Andy Carroll will perhaps be the most contentious striking selection any England manager has made since Sven Goran-Eriksson elected to include youngster Theo Walcott in his 2006 World Cup squad. For very different reasons, mind. The British press has already tarnished the reputation of a player who, through no fault of his own, cost Liverpool £30m. The past season has proven that this was not an accurate reflection of Carroll’s ability, yet still it has been left to hang around the 23-year-old’s neck like the heaviest of millstones.
For the first half of the season, Carroll did indeed resemble a cart horse and was barely worth a place in Kenny Dalglish’s starting line-up. However, his late winners against Blackburn Rovers and Everton have at least appeared to rejuvenate the forward, who after all, is still developing as a player even now.
As Eriksson did in 2006, Hodgson has elected to take just four strikers, one of whom is the Liverpool hit-man. Interesting decisions include the presence of Danny Welbeck, who is clearly an emerging talent, and has the electric qualities of youth and enthusiasm that England so often lack at major tournaments. Jermaine Defoe’s 11 league goals for Tottenham Hotspur have secured him a seat on the plane, and one would imagine that the Three Lions will be lining up against France on 11 June with Carroll and Defoe leading the line, as Wayne Rooney is suspended.
A bumper midfield line-up sees the undoubtedly popular inclusion of Arsenal’s pocket rocket Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and the unquestionably unpopular selection of Liverpool winger Stewart Downing. Personally, I would have taken Adam Johnson, who has some credentials for a starting berth, despite his lack of appearances this season, but Downing is at least left footed and should ensure that Hodgson’s midfield doesn’t appear too lopsided. In a midfield roster full to the brim with wingers, it is the central berths which will be of most concern to supporters. Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard have rolled back the years to make an inclusion in the squad, alongside the uninspiring Gareth Barry and Scott Parker. There is no real driving force in the middle of the park, however. All the creative spark lies on the flanks, as does the exuberance that a jaded Lampard and Gerrard, both of whom have been tarnished with the deadly brush of early exits from international tournaments, both lack.
In terms of those who have missed out through injury, it is a sad story for Kyle Walker in particular. Named PFA Young Player of the Year after a tremendous season for Spurs, his unavailability means England are only taking one natural right sided defender to Poland and Ukraine. Devastatingly, that full back is Glen Johnson. Phil Jones has been included, alongside a fairly strong central defensive grouping of John Terry, Gary Cahill and Joleon Lescott, with the solid combination of Ashley Cole and Leighton Baines on the opposite flank to Johnson.
Many will be shouting from the rooftops about the absence of Micah Richards, a Premier League winner after all, who was neglected in favour of the defensively shoddy Johnson. Sure, the Liverpool man has more international experience, but his complete lack of ability makes this a somewhat moot point. A controversial point to mention would be the non-inclusion of Rio Ferdinand, despite the Manchester United defender having played 30 games this season, even his manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, supported the claim that a match every four days would be “too much” for him.
While it is clear that Joe Hart, keeper of the most clean sheets in the top flight this season, will probably play in every game barring an unexpected injury, John Ruddy’s call-up represents a triumph for the “in-form” selection, rather than the choosing of players merely on reputation, as has happened once or twice in the past. Ruddy has performed excellently for Norwich City throughout this season, and had a lot of exposure to the ball, given the quality of the Canaries defence, however the inclusion of Rob Green is a different story altogether. Even the mere mention of the West Ham United goalkeeper’s name brings back painful memories of “that moment” in South Africa, but the fact remains that he is a second-rate ‘keeper playing in the second tier.
So the first ever squad named by Roy Hodgson includes what many believe to be the “flop of the season” in Andy Carroll (mins Fernando Torres, obviously), a harem of wingers, a full back many believe is under qualified for Liverpool, let alone England, and two remnants of the “golden generation” in Lampard and Gerrard. It is interesting to say the least, but the inclusion of another striker (the identity of which is open to debate), selection of Richards and substituting of Downing in favour of the City right back, would leave England supporters far more content than this promising, but somewhat flawed list will do.
The England squad for the 2012 European Championships in full:
Goalkeepers: Joe Hart (Man City), Rob Green (West Ham), John Ruddy (Norwich)
Defenders: Glen Johnson (Liverpool), Phil Jones (Man United), John Terry (Chelsea), Joleon Lescott (Man City), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), Leighton Baines (Everton)
Midfielders: Theo Walcott (Arsenal), Stewart Downing (Liverpool), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Gareth Barry (Man City), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Scott Parker (Tottenham), Ashley Young (Man United), James Milner (Man City)
Forwards: Wayne Rooney (Man United), Danny Welbeck (Man United), Andy Carroll (Liverpool), Jermain Defoe (Tottenham)
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