The announcement of the England squad for the latest round of World Cup qualifiers has left many fans and pundits scratching their heads. Fabian Delph has started this season in sparkling form, just like he finished the previous one – in England form, you could say. Even Robbie Savage was surprised that Delph had been overlooked.
Equally baffling is Hodgson’s failure to call up Gabby Agbonlahor, who has terrorised defenders with his explosive pace and who would surely have played more for England but for injuries ruling him out of games in the past.
Fans could also make a case for Ashley Westwood, whose passing is meticulous and calm and suits football at the highest level. Matthew Lowton might also be considered a contender.
Perhaps the problem lies with the competition for the spots they would occupy: Lowton would need to be selected over Glen Johnson and Kyle Walker. Johnson is held in high regard by Hodgson and Walker, as many Villa fans remember, is a talented individual too.
England’s central midfield is ageing fast but the likes of Gerrard, Lampard and Carrick still rule the roost. Villa fans know that Milner is also a good central midfield option. Delph and Westwood’s chances of playing for the national team may have been hindered by Liverpool’s first-half performance against Aston Villa recently: Liverpool dominated the midfield, and the game, until the second half, when the Villa players unquestionably showed that they will not be bullied by any team this season.
There is less sense in Agbonlahor not being involved because England lack options up front. Defoe is still getting picked by Hodgson and yet Villas-Boas has clearly decided Defoe cannot cut it at Spurs.
There are many benefits for Aston Villa if the club has players playing for England: an internal appearance brings with it a certain status and all the financial benefits that are attached to this. Fans also love to watch England with the added interest of seeing Villa players prosper in the side. I will never forget Darius Vassell’s debut goal for England against Holland as he slammed home in spectacular fashion and instantly secured his place at the 2002 World Cup.
However, it could be argued that there are plenty of disadvantages of Villa players playing for England. As their profiles rise and they mingle with players from other clubs, there comes the risk of them being tapped up or deciding that they could play for a ‘bigger’ club. This is possibly what happened with Barry, Downing and Young; it may have happened anyway but playing for England certainly did not help. Playing for England also involves added risk of injury, something that concerns all club managers.
Hodgson has been accused by some of favouring players at the big clubs. There are always arguments regarding whether he should pick players based on experience, form or status. Most England fans are unhappy that players like Sterling, Milner, Zaha, Young and Defoe are picked regularly even when they are playing poorly or not playing at all. To counter this argument, Rickie Lambert is due to start up front so Hodgson is looking beyond the traditional top six, although his view appears to be a restricted one.
I believe that Roy Hodgson must come to a game at Villa Park again soon and see what Villa have to offer. Furthermore, I would love to see Gabby playing in an England shirt in Brazil as I know in my heart that he would not let the nation down.
Roy, if you do take some of the Villa boys to Brazil next summer, don’t let any of them take a penalty kick! Remember Southgate, Barry and Vassell? You have been warned!