- Top Tens
Hodgson's most glaring omissions
Having taken a look at Roy Hodgson's 23-man Euro 2012 squad, we are left with the view that England have very little chance of winning the tournament, and so should, wherever possible, give promising young players exposure to international football (with a peppering of veterans that still have something in the tank, too - and we acknowledge there's no point of picking people just because they're young).
With that in mind, we propose ten names who should be on the plane to Poland and Ukraine - but aren't…
The mystery of why Liverpool's Glen Johnson continues to be preferred to Richards rumbles on, particularly after the latter made 29 Premier League appearances for a title-winning Manchester City side. Yes, there are reservations about Richards' positioning, and yes, he can be a bit rash - but then those barbs could just as easily be aimed at Johnson. Perhaps even more worryingly, there is no specialist back-up right-back, with Phil Jones - who has never looked particularly comfortable there - the most likely candidate if Johnson's fitness fails him.
For Richards, see Simpson. No-one is disputing that Jones should be in the squad, yet surely there is a case to be made for Simpson, a young, natural right-back who has enjoyed a fine season in an emerging Newcastle team. We bet that Sir Alex Ferguson has a few regrets about letting the former United youngster leave Old Trafford.
Manchester United midfielder Carrick is a shrewd reader of the game and a fine distributor from deep positions, even when under pressure - two attributes that have to be valued highly when it comes to international football. He made 30 Premier League appearances for United this season - only four players made more - and at 30, given the cerebral way he plays the game, should be hitting his prime. He's maybe not the quickest across the turf, but that hasn't stopped Gareth Barry, Frank Lampard - well, take your pick of most of the midfielders - from being selected. There have been reports Carrick asked not to be considered, but Adrian Bevington, managing director of Club England, said he would have been willing to play if really needed - which, to be honest, he probably is.
OK, there were concerns over his fitness - but even then, it had to be worth the gamble. Most of Wayne Rooney's best performances this season have been alongside Danny Welbeck, and that will surely be England's strike partnership at the Euros when Rooney's ban expires. Bent is in a similar mould to Welbeck: great movement, an ability to both hold up the ball and run in behind, using his lightning pace. He's as good a goalscorer as Jermain Defoe, who did make the squad, and is a better all-round player. Given the lack of striking depth, the Aston Villa man had to make the 23.
This isn't a slight on the selection of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, which seems to acknowledge (unlike many other picks) that England need to blood their most exciting starlets. But one of the central midfielders, or even the plodding, limited James Milner, could have made way for Spurs' Lennon, who at 25 (and only just turned 25) is still young enough to play at several more tournaments for England. Who has taken his place? Ol' no goals, no assists Stewart Downing, who must have been selected to reprise his hugely successful club partnership with Andy Carroll, which has yielded… no goals.
Whatever the rationale for not taking him, neither of the two suggested theories make any sense. If it was a straight shootout between Ferdinand and John Terry, as Hodgson has implied, then Ferdinand's more refined style of defending, all sharp interceptions rather than last-ditch lunges, seem better suited to the highest level. And if it's because of injury worries, then well, we're not buying that either: only two players started more Premier League games for Manchester United this season. He began more than several young turks who either are or would have been in the squad: Ashley Young, Jones, Welbeck, Chris Smalling. Maybe Ferdinand has lost a yard of pace, but he's still a terrific defender: the pace is all he's lost, and he has adapted his game to compensate, as per Ferguson's instruction. And besides, does anyone really think Terry had a better season?
Johnson has the tendency to infuriate, but his fearless approach to playing, taking players on and being willing to take a risk, should have found him a place on the plane. He is the kind of player who makes things happen, and one who has a bright future - although he may need a move away from Manchester City to really make things happen in his career. That said, he managed to force his way into the team more often than you'd think, making as many Premier League appearances as Milner, and netting six times in ten starts (compare that to Downing). Would have been a really useful impact sub to have, which just isn't something you can say about Milner or Downing.
Very similar player to Adam Johnson - ie. one with a bright future, who you'd expect to feature at future tournaments, and who, despite occasionally making the wrong decision, does not play with the paralysing inhibition that has held back England players for so long. Gets extra points for his versatility, and has proven his goalscoring ability - 11 in the Premier League for Chelsea - which would have come in handy given the striker shortage caused by Rooney's suspension.
While Henderson has undeniably been through a patchy season at Liverpool since his big-money move from Sunderland, he has impressed sporadically - and enough to show he has undoubted potential. Would he really have been a worse option than, say, Lampard, who has proven down the years that he is awkward to fit into an England starting XI, and leaves the team looking imbalanced when managers try to do so. Henderson would also have provided the energy which looks to be sorely lacking in midfield.
We don't mean to keep picking on Downing - but well, the whole no goals or assists thing makes it hard not to. Another more productive candidate for a wing position is Swansea's Sinclair, who contributed eight goals as the Swans, playing the sort of possession football that usually holds the key to international success, took the Premier League by storm. As well as having a healthy attitude to hard work on the pitch, he's also an excellent penalty taker, which can't hurt given the way England usually exit these major tournaments.