The injury problems just keep on mounting for Roy Hodgson an England. After the withdrawals of John Ruddy, Gareth Barry and Frank Lampard from the UEFA Euro 2012 squad, yesterday’s friendly against Belgium at Wembley finished off a fourth player, Chelsea defender Gary Cahill.
Cahill fractured his jaw in two places after being shunted into goalkeeper Joe Hart by Belgium’s Dries Mertens in the first half of England’s 1-0 win, crashing face first into Hart’s shoulder. It was quickly apparent that Cahill’s injury was a problematic one, and a scan confirmed the fracture and ruled out any prospect of Cahill joining England in Poland and Ukraine this summer.
As a massive fan and a bit of a cheerleader for Cahill, I’m more disappointed about this injury than any of the others. Cahill is going to be an England centre back for years to come, and he’ll deserve every success that comes on top of the UEFA Champions League and FA Cup medals already in his possession. He’s only going to get better and we’re lucky to have him. Sadly, it’s not to be just yet.
But it’s Cahill’s replacement that has caused something of a stir this afternoon. Rio Ferdinand and Micah Richards have again been overlooked, and Ferdinand’s agent has reportedly been relaying his client’s displeasure at this, suggesting perhaps that he maybe didn’t refuse to play alongside John Terry after all – or maybe not. So, who’s the lucky man? It’s Liverpool’s 22-year-old right back Martin Kelly, who made his international debut last weekend against Norway despite being named in neither the squad nor the standby list. Now, he’s inexplicably got himself a room in Hotel Stary.
While I’ve no objection to the selection of a young prospect at the expense of an older player who won’t be around for FIFA World Cup 2014, it’s difficult to justify Kelly’s call-up at this stage. He is now the sixth Liverpool player in the 23-man squad, a frankly stupefying ratio that completely ignores the fact that the Reds have been absolutely abject for much of Kelly’s young career. Hodgson, of course, used to be his manager at Anfield. Does he simply trust the likes of Kelly and Jordan Henderson because he knows them well, or is he mounting some bizarre appeasement campaign aimed at the Liverpool fans who shunned him?
It seems a strange fixation, but it needn’t have come to this. Hodgson’s back-up options in defence may well be limited by injuries, lack of quality and burned bridges, but he could easily have called up a midfielder to replace Cahill. He bolstered his defence by calling in Phil Jagielka when Barry pulled out of the squad, and he could have reversed that following Cahill’s injury.
But, everything being equal, Ferdinand has a right to be frustrated if indeed he had made himself available. Six Liverpool players being in this England squad is questionable at best, and Kelly’s inclusion throws an early spotlight on Hodgson’s judgement.
(Photo credit: Ben Sutherland via Flickr)