News of Jack Wilshere’s absence from the England Under-21 squad has set tongues wagging. The rumour mill rumbles into gear about a possible call up to the senior squad for England’s friendly against Hungary this Wednesday, and as well as Wilshere; Theo Walcott, Micah Richards and Lee Cattermole have all also been left out.
The fact that there is an England friendly three days before the start of the Premiership season is of course inexplicable, and a ridiculous state of affairs, however that debate is for another day and the fact remains that there is an England game, so Capello must get as much as he can out of it.
This should be a team that contains ideas concerning the 2012 European Championships: the qualifying for the tournament, as well as any friendlies played in over the next two years should all be geared to preparing a team for that tournament. And not just for that tournament, but for years after that. This last World Cup performance should be both a chance to build something new, as well as an opportunity for the country to lower the levels of pressure and expectation.
There is no point in playing the likes of Ashley Cole, Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney in this fixture. It would take a drastic set of circumstances for these players to not be in the first team come 2012, and they will be an important part of qualifying for the tournament itself. There is nothing to be gained from Wayne Rooney, playing an England game in between the Charity Shield and first Premier League fixture of the season. That said, I don’t believe there should a complete overhaul of the entire squad for this game.
Any player that Capello doesn’t believe will make the 2012 squad, even at this early stage, shouldn’t really be included. Players such as Shaun Wright-Phillips, Jamie Carragher and Emile Heskey (although his retirement has pipped me to the post) conceivably are not going to part of the evolution of the England team, and so maybe now is the time to sever ties.
This game should be used as an opportunity to try the system or players that Capello would have considered, but may have been wary to try in a major tournament. Any players from the Under-21’s that may or may not be promoted to the squad, should be complimented by the players who went to South Africa, but were denied the chance to make an impression, or players who didn’t make the trip in the first place i.e. Adam Johnson, Michael Dawson, Stephen Warnock, Tom Huddlestone and Theo Walcott. In the case of Walcott, he hasn’t improved at perhaps the rate people were hoping, but it is too early to write him off, and he still has the potential to be a very good player.
The actual result of the game is irrelevant. Even after the World Cup, fans will much rather watch fresh players trying to express themselves, playing without restriction and fear. It is time to stop thinking in the short term; England will be forgiven for a quarter-final finish in 2012 if there are signs, and clear ones at that, not just talk of it, of genuine progress. If in two years, the England side looks like it is on the way to creating something progressive and sustainable, then that will excite England fans.
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