There’s a distinct trait to human nature that leads people to believe that if something new isn’t quite working right, then reverting to how it was previously will fix the issue.
So when it comes to the question of England’s centre halves, it seems that a number of fans, tabloid hacks and pundits have decided that John Terry can be Roy Hodgson’s equivalent of turning the computer off and back on again.
England’s defensive issues were seemingly laid bare in their two latest international matches, conceding four goals including a couple that would have been easily avoided by following basic defensive protocol.
It has led to calls in some quarters for the return of the former Three Lions captain, who remains a first-choice pick at Chelsea despite his advancing years.
Of course, as Hodgson himself admitted in his recent press conference, the logic is sound. The manager believes there is a dearth of centre backs who are comfortable enough to play on the left side of the central two. Despite being predominantly right-footed, Terry played the majority of his international career on the left side of his defensive partner.
Terry won the last of his 78 caps in 2012 before opting to retire from international duty in the wake of his fallout with the FA. And, despite Chelsea’s well-publicised fall from grace this season, Terry’s performances have been suitably consistent enough to retain his place, even if it is widely accepted in the stands at Stamford Bridge that their “Captain, Leader, Legend” is not the all-conquering defensive mainstay that he once was.
But in truth, Roy Hodgson needs only to heed the famous words of Douglas Adams; “Don’t Panic”. Hodgson was presented the chance to recall Terry before the 2014 World Cup, and declined then; presumably due to a confidence in the players he had at his disposal, at the time Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka. Two years on, and Hodgson not only retains those two experienced heads to call on, but they are now joined by the increasingly mature Chris Smalling and (injury-pending) Phil Jones, while John Stones is arguably Europe’s most promising defensive talent. If there was good reason for leaving Terry out back in Brazil, there is even more so now.
While the World Cup was an undoubted disappointment, Hodgson’s judgement has proved sound since. England’s Terry-less defence conceded only three goals in Euro qualifying – a record only Romania could beat in a vastly inferior group – while despite their recent blips it’s important to remember that the same personnel had conceded to only one side in their six matches prior to the game against Germany. That side was Spain.
Not only that, but a closer look at the way the goals were conceded lends more reason to not rocking the boat too aggressively. In Berlin, the Germans took the lead seconds after England’s keeper had fractured his ankle. On this season’s form, one would reasonably have expected Jack Butland to have saved Toni Kroos’ shot comfortably had he not suffered a freak injury moments earlier.
Then at Wembley, the first goal came from a John Stones slip on the turf, while the second followed a clear foul on Phil Jagielka that the referee failed to spot.
As John Terry would himself no doubt attest to, misfortune, fluke and a high-profile slip are no reason to lose faith in otherwise top-performing defenders. When deciding on his final squad for Euro 2016, Hodgson will surely agree. England remain 9/1 fourth favourites to lift the trophy in France.
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