England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung

From the moment Costa Rica defeated Italy 71 days ago to send England out of the World Cup finals, the visit of Norway loomed large in the minds of the Football Association as one of those friendly internationals that could turn into anything but a friendly occasion.

The pitfalls were obvious at the time: a nondescript opponent, swathes of empty red seats, a disgruntled mood among those who had come and an England team lacking the dynamism to restore even a little faith. If that World Cup qualifying defeat in Oslo in 1981 was, to quote the late great Norwegian commentator Bjorge Lillelien, one hell of a beating, then imagine what a flat performance this time around will do for Hodgson.

And so it came to pass that Hodgson was forced to select a 22-man squad today that will have done little to enthuse a dubious home audience that the future for England post-golden generation is one that promises to glow brightly.

Hodgson knew that this initial post-Brazil examination, before the more serious test against Switzerland in Basel a week on Monday, the first Euro 2016 qualifier, would be a slog. He accepted with the usual good grace that he would be on the back foot again following the World Cup group-stage exit, but he probably did not think that he would have to contend with injuries to 12 players under his consideration.

Some of the injured, like Michael Carrick and Andy Carroll, were not in his World Cup squad despite being available then; while others, such as Ross Barkley, Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw and Theo Walcott, are much more fundamental to Hodgson’s plans. Either way, it feels that there are squads that come around every couple of years when an England manager is forced to eke out his resources that little bit more – and this was one of them.

That is not simply reflected in the new names in the squad – Jack Colback, Danny Rose, Calum Chambers and Fabian Delph – but more in the lack of experience beyond Wayne Rooney, the new captain with 95 caps and way out on his own in terms of an international career. Rooney has scored 40 goals for England while the rest of the 21 men in the squad have 27 between them.

Chambers, an impressive performer for Arsenal this season, as he was at Southampton, always looked likely to be an England footballer one day, just not so soon. He has, in Hodgson’s words, “bypassed” the Under-21s, which shows what three consecutive starts in the first team of a top four Premier League club can do for your career. Colback, Rose and Delph have all enjoyed solid starts to the season but the unavoidable feeling is that they have earned their call-ups by default.

At this time of year, the FA’s player resources are stretched to their very limits with two Under-21s European Championship qualifiers and an Under-20s game at Telford in international week – as well as the seniors. The respective squads of Gareth Southgate and Aidy Boothroyd feature some interesting names but those among them who are playing first-team football, with a few exceptions, tend to be doing so outside the Premier League.

Hodgson contemplates a gathering storm of dwindling numbers of English footballers at the nation’s best clubs – there are only three in his senior squad from Manchester City and Chelsea combined – and post-World Cup apathy. He acknowledged the country was suffering from a bad case of “post-World Cup depression and disappointment” but questioned what else he could do.

Video: Roy Hodgson's press conference

Hodgson said: “They [the players] are what we have. People can say to me ‘Well, if you had chosen a different XI; if you had dismissed all of these ones and brought something else in it would be something different’, but that is not the case. The case is we have these players. I believe in them, I think they are going to be good enough. Especially if they continue to get their chances at club teams. I think they will develop. I think in 2016 we will see a good England team.”

Even taking into account a difficult first qualifier against Switzerland, 11 places above England in the Fifa rankings in ninth, it would take a monumental effort of incompetence not to reach Euro 2016, where even third place should be good enough to qualify for the 24-team tournament. More of a concern this time is the state England will be in by that summer.

It has reached the stage when the inclusion of players not being picked by their club sides has ceased to be remarkable, given how often it happens. Danny Welbeck and James Milner are the two obvious candidates from this latest squad but there are others too. “It is a fact that 10 years or even five years ago, it was unthinkable for someone who was playing for England that they would not be first choice in their club team,” Hodgson said. “I don’t have that luxury any more.

“Now I need to select players who aren’t even guaranteed a starting place in their club teams because of the way the Premier League has developed. That is where we are and where we are working. We are trying to come to terms with it and deal with it. If it means working with a younger team with potential and it costs us leaders, I can’t wave the magic wand and bring back a leader in defence, with one or two in midfield and one or two up front.”

Of course, no one is sure whether this is simply a difficult phase the English game is heading into, soon to be remedied by the Elite Player Performance Plan and a new generation of players schooled in the modern academies, or a terminal decline.

“I don’t think we’re heading for mediocrity,” Hodgson said. “I think there’s great potential. There’s hope. It’s not going to be solved overnight. For years you’ve watched players you’ve believed in and admired, but unfortunately they haven’t produced the results you would have wanted them to achieve.”

Achieving those results was, Hodgson said, “going to be even harder”. He is going to battle on in front of what could be a crowd of less than 40,000 at Wembley on Wednesday, which would be a record low for an England game in the new stadium. Typically, given the English devotion, it would still be one of the biggest international attendances around Europe.

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
News
people
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced