Roy Hodgson and England have suffered yet another injury problem in the build-up to the upcoming FIFA World Cup 2014 qualifying matches against San Marino and Montenegro. Chelsea defender Gary Cahill has been ruled out of the first of the two matches with an injury but will be reassessed ahead of the visit to Montenegro next Tuesday.
As a result of Cahill’s injury, Hodgson has been forced to draft in another central defender for the Group H game in San Marino on Friday. Phil Jagielka, Rio Ferdinand and Michael Dawson are all absent from a squad in which they either were or would have been selected, and Joleon Lescott and Steven Caulker have been brought in to replace them.
With another needed, Hodgson has turned to Newcastle United’s Steven Taylor, the former England Under-21 captain who picked up almost 30 caps and has also represented England as a B-international. Despite having been called up before, Taylor has not yet been awarded a senior cap.
The 27-year-old can be a divisive player. Critics will point out one or two instances of feigning injury and irritating antics at free kicks, the kind of Allardyce-inspired behaviour a team of Newcastle’s quality doesn’t need, but there have long been calls for his inclusion in the senior England squad.
Taylor hasn’t always been at the top of his game – injuries haven’t helped in that regard – but Magpies supporters and interested neutrals alike have been singing his praises again this season, arguing that the characteristics that earned him an impressive reputation prior to their season in the Championships now define his game one more.
What has been most starkly demonstrated this week is that England’s strength at centre back, until fairly recently a spot considered well covered, has all but disappeared. Serviceable Premier League defenders are really all Hodgson has at his disposal, a rather poor state of affairs. In an ideal world England wouldn’t need to turn to Ferdinand in the first place, but the talent pool is thin and seems to be getting thinner.
Still, let’s keep picking 34-year-olds and trying to win a trophy next year. That’s just the kind of shortsightedness that’s bound to work.
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