Has playing for England been cheapened?
To tell you the truth, I dread an International break. My stomach sinks upon the realization that Premier League football will take a back seat for two weeks, whilst we are treated to England scrapping through a qualification game somewhere in Eastern Europe on a Friday evening. What are you supposed to do the following Saturday?
It never used to be this way, but nowadays I struggle to muster up any sort of passion for the three lions. Call me unpatriotic, but thats the way it has been for some time. Maybe its the amount of times i’ve been let down by various England sides, and the realization that no matter what they will always disappoint in some way shape or form. Whilst that sounds negative, it has been the truth since I can remember.
No matter how many times England have left me numb with pain following a penalty shootout exit, they somehow always manage to win me back with the hope that next time will be different. During Euro 2012, regrettably I had a moment when I genuinely believed Uncle Woy was going to guide us to glory. I was bought back down to earth with a massive bump following our predictable shootout defeat, and swore never to let the three Lions seduce me again.
Alongside the ever lasting passion the England team has for building us up and knocking us down, another factor that leaves me feeling less than enthusiastic about an International break is the ever changing teams and squads put out before us. It’s been a struggle to keep up the last couple of years, with caps being handed out like confetti.
After the departure of the so called ‘Golden Generation’ in stepped Steve McClaren, and it all started from there. Out went Beckham, only to be called back after McClaren buckled under public demand. McClaren had a thing for resurrecting former players, and even bought Emile Heskey back into the fray, where he stayed long enough to enjoy another World Cup campaign under Fabio Capello.
The likes of Scott Carson, Jermaine Jenas, David Nugent, Nicky Shorey, Kevin Davies and Jay Bothroyd have all been awarded England caps under those two previous managers. As sweet as it is to give others a chance, it does make it hard for you to get excited about your country when you see those sorts of names on the team sheet.
To a certain degree it also cheapens the idea of playing for England. It doesn’t do say much for the quality of football you play, when you genuinley believe you yourself have a chance of being the next shock name called up after listening to squad announcement. “If David Nugent is in the squad then why the hell can’t I be?”
Whilst Roy Hodgson has made a decent start to life as England manager, he has continued in the same vein as his predecessors with regards to dishing out England call ups like they are going out of fashion.
Whilst all talented players, and fit into the ‘give youth a chance’ bracket, Hodgson has already called up the likes of Raheem Sterling, Adam Lallanna and now Jonjo Shelvey.
They are all very talented players and have bright futures ahead of them, but the sad truth is this is where England are at now. None of them have achieved anything in the game as yet, and yet are already on the verge of senior caps for the national team.
The World Cup squads of 1998, and 2002 were so strong, great players the likes of Paul Gascoigne, and Andy Cole missed out completely, whilst the likes of Teddy Sheringham, Paul Merson, Matt Le Tissier and Les Ferdinand struggled for any sort of playing time. Then came the ‘Golden Generation’ that so famously failed to deliver.
England have been trying to find there way and rebuild ever since, and it feels as though managers have been trying to stumble upon the next big thing almost by accident. But the likes of Bothroyd and Nugent earning call ups in truth has done nothing but scream desperation.
I think Hodgson will prove a good appointment for England. He has been calm and methodical if not spectacular so far, and seems to have the fans onside.
One thing I would like to see him do is select a settled first team and squad, that will be a real fight for any outsiders to break into. Obviously injuries and what not will dictate whether this is feasible, and England do not have the resources available that they used to.
But it would be nice to see that passion and belief that playing for your country is one of if not the biggest achievement you can manage, bought back into the England set up. No more handing out caps to anyone who has had half a decent season in the Championship.
It’s a slow and steady process, but Hodgson has made a decent start to his rebuilding job. Six points from six, and by the time the next International break comes around, I will probably be ready to give England yet another chance.
Do you think England caps have been handed out too cheaply in recent years? Or are the likes of Bothroyd and Carson the best England can produce at the moment? Follow me on Twitter @LukeGreenwood89 and let me know your thoughts.