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England Expects (Nothing)

Roy Hodgson Euro 2012 vs Italy
It’s been four years since Roy Hodgson announced his first England squad as manager. In football terms, that’s an eternity. When you consider that 58 of the 92 English football league clubs changed manager in the 2015 – 16 season, four years is infinity for a manager.

I checked back on his first squad, half expecting to see Jermaine Jenas and Kieron Dyer gamely making the final 23 despite never actually doing anything to merit it. Letting my age show there.

There are four survivors in Hodgson’s 2016 provisional side. Joe Hart,  James Milner, Jordan Henderson and Wayne Rooney. Hart’s place is assured, there’s not a better English ‘keeper in the country. Milner has been around for so long now that I half expect grainy footage of him playing alongside Graham Rix and Ray Wilkins to feature in a pre-match interview. Henderson remains a baffling footballer, particularly given his injury woes. And Rooney? Well, um. I’ve got opinions.


The defence looks a bit shaky, with the loss of most of the Evertonians who featured two years ago as a result of Roberto Martinez’s phenomenal management. The highest position in the Premier League achieved by any centre back was Chris Smalling in fifth. Um. But hey, Danny Rose and Kyle Walker finished higher. With Spurs. Um. Let’s not talk about John Stones. Um.

This is the first England tournament squad since 2004 that doesn’t have Gerrard and Lampard locked in a death grip over who was best to run the midfield, a decade long grapple which revealed that either or had pretty much the same result – disappointment. In their place vie newcomers Ali, Drinkwater, Dier and Delph, alongside more experienced heads in Lallana, Henderson, Milner and Wilshere.

There’s a lot of potential combinations there, even given Milner’s guaranteed spot and that Hodgson has a fondness for Henderson and Average Lallana.

Up front, there’s an embarrassment of riches. The last time the English Premier League had two English players at #1 and #2 on the scoring charts was 1999-2000 when Kevin Phillips outscored Alan Shearer. Vardy and Kane are devastatingly good and given the injury interrupted campaigns of Rooney and Sturridge, are surely first choice. Surely?

But Rooney is captain. There’s Roy’s problem, apart from the defence of course. If your two strikers are too good not to include, where does Rooney go? Dropping back into a midfield role he’s sort of been all right at for Manchester United, the sort of role Delle Ali has excelled in all season. Pushing him out wide, which has proven a source of frustration for him in the past. Or bench him.

Expectations are relatively low. The expected disappointment of Brazil, that 0 – 0 with Italy in 2012 and everything that went wrong in Rustenberg has thoroughly taken the edge off the idea that England could win anything soon. Low expectations are sometimes good for taking the pressure off, but only if you can beat them.

There’s two teams in the squad. One relies on tried and tested combinations, the other is genuinely unpredictable. Be brave, Roy.

Categories: English/UK Football

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John Palethorpe

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