England follow up their four-point start to their FIFA World Cup 2014 qualifying with two matches in the next couple of weeks. First, San Marino return to Wembley after a long absence to get what we all hope will be a spanking next Friday. After that it’s a quick return to Poland for England, this time to Warsaw to play for Poland. If you’re going to have a flutter, check out the offers at FREEbets.
Hodgson’s squad selection is likely to raise a few eyebrows thanks to a couple of surprise inclusions, although supporters of the players involved will argue that their call-ups are deserved and, in the case of Stoke City’s Ryan Shawcross, overdue. By the way, congratulations Ryan.
These two matches couldn’t be more different. San Marino should, as always, be a challenge akin to persuading Gary Barlow to eat a cake. But Poland away is a game that brings together the triple threat of a team better than its FIFA World Rankings position suggests, a number of excellent players and a tricky visit to one of England’s toughest rivals in the group.
Hodgson’s selection in full:
Fraser Forster (Celtic), Joe Hart (Manchester City), John Ruddy (Norwich City)
Former Newcastle United goalkeeper Fraser Forster, a product of the famous Wallsend Boys Club, has been given his first England call-up alongside Joe Hart and John Ruddy. The 24-year-old turned a long-term loan at Scottish Premier League leaders (winners) Celtic permanent in June and has continued to impress under Neil Lennon.
He replaces Jack Butland, whose call-up for the England Under-21s and subsequent senior omission most likely reflects the importance of the next two games to be played by Stuart Pearce’s side, namely the UEFA Euro 2013 playoff matches against Serbia. Those games will be played not just in the same international break as England’s first team qualifiers, but on the same nights.
Leighton Baines (Everton), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), Kieran Gibbs (Arsenal), Phil Jagielka (Everton), Glen Johnson (Liverpool), Joleon Lescott (Manchester City), Ryan Shawcross (Stoke City), Kyle Walker (Tottenham Hotspur)
Shawcross steps into the John Terry-shaped hole in the squad, a reward for his early season form for Stoke. He’s a player who hasn’t necessarily stood out to me as an England centre back for a couple of years now, but more than one Stoke fan has alerted me to his performances of late. He joins the squad alongside the established trio of Gary Cahill, Joleon Lescott and Phil Jagielka, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if he found himself out on the Wembley turf for a brief appearance next Friday.
Of course, the headlines will be dominated by the non-story of Rio Ferdinand’s non-selection. It had been suggested that Terry’s retirement could open the door for Ferdinand’s return, but for Hodgson to bring him back into the fold rather than using Terry’s exit as an opportunity to move on completely would have been a grievous error.
Michael Carrick (Manchester United), Tom Cleverley (Manchester United), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Adam Johnson (Sunderland), Aaron Lennon (Tottenham Hotspur), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), James Milner (Manchester City), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Theo Walcott (Arsenal)
Hodgson’s England midfield is beginning to develop into quite a solid unit. Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley of Manchester United are now familiar faces in the squad, and Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard are – whether we like it or not – going to be allowed to continue with their country. On quality terms alone, we can at least know they are reliable performers at this level.
England also now have a variety of options. Cleverley alone can fulfil more than one role, and, however Hodgson sets up his midfield core, he can supplement it with the trickery of Adam Johnson, the industry of James Milner, the pace of Theo Walcott or the energy and invention of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. It’s a level of flexibility that hasn’t always been available to England managers (often through their own shortcomings).
Hodgson welcomes back Tottenham Hotspur’s flying winger Aaron Lennon, who made his international debut six years ago but has clocked up just 19 caps. Like Shawcross and Forster, Lennon’s start to the season has been an impressive one and he brings yet another option to the table as Hodgson looks to unlock Poland’s defence what could be a problematic Warsaw visit.
Andy Carroll (West Ham United), Jermain Defoe (Tottenham Hotspur), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Danny Welbeck (Manchester United)
Jermain Defoe’s good form for club and country continues, and makes him an obvious selection and a real contender to start against at least San Marino. Danny Welbeck should also see some action in that game – in fact, England should really be looking to rack up the goals throughout the team.
In such a quest, they’ll be helped by the respective returns of West Ham United loanee Andy Carroll and Manchester United forward Wayne Rooney, who both rejoin the England squad after missing out against Moldova and Ukraine through injury. Peter Crouch, Darren Bent and Daniel Sturridge miss out, while Rickie Lambert appears to be out of the picture entirely.
What do you think of the squad, and in particular the newcomers? Are they deserving additions?
(Photo credit: Ronnie MacDonald via Flickr)