As Roy Hodgson announced his next England squad for games against Slovenia and Scotland, certain players and many fans will have been left scratching their heads at some of the inclusions.
The Three Lions squad is as follows: Hart, Forster, Foster; Baines, Cahill, Chambers, Clyne, Gibbs, Jagielka, Shaw, Smalling; Barkley, Carrick, Downing, Henderson, Lallana, Milner, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sterling, Townsend, Wilshere, Walcott; Lambert, Rooney, Welbeck, Berahinho.
While the inclusion of Saido Berahino and Stewart Downing is refreshing to see, with Hodgson rewarding some good league form, questions have to be raised about certain other names on the list.
Simply what does Ryan Shawcross have to do to get another call-up? The fact that Chris Smalling has been selected ahead of him is baffling.
Let’s compare their stats this season, for their average contributions per game:
Chris Smalling v Ryan Shawcross
- Tackles – 1.2 v 1.5
- Interceptions – 1.8 v 2.2
- Fouls – 1.4 v 0.6
- Clearances – 4.2 v 7.9
- Blocks – 0.6 v 1.4
That’s right, Shawcross comes out on top in every department.
And with Smalling making just 35 Premier League appearances for Manchester United in the last three years, getting sent off in the most recent of those, there is no argument to say he has played more football than the Stoke skipper that has donned the Potters armband 84 times in the same period.
But it’s not just the centre-back position where players representing ‘big’ sides are seemingly being favoured.
Since moving to Liverpool, Rickie Lambert has done little of note, making just one league start, and yet to register a Reds goal.
Now compare him to Charlie Austin, who has been the redeeming feature of a poor start to the campaign for QPR, netting five times in his maiden season in the top flight, and it is absurd.
With England expected to qualify for Euro 2016 at a canter, now should be the time that we are blooding in new players, preparing to have a real crack at a major tournament for the first time in a while, not continuing on with the old guard.
Michael Carrick, as useful as he can be on his day, is 33 years old, and has made just one substitute appearance for Manchester United this season.
Where is the logic in including him in a squad when he will probably have nil input in the tournament in 18 months time?
The likes of Mark Noble, who has been a driving force in a resurgent West Ham midfield, or even one of the current under 21 crop would surely be a better long term fit.
Hodgson must take his plaudits for including the likes of Berahino and Southampton’s Nathaniel Clyne in the squad, but if we are to be competing with the likes of Germany, Spain and France in 2016, a look to the future is drastically needed.
All odds and markets correct as of the date of publishing