With every World Cup comes the inevitable debate as to who should be picked and who should be left to watch the tournament at home.
Usually said discussions are pointless, with the England manager picking exactly who he was expected to select all along.
While when there is a surprise inclusion, it is almost inevitably a young player – a potential ace in the park.
And while a new debate then rages on as to whether precociousness trumps inexperience, there are those who bring up the old favourites; those players who have and seemingly always will be overlooked.
This article is about one such player – West Ham United’s Kevin Nolan.
To talk about Nolan in terms of an England call-up is nothing new. Since his outstanding performances for Bolton Wanderers fans have wondered what he has to do to earn a cap for his country.
Different people have different opinions, and that is the same when it comes to England football managers and the players they stake their reputation on. But for Nolan to have been overlooked time and again is most confusing when you consider some of those who have been selected in his place.
At the start of the current campaign, Nolan told the BBC that he had not yet given up on representing his country.
“I would love a call-up,” he said. “There is nothing that would make me and my family more proud.
“I think I have deserved a call throughout my career. When I see the people who have got caps, I think I should have had a few.”
At 31, Nolan is far from over-the-hill. In fact he could be exactly the catalyst England need when a goal is not forthcoming.
Scoring consecutive braces for the Hammers against Swansea City and Aston Villa did not just give his side a much-needed six points that propelled them up the table; it also took his tally to six goals and seven assists for the season.
When Roy Hodgson picks his final squad for Brazil 2014, there will almost inevitably be that one name that raises a few eyebrows – the player who is unlikely to offer much; the man who cannot be relied upon to score or provide a goal when required.
But were Nolan’s name on that list, those are exactly the kind of things he could offer. After all, who said the ace in the pack has to be a teenager?
image: © Ben Sutherland