Prior to England’s departure for the 2010 World Cup, it was clear that Fabio Capello was placing the hopes of the nation on experienced ‘names’. We all know how that turned out. Now, four years on, it is clear that Roy Hodgson has learnt from his predecessor’s mistakes.
By selecting a hungry group of young starlets, alongside one or two experienced pros as guides, Hodgson has placed trust in a team that will not be afraid to attack, pass the ball and, to put it bluntly, have a go. The club performances from the likes of Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain, Adam Lallana and Jack Wilshere show that they want to play attractive football and to display this on the biggest stage.
Much credit should be given to the manager for this as their first tournament experience under him at Euro 2012 basically resembled, in the words of a BBC commentator, “Gerrard’s long pass to Carroll”. Yes, it may have taken time, but Hodgson’s intentions are now to implement a more expansive style of play and his squad choice clearly reflects this.
Some may argue that the FA are more concerned with the selection of ‘names’ over talents. The omission of Ashley Cole is a prime example of how they have moved on from this. Cole has been one of England’s best players for the last 10 years. However, this past season he has struggled to reproduce his previous form. This was recognised and Leighton Baines was promoted to first-choice left-back. Clearly, Hodgson has no qualms in selecting players on form and not on reputation. Compare this to the selection of Ledley King and Emile Heskey by Capello in 2010.
This squad also provides a frank response to those who are questioning England’s competitive home-grown talent. To deploy academy-reared starlets in such major tournaments will not only help their development but that of other young players thinking that such appearances will only occur in the latter part of their careers. Those who say England cannot produce young talent any more may well be proved wrong by the displays of Luke Shaw, Raheem Sterling and others in Brazil.
It is perhaps impossible to speculate on how far the Three Lions will progress in Brazil. However, England fans will feel enormous pride in watching a youthful, attacking team which was selected on form and nothing else.