Focus this week has shifted from the Premier League to the national side, with fans eager to see some sign that England can finally overturn nearly half a century of hurt. We are all resigned to the fact that the summer will end in inevitable pain, bowing out to a controversial goal or worse still the dreaded penalty shoot-out.
But it doesn’t have to be like this; if Hodgson was willing to stick his neck out and pick on form we may still be able to avoid the heartache.
Mark Noble has been in remarkable form this season for West Ham, and perhaps more interestingly he ranks as the 5th best penalty taker in Europe; surely worth a punt for Hodgson? Noble is alongside the likes of Baines in an elite group that haven’t’ missed a league penalty since 2009, maybe there is hope yet for England. With Rooney and Gerrard also sneaking into the top 50 maybe it is time that England prayed for penalties; oh the irony.
I’m not for one minute suggesting you should pick a player because he can take penalties. This isn’t the NFL where a player can be paid millions to just take placed kicks. In the case of Noble his penalty taking ability is just the icing on the cake for a player that has almost single handedly steered his boyhood club West Ham away from the relegation mire.
It just doesn’t make sense to overlook Noble for England, but for one reason or another the FA just don’t seem to see his abilities. Noble is too often written off as a hard worker, but fans of West Ham will know that he offers so much more than that. Sure he is the engine of the team, but at the same time he has the technical ability to excel at international level.
There does seem to be a real aversion to selecting players from struggling sides; for me Noble sits alongside the likes of Delph and Huddlestone in the collection of footballers that have wrongfully been overlooked by England. There are far too many players that are holding spots on reputation rather than form, and this is an incredibly dangerous way of playing things.
I think we all want to see an England team built upon meritocracy, making brave selections rather than unadventurous ones. How can we find out if Noble is cut out for England is he is never given a shot?
It would take a lot of things to change in quite a short amount of time for Noble to make the plane to Brazil, with the likes of Cleverley being undeservedly preferred to the impressive Noble.
If England really want to challenge this summer it is about taking risks, and unfortunately the FA look pretty set in the way they want to do things. Picking Noble would send a message out to those on the cusp that there isn’t this pomposity and discrimination towards smaller clubs.
Is Hodgson totally wrong to overlook penalty-taking maestro Noble?