England World Cup squad: Roy Hodgson opts for youth – but then talent pool left him little choice

England manager gets in muddle over Cole’s exclusion but otherwise cannot be faulted for his explanation of the squad

In the recent past the Football Association has chosen Café Royal or Wembley Stadium to announce the names of the men the England manager had selected to represent their country at a World Cup finals, but this time, Roy Hodgson was delivered to a quiet street in Luton. The sponsors are king these days so it was to Vauxhall Motors in a Vauxhall motor that Hodgson travelled for the 2014 World Cup finals squad reveal.

Hodgson’s commercial obligations to the FA have led him a merry dance at times, whether it is to Barnet to promote Mars Bars, or to Bedfordshire to the home of UK van production, although give him his due, his spirit never flags. There was a nice fit about Vauxhall, nobly maintaining one of the remaining vestiges of the nation’s native car industry, and a manager making the best of the dwindling numbers of elite English footballers.

As for the squad itself, this was not only the best way to go; it was the only way for Hodgson to go. Greg Dyke’s commission report into the falling number of English players in the Premier League will have given Hodgson a clear idea as to how reduced his options were in relation to his European counterparts. His squad list only confirmed that to be the case, its limitations expressed in some of the older generation with whom he filled his stand-by list, including the 32-year-old Michael Carrick and Jermain Defoe, 31.

 

In their place, Hodgson went for the young players who have excelled this season, including Luke Shaw, Ross Barkley and Raheem Sterling as well as, on stand-by, John Stones – as the potential replacement for the injured Phil Jones – and Jon Flanagan. If that nurtures a welcome feeling of hope for English football then Hodgson was at pains to point out he did not do it as some kind of gesture to the future; he did it because these players had been the best performers this season.

He was asked by one television reporter whether the squad was, like a Vauxhall car, “dependable, well-made, well-organised, full of energy but ultimately a little bit ordinary”, the kind of bear-trap from which there is no easy escape. Hodgson’s sidestepped it with as much good grace as possible. The FA’s German counterparts, the Deutscher Fussball-Bund are sponsored by Mercedes-Benz and one imagines no-one dares ask Joachim Löw the same questions about them.

As for the squad, it begs the question, who else was he supposed to select? France may be able to consider leaving behind Samir Nasri; Argentina can afford not to pick Carlos Tevez and Spain’s embarrassment of riches mean that Juan Mata might not make the squad, but that is not an option for the England manager.

He has taken a risk that he feels justifiable on the fitness of Jack Wilshere, who has played 27 minutes since cracking that navicular bone in his foot on 5 March. He has selected two uncapped players in his stand-by squad and a further eight outfield players who have 10 caps or less. It is a sign of the relatively inexperienced profile of his squad that Glen Johnson, with 50 caps, is his fourth most seasoned international.

Only on the question of Ashley Cole’s exclusion did Hodgson get himself in something of a tangle, conceding that were Leighton Baines to pick up an injury early in the tournament then that decision could backfire on him. Hodgson said: “I’ve heard this: ‘What if Leighton Baines got injured, wouldn’t Ashley Cole be the right answer?’ And of course the answer to that is ‘Yes, he would be, without a doubt’. But Ashley Cole isn’t really a cover player.”

Hodgson has been down this road before with his assumption that Rio Ferdinand would not be suitable to take to Euro 2012 on the basis that he would not be first choice, a train of logic that feels more convenient for the England manager to follow than a reflection of a player’s state of mind. One suspects that Cole would accept the odds of being Baines’ understudy at a World Cup finals, but it sounds like he never got the option.

Later Hodgson said: “If you’re going to take a very good young player like [Luke] Shaw without experience you really need to take three left-backs. You need two seniors because of injury and the other one. You can’t do that. Twenty-three players did not give me the luxury of three left-backs.” Asked whether that was a reason not to take Shaw, Hodgson cheerfully admitted, “I’m losing track here.”

The obvious answer to the doubts being expressed over Shaw’s capacity potentially to deputise for Baines was to argue that the 18-year-old, soon to become a Manchester United player, was ready, but Hodgson seems to harbour doubts over that. His ideal scenario is that Baines stays fit throughout, a fair assumption, and that Shaw gets enough of a taste of the action to launch his international career.

Hodgson was more sure-footed when it came to the question of whether England could win the tournament, always a tricky proposition in a nation that balances acute cynicism with a deep distrust of any manager who shares their own pessimism. “I want to win it. But if you’re asking me my minimum expectation I’m saying I don’t have one. I expect us to play well. I expect us to do well. I expect us to live up to the qualities I think we have but I am not going to quantify it in the terms you want me to quantify it.”

He has known his squad since mid-April, he said, and was hoping that nothing would change his mind after that. The statistics will have told him that, with the possible exception of Stones, the chances of a top English footballer emerging in the last few months were always going to be slim.

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

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor