Tuesday 28th May 2013
Well, what d’ya know, another hypocritical England manager with no bottle. Yes, I am talking about Roy Hodgson and his handling of Southampton striker Rickie Lambert. Despite Lambert being the top scoring Englishman in last season’s Premier League, he is seen to be surplus to requirements for the international friendlies against Republic of Ireland and Brazil. These were matches where we could have done with some fresh faces, particularly ones that have been propped up on the top of bodies that have been performing on the pitch as consistently as the likes of Lambert. To not even select him for the 22 man squad is an insult in itself, but to not call him up after Andy Carroll had dropped out is beyond insulting.
You start to wonder whether Hodgson is as insane as he looks on the touchline. There’s plenty of footage of the Archimedes lookalike on YouTube to support the theory that he’s demented (Archimedes is the owl from the Disney cartoon, The Sword of the Stone, in case you were wondering). In all honesty, if I had to take one player out from the forward line, it would be Wayne Rooney as his possession keeping is often poor when playing for the national side. This would have been a great time to try and blend in Lambert. You can guarantee that if he was at a bigger club he would be in the starting 11 even though the fact that he has scored and assisted so many for a side like Southampton could be considered even more impressive.
Yes, he’s 31 years of age (32 by next year’s World Cup – impressed with my Maths there?), but whatever age he is, he is doing a better job in the Premiership than many others who were lucky enough to be picked. Out of all the positions where Hodgson’s side are short on supply, the role of the forward man is surely the one in most dire need of assistance. You could say that going by form and stats he should start let alone scrape a place in the squad. If he was on the substitutes bench, he could pop on the pitch and grab a crucial goal with the qualities that have made him such a prolific marksman in England’s top division not to mention the two divisions below in previous years.
He is ranked 18th overall in EA SPORTS Player Performance Index and that’s taking into account every player registered with a Premiership club, not just ones who are eligible to play for the England national team. It’s not just obscure and random stats that currently put him in the top bracket of players in top-flight English football, the obvious advantages are there to see – 15 goals and nine assists. That’s way ahead of any other Englishman in his position. He’s got a great record for converting penalties as well. We could have done with that in the last, what, 76 tournaments.
I can understand Hodgson thinking we need a consistent team from now until next year’s World Cup, but the ones who have tried to get us there in the qualifying matches have not exactly covered themselves in unprecedented glory. Who says we’ll definitely qualify anyway? When other players had domestically done the business in the past like say the 1990s, when we had a bundle of strikers who would get into double figures every season, some of them would be disappointed, but with not much to choose from at the present time, it’s another example of England managers being frightened to try something different.
Previous coaches had a wealthier pool of talent on their hands, which makes Lambert’s exclusion from a couple of friendlies as, or more, ludicrous than Matthew Le Tissier’s omission from the 1998 World Cup squad despite the latter’s stellar performances for Southampton (them again) and a hat-trick for the England B team against Russia just a month prior to the selection process. Certain managers have certain systems, but when we are so obviously short on forwards it should be based on the form of a player, particularly ones like Lambert who has been consistently good throughout an entire campaign.
It’s not just Lambert that is a victim of Hodgson’s elitist selection process. Other goal getters that have once again been overlooked include Celtic’s Gary Hooper. Now, the Scottish Premier League may be of a similar quality to the Championship, but why pick Wilfred Zaha and not Hooper – at least for the practice matches? Why not select them in the squadwhether they get game time on the pitch or not? If not for the degradation of the Scottish league then why hasn’t Hooper and his team-mate, goalkeeper Fraser Forster, been picked?
As I said, Hodgson may want a consistency for the majority of the team so they get more used to playing with each other in the run-up to the World Cup, but again, we are not even close to qualifying yet, which is largely to do with those same players that he somewhat blindly places his faith in. Yes, he’s gone slightly left-field and picked Everton’s then 31 year old midfielder Leon Osman on occasion, but there hasn’t been enough alternative decisions. Selecting Lambert for the squad shouldn’t be considered a way-out choice knowing what he has recently achieved. Also, with Hodgson complaining bitterly about Chelsea and Manchester City’s recent excursion to the United States, and how the whole trip will physically and mentally affect the players from those clubs, having Lambert on board seems an even more logical inclusion. If he’s in form, but is not going to be selected for friendlies, then when will be picked – can he be picked?
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