Big Sam has quashed any rumours by reassuring Joe Hart that he will be in the England squad. But Marcus Rashford won’t be selected unless he can force his way back into Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United first team.
Allardyce knows he will have to get things right and hit the ground running. It is therefore no real surprise he has muted the possibility of a return to England for the former Captain, John Terry. The Chelsea captain previously stood down and even announced his retirement from international football when courting controversy off the field. But on the field, John Terry is still performing week in, week out, even if he has lost the odd yard or three of pace.
The recent Euro 2016 finals in France clearly showed a buoyant young England squad that became bereft of ideas and froze when they needed to pull together and produce the old English bulldog fighting spirit. Let’s not forget how truly awful every player was, with the exceptions of Tottenham full-backs Kyle Walker and Danny Rose, This Sunday, Big Sam Allardyce will name his first England squad ahead of the first World Cup qualifying match away to Slovakia on Sunday 4th September., and the late cameo appearance of Marcus Rashford.
The captain and senior figure was Wayne Rooney. But like David Beckham before him, he is not a born leader. Someone willing to shout, orchestrate and rally, like John Terry.
When I first read the headline that Allardyce may turn to John Terry, I shook my head in disbelief. But then I remembered watching how direction and clueless England were, not only in the Iceland game where each and every player turned into a frozen, shell-shocked quivering wreck, dripping with nervous tension and schoolboy errors. But in the previous match, where the England team, the players, majority of the fans and manager Roy Hodgson, underestimated their opponents. That team was Slovakia, and the score was a very worrying 0-0.
So what Big Sam needs is to put together a squad boasting a mixture of the finest young talent and some seasoned hands, ready to steady the ship and toe-poke a winning goal or be on the end of an 89th minute route one scramble, if needs be. Anything to keep the back pages clear of ‘you don’t know what you’re doing’ headlines and turnip-head collages, for as long as possible.
So who else is likely to be considered for Big Sam’s first England squad? Joe Hart will be joined by Southampton goalkeeper Fraser Forster (who I believe will start the game) and Burnley’s Tom Heaton. Whether Joe Hart finds first team football at another club or not, I believe the time is right for Jack Butland (Stoke) to step up, once he returns from injury; and especially if he has another excellent Premier League season.
Along with Rashford, who has been named in the under-21 squad, who else is Allardyce likely to leave out from the disastrous Euro 16 squad?
I don’t think Big Sam will make too many changes. Partly due to not wishing to rock the boat, and in part because realistically, there isn’t many alternatives. Whether he will start with Wayne Rooney or not, I don’t think anyone can argue he is not among the best 23 England players available. Other unfit players that were taken such as Jack Wilshere and Jordan Henderson will be left out and possibly replaced by Fabian Delph and Danny Drinkwater. While a player that has made a positive start to the new season is Andros Townsend (now Crystal Palace).
If he is going to show loyalty to players he has relied on over the past few seasons then a return for Jermain Defoe (Sunderland) could be both favourable and popular. But I can’t really see how anyone can justify a place for Mark Noble (West Ham) over other midfield players; and whether or not it was on the cards, Andy Carroll (West Ham) is once again injured, so that is a decision for another day.
So , after the lowest ebb in England’s international history, I believe the squad more or less picks itself. What is missing and so desperately needed is not wholesale changes, but a solid team spirit, leadership and an identity and style that suits the players available.
England will go on to face Malta, Slovenia, Lithuania and Scotland before qualifying for the World Cup 2018 finals in Russia. Slovakia away is England’s opening match and the only one I see they may possible not win.