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Hodgson’s first England squad fails to impress

New England manager Roy Hodgson today announced the squad that he will take to Poland and Ukraine to participate in this summer’s European Championships. It is, of course, Hodgson’s first squad, having only been announced as Fabio Capello’s successor on 1st May.

As is always the case when the squad for a major tournament is announced, England turns in to a nation of football managers, all of whom are convinced they could do better. The emotions expressed invariably range from great optimism (‘Our boys are gonna win it!’) to anger (‘What a cr@p squad!’) to disappointment and despondency (‘That team won’t win anything.’) Today’s announcement has followed this well-entrenched pattern with some sounding downbeat, while others called for Hodgson to be removed from his post (#Hogdgsonout was a trending topic on Twitter this afternoon).

There have been no shocks on the seismic scale of Theo Walcott’s inclusion in the squad for the 2006 World Cup, but several of Hodgson’s selections (and omissions) have raised eyebrows. So why are fans so underwhelmed by the squad that was announced today? Who is on the plane and who is at home?

Roy Hodgson announces his first England squad (This image is the property of Action Images)


Joe Hart (Manchester City), Robert Green (West Ham United), John Ruddy (Norwich City).

Standby goalkeeper: Jack Butland (Birmingham City)

Probably the position of least concern to England fans as Joe Hart is a certain starter. The Manchester City stopper has performed well for the last three seasons and cemented his place as England’s number one. He is probably one of only three or four genuinely world-class players available to Hodgson. Many people had expected Ben Foster to be included as one of the substitute options following his impressive showings for Hodgson’s West Bromthis season, but he has been surprisingly omitted. Instead of Foster, Hodgson has opted for former number one Robert Green, who spectacularly failed to impress in South Africa two years ago, and more unexpectedly, John Ruddy of Norwich City. Not many people saw the 25 year-old’s inclusion coming, but it is difficult to argue that he is undeserving. Ruddy has impressed greatly during Norwich’s first season back in English football’s top flight, making a number of world-class reflex saves. Evidently this did not escape Hodgson’s attention. The standby is Birmingham’s 19 year-old goalkeeper Jack Butland and this has taken many by surprise. In fact, a large number of people have been heard asking ‘Jack who?

Conclusion: No serious surprises (Butland excepted) but Foster can consider himself unlucky to not be at least standby


Leighton Baines (Everton), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), Glen Johnson (Liverpool), Phil Jones (Manchester United), Joleon Lescott (Manchester City), John Terry (Chelsea)

Standby defender: Phil Jagielka (Everton)

The big question before today’s announcement was whether Hodgson would pick Rio Ferdinand and John Terry given that the latter is awaiting a hearing for reputedly racially abusing the former’s younger brother. Hodgson provided the answer by omitting the Manchester United man, stating that it was a decision based purely on footballing factors. Many observers are sceptical given that Ferdinand has made the most appearances he has in a Premier League season since 2007/08 and shown his best form in four years. The other shock exclusion is Manchester City fullback Micah Richards. Opinion is split as to who is the best right-back in the country with some certain it is Richards and others emphatically arguing in favour of Tottenham’s Kyle Walker. Nobody would claim that Glen Johnson is worthy of such a title. Nobody except Roy Hodgson that is. With Walker missing out through injury, surely Richards would be a shoe-in? Wrong again. The 23 year-old must be wondering what he has to do to secure a place in the side. It would appear that the manager feels Phil Jones will provide sufficient cover for Johnson. It remains to be seen whether the Manchester United youngster can perform consistently at this level and in an unnatural position. Hodgson has therefore taken a risk by omitting Richards. The rest of the defensive corps throws up no shocks with longstanding stalwarts Ashley Cole and John Terry included, while the likes of Phil Jones, Leighton Baines, Joleon Lescott and Gary Cahill were all regular fixtures in the last 12 months of Fabio Capello’s reign.

Conclusion: Rio Ferdinand may feel hard done by given his impressive performances this season and may feel that off-field matters have played a part in Hodgson’s decision. Micah Richards omission seems totally unjust and he can consider himself very unlucky not to make the cut.


