With his tongue only a little in his cheek, Vincent Ralph considers four changes that could revolutionise the national side.
So after a week of drop-outs and debates, all is well with England again. Last night’s 8-0 win over San Marino saw three of the squad’s four strikers on the score sheet, a long-awaited reminder of what Ashley Young can do when he fancies it, and a confidence-boosting humiliation of a minnow prior to Tuesday’s clash with table-toppers Montenegro.
But the truth is England’s national team is in need of rejuvenation. Without it, we will continue with the general apathy that precedes many an international match these days; apathy not just for friendlies, but for games that actually matter, too.
So here are my suggestions to shake up the England squad. Should the newly-appointed FA Chairman Greg Dyke be reading this, he could do worse than instigate the following changes. It would make everything a whole lot more fun…and, to me at least, it makes perfect sense:
The Ranking System
Why do strikers who rarely find the net for their clubs automatically get picked for their country? And why do players who score bucket-loads get overlooked? The player who springs most readily to mind is Glenn Murray, a man who has scored only 10 goals less for Crystal Palace this season than Wayne Rooney, Jermain Defoe, Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge have scored between them.
If the 92 English league clubs had a ranking system, and the top-ranked players were those automatically picked for their country – that would lead to a squad picked solely on form.
For too long the England side has had the air of familiarity that opponents can use to their benefit. Of course there is a need to pick players who can perform on the world stage, but those players should have to earn it by their performances not their club badge.
And for those who argue it is easier to score in the Championship, or easier to keep a clean-sheet in League One, the ranking system could take that into account. If every two goals in the second tier equalled one in the top flight, Murray would still have 15 this season. Surely that warrants a call-up?
The Wild Card Cap
Hands up who could name the England squad before it was announced…or most of it at least. The truth is the announcement of every new side is an exercise in inevitability. There is rarely a shock, rarely the inclusion or omission of someone the world assumed would never be chosen or overlooked.
But if every England squad contained a Wild Card entry, if the fans could vote for anyone eligible and every squad contained a “people’s choice” – that would liven things up.
And there would be no voting for Fat Barry who plays for the Dog and Duck. Only professional players would be eligible. The rest would be down to the fans.
The Manager Vote
When Fabio Capello left his post back in February, the world and his dog said Harry Redknapp was his inevitable replacement. And yet it was Roy Hodgson to whom the FA turned.
But when the public is entrusted with voting for the man who leads the country…why shouldn’t they vote for the one who leads its football team, too?
Only “actual” managers would count. Perhaps the criteria would go on to state that they would need to have been managing for at least a decade and have one major competition to their name. Whatever the criteria, the decision should be put in the hands of people who actually make them, not those who have shown – most recently in the case of Callum McManaman – that decisions (good ones at least) are too often beyond them.
The Home International
From what I can see, the only purposes of football friendlies are to make money and play against teams from different continents, to get used to their different tactics and styles. But the truth is, football is football. And playing Paraguay for fun doesn’t prepare you for Brazil in a World Cup quarter-final.
Far better to play “competitive friendlies”, against sides that genuinely want to beat us: our neighbours for whom bragging rights are only the beginning.
What do you think of these ideas? And what changes would you make to improve our national game?
image: © TiM BiG