To be fair to Roy Hodgson, most England supporters probably agree with 90 per cent his squad selection for Euro 2012. And as England managers past and present know only too well, you can’t please
anyone the press everyone. But the astonishing revelation that Stewart Downing will be taking his seat on the plane for next month’s European Championship finals is not the only issue people will have with the new England gaffer’s first squad.
Let’s get Downing out of the way first. It’s difficult to see where form or footballing reasoning came into the equation here. If you’re bringing Downing, why not get on the blower to David Bentley or Kieron Dyer? And while you’re at it, see if you can’t persuade Emile Heskey out of international retirement. What exactly has he done this season to warrant a place in the England squad over say, Adam Johnson, Scott Sinclair, Aaron Lennon, Daniel Sturridge, Joe Cole or come to think of it any English defender, midfielder or striker in the Premier League, Championship, League One or League Two? He had a decent 2010-11 campaign for Aston Villa but he has just not been good enough in a Liverpool shirt. Downing has racked up a combined zero goals and assists in 36 Premier League games this season. Liverpool’s summer signings have been disappointing to say the least and Kenny Dalglish has ultimately paid the price for the Reds’ poor performances in the league, even though the likes of Charlie Adam, Jordan Henderson and certainly Andy Carroll could well come good. But when Downing stepped up to take that penalty against Chelsea recently, you somehow got the feeling that it might never go right for him at Anfield, yet Roy Hodgson has seen enough to bring him to the Ukraine. Baffling.
Hodgson is also the latest England manager to overlook Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick. It can’t be easy to be given the task of replacing Roy Keane but no one could say Carrick’s time at Old Trafford has been anything less than successful. And success has been distinctly absent for one or two of the current England players. This guy has won four Premier League titles, one Champions League and a Fifa Club World Cup with the Red Devils. And he’s not won honours with United in the same way that José Manuel Pinto has at Barça – Carrick has been an integral member of the squad and earned each of his medals. He also turned in a man-of-the-match display in one of Fabio Capello’s most impressive England results as the Three Lions defeated Germany 1-2 in Berlin. But while Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and now Garry Barry have continually failed on the big stage for England, Carrick has been largely overlooked. And now,
Scott Scotty Parker has become the preferred midfield enforcer.
Now Parker is a decent player, but is he really better than Carrick? It seems that his England recognition came only when he was at West Ham and most people decided he would no longer be known as Scott Parker, but Scotty Parker. And because he was working so hard at Upton Park and largely carrying the Hammers in his final season with them, any mistake he made was ignored, or at least forgiven and forgotten immediately. Perhaps if Carrick became known to the media as Mickey or Mikey, as if he was everyone’s best mate, he might stand more of a chance of turning out for the Three Lions.
Hodgson’s stand-by options are also a little puzzling. There’s been a lot made of the notable absentees from the squad such as Micah Richards, Rio Ferdinand, Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes and Peter Crouch. If it’s a bit of a shock that they’ve not made the 23-man squad, surely it’s not out of the question to think it strange that these names aren’t even good enough for the stand-by list? Especially Carrick, with
Scott Scotty Parker carrying an Achilles injury which could rule him out. Do we really want to be relying on Jordan Henderson? Perhaps the others are too big to allow themselves to be considered as back-up.
But overall, you probably won’t find too many complaints with Roy’s selections. Now it’s high time everyone gets right behind the team for a change, hopefully without worrying about cliques in the dressing room or what Harry might have done differently. We don’t want to derail Hodgson’s first England campaign before he’s even started, so let’s close on a positive note.
A big well done to Roy Hodgson for not selecting Peter Crouch. Yes, everyone knows all about Crouchy’s revered England record but the fact is, Andy Carroll is a far greater aerial threat and far more likely to score a crucial goal against a decent side, or even a half decent side. It would have been wrong to pick a player on the basis of a one-off wonder goal against Manchester City. After all, we can all close our eyes, swing a boot and connect sweetly once in a while, can’t we?