Gareth Barry (Manchester City), Stewart Downing (Liverpool), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), James Milner (Manchester City), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Scott Parker (Tottenham Hotspur), Theo Walcott (Arsenal), Ashley Young (Manchester United)

Standby midfielders: Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Adam Johnson (Manchester City)

Hodgson is not exactly spoilt for choice when it comes to top-class midfielders and it shows in this selection. Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard bring great experience with them, but both are past their prime and neither has enjoyed a stellar season. Nonetheless, they have been regular inclusions for over a decade and so their selection did not bring about any shock-induced heart attacks. Gareth Barry has his limitations (the ones that Mesut Özil so ruthlessly exposed in Bloemfontein), but he has played his part in Manchester City’s title win and deserves his place. Theo Walcott has enjoyed a good season at the Emirates, scoring 11 goals and laying on another 13 for teammates. His pace is always a valuable asset and so not many would argue against his inclusion. Ashley Young provides a similar threat from the wide areas and has demonstrated a knack for scoring goals at international level. Scott Parker is a solid performer and so is not a shock selection despite the fact that he is carrying an injury. James Milner has regularly featured for the Three Lions in recent years and can play right across the midfield as well as at right-back if required. He is therefore a valuable player to have in a tournament situation, although his detractors will point to the fact that he has been unable to hold down a regular place at the Etihad. The wildcard pick of the 23 is Arsenal teenager Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. He has impressed in his first season for Arsene Wenger’s team but has been used only sparingly. There is, therefore, a limited body of work on which to judge his ability to perform at elite level. He could prove to be a master stroke or may just watch whilst wearing a suit as Walcott did six years ago, only time will tell. His ability to create chances from wide areas or in the number 10 position may be the reason for his inclusion. Manchester United duo Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick did not make the squad and the latter may feel aggrieved that he did not even make standby, particular since that role went to Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson. Henderson has failed to make any sort of impact since his £16 million move to Anfield and looked well out of his depth when he made his debut against France at Wembley last year. Although he is only a standby, it seems to be his inclusion that has provoked the most ire/laughs from the England faithful.

Conclusion: The usual suspects accompanied by two in-form wide men. Oxlade-Chamberlain’s selection is a risk, while Jordan Henderson’s selection as standby is just baffling.


Andy Carroll (Liverpool), Jermain Defoe (Tottenham Hotspur),Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Danny Welbeck (Manchester United)

The only real surprise here is that Hodgson has opted for just four forwards given that Wayne Rooney is suspended for the first two games. Rooney is undoubtedly England’s best player and so his selection was never in doubt, despite the suspension he must serve. Jermain Defoe is included on merit having this season notched 17 goals in 38 appearances, many of which were as a substitute. Crucially, he has a proven track record at international level, boasting 15 goals. Hodgson will no doubt have taken this into account. Danny Welbeck has impressed in spells for Manchester United this season, his link-up play with Rooney being particularly praiseworthy. However, he is not an out-and-out goal scorer and so he will need to be partnered with Defoe in the opening two games. Andy Carroll has endured a torrid start to life at Anfield but his inclusion is a classic non-surprise surprise. He offers something that none of the other forwards selected do, a strong physical presence. Players from Spain and Italy are not used to playing against 6’3 battering rams and so he may prove useful as an alternative to Rooney and co. He does however; represent a risk given his lack of form going in to the tournament. In selecting just four strikers, Hodgson is banking on them staying fit and not picking up suspensions, particularly during Rooney’s enforced absence. Only time will tell if this is a foolish gamble but the likes of Walcott and Young capable of playing as secondary strikers, there should be sufficient cover should one or more of the forwards suffer misfortune.

Conclusion: No real surprises here. Could have maybe selected one more striker, perhaps Peter Crouch, and Carroll and Welbeck could be seen as risks given their relative lack of experience. Hodgson has done about as well as he can with what is available to him in this position.

England fans should not be under the illusion that Hodgson has a plethora of world-class stars at his disposal. To a great extent, the new manager has selected the best players available and it seems probable that his selection does not differ greatly from the one Fabio Capello would have announced had he still been in the hot seat. There are however, one or two selections that are open to criticism, most notably the decision to leave Micah Richards at home in favour of Glen Johnson.

We will only truly be able to judge Hodgson’s selection after the European Championships are over, but one thing is for sure; his first squad announcement has not exactly worked England’s fans in to a frenzy or created a great sense of optimism about the future under his stewardship.

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