West Ham’s brilliant season has been somewhat overlooked considering the ground-breaking Leicester City story.
Slaven Bilic has built a well-organised and aesthetically pleasing Hammers side and won over a group of fans that had grown irritated with Sam Allardyce’s one-dimensional approach to the beautiful game. The success of this season could yet see the Irons sneak into the Champions League qualification zone ahead of their move to the Olympic Stadium, too. The club is flying in the right direction.
Everything looks set fair for West Ham in the remainder of 2016. Their team is settled, the owners are willing to invest and the manager is clearly committed. Yet, for some unknown reason, Roy Hodgson seems to passionately oppose placing faith in West Ham’s stars for England. Mark Noble, James Tomkins and Aaron Cresswell all deserve at least a shot at proving themselves as international footballers, but Hodgson seems reluctant to even give them a run out.
In an era of English football where the left-field picks are getting more than a fair share of caps, it seems odd that West Ham’s leading names are yet to really have been given a chance. Tomkins, for instance, has made 22 Premier League starts for West Ham this season and averaged five interceptions and tackles per game. The England set-up is hardly blessed with top central defenders at the moment and Tomkins must be the next one in line to pull on the Three Lions jersey, yet a cap has not made it to his doorstep thus far. West Ham have previously produced some of England’s greatest ever players, but, after a yo-yoing few years, there isn’t the same vogue around the club.
Allardyce’s tenure set the building blocks for Bilic’s rejuvenation, but the damage that has done to the image of the club is still affecting many of these players. West Ham are yet to re-establish themselves as a ‘fashionable’ team and it could be some time until they are back in the reckoning as a club to select England players from.
Hodgson has blatantly refused to recognise Andy Carroll as an England option for this summer – well, not in as many words. Carroll, due to injury and strength in depth, will not feel as hard done by as some of his team-mates.
Noble has been knocking on the Three-Lion-embossed England door for years and this year of all years he is most deserving of a call-up. Danny Drinkwater has been given his chance in the spotlight and Michael Carrick is still being considered, yet Noble can’t even get a call-up, something isn’t quite fair. England have a clear weakness in central midfield and Noble would make an ideal foil for the attacking exploits of Dele Alli – so why hasn’t Hodgson picked him? Perhaps the England boss will give the West Ham skipper a go in the upcoming friendlies, but I wouldn’t hold your breath, Hammers. Noble would previously have represented the ‘nearly men’ of international football, now he is as deserving of a call-up as anyone.
Moving on to Cresswell. England have a lot of depth at left-back, admittedly, but Cresswell has arguably been the best of the lot. Of the contenders, Ryan Bertrand is the only other who has been playing regularly and showing good form. There is a definite fashionability about certain clubs and specific times and, although West Ham are on their way out of this, there is a cloud hanging over the club at the moment. Hodgson seems disinterested in selecting players who have out-performed many of their more established counterparts, despite largely overhauling the England squad of late.
The most bizarre part of it all is that Hodgson has been willing to throw players like Alli, Ross Barkley and Eric Dier in at the deep end. This England manager is not afraid to take risks with squad selection, nor is he bound by who the media say he should pick. Previous England bosses have always stuck to the big names as they are afraid to upset anyone, not Hodgson.
It all seem to surround West Ham’s time under Allardyce. ‘Big Sam’ leaves clubs in a solid position, but their reputation as a producer of quality football(ers) is diminished. It will take some time to rebuild this and that may be too little, too late for players like Mark Noble.