We love a period of transition in English football; we simply can’t get away from it. A team goes on a run of five or six bad results; it’s usually because they’re in a transition. A poor transfer window is normally indicative rather than the consequence of a period of transition.
The England national team is no different. Frank Lampard, Rio Ferdinand and Steven Gerrard, cornerstones of the “golden generation,” are coming to the end of their careers. One or two of those individuals may even move on from their current club at the end of the season. The leaning is now on youth and the next wave. We as a country jump on those who are perceived to be the next big thing: Wilfried Zaha, Andros Townsend. It’s very much a state of transition for Roy Hodgson and the FA.
It’s why I can’t really understand the sense in bringing John Terry back into the fold. Even if thoughts don’t turn into actions, the simple fact that the idea is being discussed is baffling. The last thing Hodgson needs going into a World Cup in South America is negative publicity.
In some respects it’s the easy way out. Hodgson isn’t spoilt for choice ahead of this summer, most notably at centre-back. Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka for now look to be the first-choice pairing, but beyond that there are no certainties. With Terry back in the fold as a regular at Stamford Bridge under Jose Mourinho, the temptation is understandable.
But it wouldn’t just be for footballing reasons. With Terry it never is. There’s so much baggage that comes with the Chelsea captain that there can be little doubt that he simply doesn’t have a place in the England setup going forward. One of the important questions that need to be asked is whether he’ll feature for England, or even be in the thoughts of the England boss, for the following European Championship in France. At his age, 33, it’s highly unlikely.
You have to wonder how much dialogue there is between the FA and its clubs in the Premier League. Instead of flirting with the idea of players like Adnan Januzaj or Nabil Bentaleb turning out for England five years down the line – of which there isn’t much chance due to the players’ connection with other nations – the FA should be focusing on what they do have and can immediately turn to.
Phil Jones is one of the names who should be given special treatment. He’s comfortably one of England’s very best in his age group and could hold one of the centre-back positions for the national side for the next decade. But do England know what his best position is? Is there communication with Manchester United as to what his long-term future holds? Instead of revisiting problem cases that may or may not work out for the short-term, players like Jones need to be made the priority.
The Manchester United defender has had his injury problems, but based on what we’ve seen of him in the Champions League under Alex Ferguson, he’s more than ready to handle the physical and mental challenges that come with the approaching World Cup. If he’d been a regular fixture at centre-half for United, even for this season, you’d bet that he’d be Hodgson’s third pick behind Jagielka and Cahill. But as of now, would Hodgson be picking a centre-back or a utility man? How much will the fourth choice dictate Jones’ role this summer?
Needless to say, it’s a far more productive line of thinking than bringing Terry back. England have little to no chance of winning the World Cup in Brazil – and far from being pessimistic, it’s simply an acknowledgement of reality. But this summer can act as a very good arena of preparation for France in 2016, where the younger players will have the experience needed to properly tackle a major international tournament both on and off the field.
Terry’s inclusion simply blocks the development of a player who can be of greater use to England in the future. And that’s completely ignoring all the negative aspects his character brings.