Hodgson likely to play it safe... but how about a quick call to Joe Cole?


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The Independent Football

There was a time when Jordan Henderson was seen as one of the hottest young properties in the country. Back then, and this was only 18 months ago, Sunderland fought off regular stories about interest from Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool. He went to the latter and his lot, as he sits in the wings to potentially replace Frank Lampard, who left the England training camp with a thigh injury yesterday, could not be much lower.

That Henderson has not delivered is without question. Two goals and one assist was the sum of his 37 Premier League games last season, his failure one of the numerous factors that cost Kenny Dalglish his job.

In an ideal world Henderson would be exiting stage right, miles away from the spotlight as he bids to repair his battered confidence. It is sometimes worth remembering that the North-east midfielder is just 21. However, as Roy Hodgson is quickly finding out, we are not in ideal times right now. From feast has come famine.

You can still not argue too much with Scott Parker (holding) and Steven Gerrard (pushing on) as the central midfield pairing. In the 4-4-2 formation favoured by the new England manager, that would be pretty close to the first choice pairing every time.

However, these are two players who have missed chunks of the season just finished through injury. Gerrard especially struggled, starting fewer than half of Liverpool's games last season.

If injury strikes, the growing realism is that we may be at the breaking point. Perhaps now there should be discrete phone calls to Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick, who are required more than Henderson to offer guile, experience and belief to the core of the England side. Either of these players could offer experienced cover – but they have made it clear they will not pick up.

Now that Gareth Barry, Jack Wilshere and potentially Lampard have limped out of Euro 2012, it is time to realise what people of knowledge in the English game have been saying for years – that the pool of talent is getting too small. Tom Cleverley is one name that will come to the fore in coming seasons, but he too has seen his campaign and momentum wrecked by injury.

There is one further wildcard pick that Hodgson could call on, but the 64-year-old does not come across as the man for two gambles in his squad, having already opted for the 18 year old Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in his initial squad of 23 players.

In Lille, where the local football team has just finished third in Ligue One to qualify for the Champions League, supporters sing the Beatles tune, "Hey Jude", replacing the words with "Joe Cole". Cole can play many positions in midfield and has the experience at this level of competition that Henderson does not. There have been worse suggestions.