When England secured qualification for the World Cup back in October, the name on everyone’s lips was Andros Townsend.
Following a man-of-the-match performance against Montenegro, the 22-year-old followed it up four days later with another superb display in a 2-0 victory over Poland at Wembley.
These results ensured England would be hitting the big stage in Brazil and looked as though they had all but secured the Tottenham Hotspur winger's seat on the plane. Seven months later, Townsend's dreams were shattered after he was ruled out for 10 weeks with an ankle injury.
However, does the prospect of a squad without Townsend actually favour the Three Lions rather than hinder them?
Townsend has made 25 appearances in the Premier League this season, scoring just one goal (a cross-cum-shot against Aston Villa) and doesn’t have a single assist to his name.
For a winger who wants to play for England, these stats simply aren’t good enough, especially since his competitors have fared considerably better this campaign. Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck are already shoe-ins; with 30 goals and eight assists between them, it would be ludicrous for England manager Roy Hodgson not to include them.
Moreover, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Adam Lallana could benefit from Townsend’s absence. The Southampton skipper has been in sublime form all season, scoring nine and creating five goals for his teammates. It would be a travesty if Lallana misses out.
Oxlade-Chamberlain is probably sweating over his selection, especially as he is currently nursing an injury of his own. The 20-year-old has been in and out of the Arsenal side this season, but despite only making 14 appearances, he has bagged two goals and has two assists to his name – two more than Townsend despite playing fewer minutes.
Hodgson is clearly a fan of the naturally talented Townsend, but he still has much to learn and will no doubt get his chance to shine on the international stage in future. For this summer, England have in-form players who are more deserving of a World Cup place, which could make Townsend’s injury a blessing in disguise.