In what’s been a season that’s seen Leicester City players shot into the spotlight and international stage, one man seems to have been forgotten: Marc Albrighton.
Where his fellow team-mates N’Golo Kanté and Jamie Vardy have rightly made their international debuts for France and England respectively this season, Albrighton is yet to receive the call from manager Roy Hodgson.
Albrighton has appeared for both the U20 and U21 England sides and now, at the age of 26, has shown this season he deserves the biggest stage of all.
Breaking into the Aston Villa squad in the 2009-10 season, Albrighton was a prominent figure under Martin O’ Neill as Villa looked to make the Champions League places. The midfielder looked like he was going to earn an England debut then, but it never materialised and Albrighton’s career began to stall.
Loaned out to Wigan Athletic in 2013 it looked as though that early promise would prove futile. To cap it off, Albrighton was released by Villa in 2014 before being signed on a free by Leicester. He became a forgotten man, just another player to have featured in the Premier League. How times have changed, as he has been a regular fixture in the Foxes side ever since, and Albrighton looks to be back at his best in their quest for the title.
The key to England’s success at Euro 2016 is going to be them being able to spring some surprises against the biggest sides. Over the years England have been a very predictable opponent at tournaments, whether that be through tiredness after a long domestic season or simply not being technically good enough. This year, though, one thing England can boast is that they have a much younger team that the opposition won’t know much about.
Marc Albrighton offers something that few other English players do in the sense of how direct his running is. The winger has always been able to take on his opposing full back and deliver a cross – and looking at England’s squad, that ability is lacking.
There are of course players that can beat men, Ross Barkley and Raheem Sterling are two that will be on the plane who certainly can. Likewise, there are some players that will travel to France that can cross a ball, James Milner has 11 assists this calendar year, many from wide positions. But in terms of combining both attributes only Marc Albrighton seems to have this at the moment.
Then consider who might go instead of Albrighton. Theo Walcott, Ashley Young and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain all might consider themselves with good chances of making the squad. But have they done as well as Albrighton this year or even played as consistently well? The likely answer is no.
This isn’t to say that Albrighton will be the first name on the teamsheet but he should be in the squad to ensure Hodgson has the option of what the right midfielder can offer. There may be times at the Euros where England need to stretch the play and get some more width, currently England look a very narrow team with players like the aforementioned Sterling preferring to cut inside.
Albrighton offers width, crossing ability and the element of the unknown that the England squad seems to be embracing this year. For these reasons, he deserves a Euro spot.