was included in the recent senior call-ups.
With Shaw and Chambers in the under-21 squad even when there are regulars for the senior side out injured, we can see that the nation’s current crop of high quality youth is not confined solely to the senior setup. So too, let’s not forget about youngsters such as Tottenham Hotspur’s Eric Dier, West Brom’s Saido Berahino and Stoke City’s Jack Butland – all included in the U-21 squad, all destined for the senior squad.
Theo Walcott and Ross Barkley are players one would expect to be key in England’s qualifying campaign for Euro 2016 when the pair return from long-term injuries.
Fabian Delph is a player that must be mentioned. He had a brilliant 2013/2014 season, one that led to calls for him to be in the World Cup squad. Quite inevitably, it wasn’t to be. But his energy in the centre of midfield was something that most fans knew could benefit the England team. Aston Villa’s blistering start to this season was much like Delph’s, and sure enough he was called up for England’s first Euro 2016 qualifier against Switzerland. He Started, and had a so-so game. But he really shone in a friendly against Norway a couple days previous to that Switzerland match. It’s good to see him called-up once more.
Perhaps underwhelming to the critical or stubborn England National Team fan, this England crop does nothing but excite me. The old guard is gone. There is a plethora of composed, talented and level-headed young players. England fans should be excited for the future.
Goalkeeper’s – Joe Hart, Fraser Forster, Ben Foster.
Defence – Phil Jagielka, Gary Cahill, Leighton Baines, John Stones, Keiran Gibbs, Nathaniel Clyne.
Midfield – James Milner, Jordan Henderson, Fabian Delph, Jonjo Shelvey, Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Adam Lallana, Raheem Sterling, Andros Townsend.
Attack – Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck, Rickie Lambert.
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