The Tottenham captain has looked assured in his side’s positive start to the new campaign, but has been overlooked by Three Lions manager Roy Hodgson.
An unsung hero of Tottenham’s record points total last season and positive to start to this term is undoubtedly captain Michael Dawson. At one point supposedly on the verge of leaving White Hart Lane after Andre Villas-Boas’ appointment, the commanding centre-half is now an important man in Spurs’ top-four ambitions.
Despite this, Dawson has been overlooked for the England squad for upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Moldova and Ukraine. In his place Chris Smalling is included in an area that looks devoid of leaders.
Smalling has yet to play one single minute of Manchester United’s Premier League campaign, and only featured in 15 games over the entirety of last term due to injury. What has he done to deserve inclusion in the squad? Is it because he plays (sits on the bench) for Manchester United?
There is a case that Smalling’s versatility means he could cover right-back if necessary. However the presence of Kyle Walker, Glen Johnson and Phil Jones, who currently plays that position at club level ahead of Smalling, makes the argument defunct.
When fit and on form Smalling has shown that he has exceptional physical abilities and certainly has the potential to be a star for club and country in the future. However, this has rarely been seen since 2011-12 due to lack of opportunities and injuries at Old Trafford.
With no John Terry or Rio Ferdinand, England look distinctly lacking in leaders at the heart of their defence. The inclusion of Smalling, Jones, Phil Jagielka and Gary Cahill will not fill the England fans with any level of confidence, with the Everton man, who is not guaranteed to play, the closest thing to a domineering figure.
More than likely the players that Hodgson has picked will be good enough to overcome the challenges of the eastern European sides, but with a World Cup less than 12 months away the manager needs a real leader at the back.
Dawson wears his heart on his sleeve every week for Tottenham and inspires those around him. Jan Vertonghen may be the more technically gifted of Spurs’ two centre halves, but the Englishman adds the bite and determination that wins over the White Hart Lane faithful’s heart.
There are question marks over his pace, but he is no slower that Jagielka or Cahill. His positional sense has come on leaps and bounds, while he is strong in the tackle and in the air.
With Smalling included as a centre-half option, surely a match-fit captain of a top-six side is better than an injury prone Manchester United substitute???
image: © Mick Baker