Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughThe Problem with England's International Selection - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough The Problem with England's International Selection - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

The Problem with England’s International Selection

“Why on earth is he playing??”. Those words sound familiar? Shouted loudly and frequently at the television during an England match, in the faint hope that the current English manager hears you (and can understand English) and sees the glaringly obvious? They definitely do to me. In the modern age, we have plenty of laws and morals that prevent discrimination of any kind, and rightly so. So why then, do we allow such blatant discrimination in the choosing of our national players? That is, discrimination of club. Grant Holt scored 15 goals in the Premier League last season, sitting 8th in the top scorers table, the 2nd best English goalscorer behind Wayne Rooney. Yet because he plays for Norwich City, he was not selected for the national side. Another example is Peter Crouch. His international goalscoring record is excellent, notching up 22 goals in 19 starts (42 caps overall). But despite being proven at international level, Andy Carroll – a similar mould of player – has been preferred to him, with a horrific club scoring record last season. He managed a a mere 4 goals in 35 appearances in the league, rivalling the goal scoring achievements of Leighton Baines – a left back. The difference? Crouch plays for Stoke, Carroll plays for Liverpool (yes, I know he’s on loan at West Ham but he was called into the squad before then).

Needless to reiterate, we have been poor at international level in recent years, having not passed the quarter-final stage of any major competition since the Euros in ’96 and while plenty of that can be attributed to poor mentality and a sheer lack of skill, I’m going to focus here on the player selection problems. One of the first problems I can think of is one that is already being addressed, squad age. We have, to an extent, understood that the old guard has failed, and we need to put our hopes in the younger generation, but not throw them in at the deep end. In this way, the introductions of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Raheem Sterling, and Phil Jones have been more than welcome. Ridding ourselves of some of the old guard has come next, and the omission of Rio Ferdinand during the Euro’s, for whatever reason, was beneficial to the squad. The same goes for John Terry’s recent retirement. Despite being more able than Ferdinand currently, I believe the hole he has left will be perfect for a young centre-half to step up and fill. We have so little pride in players like John Terry and Ashley Cole, and with the controversy (the severely inadequate term we use to describe the selfish, stupid and terrible acts celebrities commit) surrounding them on a regular basis, we have earned that right. If the new crop can learn anything from the older generation, it’s this: everything they did – don’t.

That aside, we still need to take pure talent into account when picking a squad. Players like Adam Johnson, the aforementioned duo of Holt and Crouch, (I know Holt doesn’t exactly qualify for the younger generation in terms of age, but the fact that he has never played for England makes him a relative youngster on the international stage), solid youngsters like Micah Richards and Daniel Sturridge all need to come in, and Stewart Downing, Andy Carroll and the rest of their kin need to be banished for fear of incompetency by association – unless of course they miraculously get their acts together and transform into the quality players they may have been in the past. ‘Til then however, I would strongly recommend hiring someone with a degree in common sense to sort out the good from the bad, and then setting up and electric fence, barbed wire, and however many royal guard the Queen can spare to protect our national team from those that plain common sense has deemed unworthy. Who knows, they might even hire you, England fan shouting at the screen. I guess someone did hear you.

Sean Wilson