The ‘3 Lions’ have been nothing short of disappointing and unconvincing in the last decade with few glimmers of brilliance only able to muster up quarter final appearances on three occasions in major competitions. However, in the theme of making excuses, the team is without doubt one of the most heavily scrutinsed teams on the planet. If England slip up, there are no routes of escape from the media and pundits alike. From Southgate’s slip on the penalty spot to Steve McClaren’s star studded performance as ‘the wolly with a brolly’, England as a nation have very few hiding places when they have questions to answer. Perhaps the heavy analysis from the media increases the pressure for both the squad and management compounding all the problems into an abyss of messing situations. But why a nations hopes always dashed in the face of unfulfilled promises?
It is well known that England’s European counterparts are one of the most formidable nations on the globe. Teams such as Germany, Holland and Spain are renowned for their philosophy of football and a rapport in the squad that make them all so hard to beat. The German’s run as efficiently as their automobiles, the Dutch are the masters of total football and the Spanish speak for themselves. Having developed the newly formed way of ‘tic tac’ football, Spain are a joy to watch and they fully deserve to be the global domination of football. But why are they so different from England? What nurturing and home remedies do they undergo in their home nations that not only differs, but outplays the English side? Spain have been consistently unparalleled in their performances over the years, but what has also been equally consistent is their squad selection. 9 of the players that featured in Spain’s 2010 World Cup victory featured in the final of Spain’s Euro 2012 victory, quite a surprising statistic for any team. But Vicente del Bosque has shown loyalty in his squad. As trends go, England are quite prone to rotating their squad and their starting 11. Maybe its time to explore why that is the case even when England go on a run of form.
Around the time of international break, the media and the press are lurking around in anticipation at who will be involved in the next crop of English talent that will represent the nation. But the press are definitely involved in the outcome of the squad and how it looks. They will make far cries for certain players, who are plying their trade to a good standard at domestic level, and assess whether they are worthy of a call-up. Some of them justifiable and some of them are just purely fitting in with the rotational policy and are worth trying out. But is this actually beneficial to the English side or should they turning their attention to the more established members of the squad like Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard? For example, shortly before England’s friendly with Sweden back in November, the newspapers were eyeing up possible call-ups for in-form Raheem Sterling and Leon Osman. Roy Hodgson started both players in the game and they produced average displays, not good enough for national standards. England lost the game 4-2 to a superior Swedish side. In comparison to the teams that played against Sweden and in the match at Montenegro a short time ago, their were 6 changes made from Sweden’s game and a substitutes bench that only included 2 players from the friendly back in November.
What does it indicate? Well unlike the European foe of the Spanish and Germans, it could be plausible that England cannot formulate a winning mentality if they have, not only a new look starting 11, but a new look squad for every game they play. Granted there is an element of experimentation when it comes to friendlies and players may be tried and tested but the fact remains England cannot beat teams if there keys players such as Rooney and Gerrard are surrounded by different players for every game. The national team has a catalogue of one-capped wonders that, upon reflection seem like a waste of time to even consider them for selection. Some of them perform well for their domestic teams but aren’t near the level of playing nationally. For example, players such as Jonjo Shelvey, Ryan Shawcross and Matt Jarvis have all earned one cap for the country which they will be proud of. However, they are unlikely to achieve many more purely because they were on form or at the peak of their career at the time. Even Paul Konchesky has an England cap to his name. Really?
Has it become much easier for players to earn an England cap? England call ups are far greater than most teams. Apart from the current 24 man squad, England have had another 29 players called up for international duty compared to Germany’s 15 other players and Spain’s 14. Based on comparisons, it certainly seems easier to earn an England cap. But why? It definitely seems the media has a role to play. They publicise the on form players of the Premier League and encourage England call-ups. Pundits don’t shy away from this trend as well. Often on shows such as Match of the Day and Football Focus, pundit and presenters will suggest players for call-up that have shown recent impressive displays. This could be more to do with the fact they want to help build the foundations of a national team but more or less its more to do with that they have done well enough to earn a call up. This should not be the mentality of national team.
There is no point calling up players who are at the peak of their career and will be able to go no further in their achievements. A cap is not something that should be considered an accolade. It should be considered an opportunity to help the national team as much as they can, especially in qualifying campaigns. As proud a moment as it is for the players, the mentality should be shifted in order to help the performance of the national team. For example, Leon Osman is a terrific player. His England call-up should of came years ago and, if so, could have proven to be a useful member of the squad. But really, what is the point in calling him up to the squad now? He’s 31! Of course he will be proud to get his first England cap but how much of an impact is he able to make with the little playing time he will receive? There would be very little point to even declare international retirement on his part. It’s illogical and a waste of time. However, calling up young talent to the squad such as Tom Cleverly, Chris Smalling and Jack Wilshere makes a lot more sense. Breeding new talent and accommodating them into the national team is important for the progression of the team. Some have the ability to be world-class players and it will be important if they can cope and perform well for the national team. They will be the next group of key players for the ‘3 Lions’. Either way its important for England to be grounded with their selection process if they want to improve and not leave us proud Englishmen with more bitter disappointment.