As the next England game is fast approaching, and the squad has been selected, I have been wondering; why give a cap to a player who is pretty much useless to England? As an international football manager, there must surely be a consistency in the policy by which you select squads. By my reckoning, there are two ways of doing this: either pick the best players in the best form, regardless of age or number of caps, or try and build a consistent side with a solid core of the same players, blooding future regulars as impact substitutes or during international friendlies.
The two are generally very similar, as it is quite likely that the best players are the ones that are getting a game every week. Whether the manager is choosing to build a consistent side, or if he is picking players based on form, these players are constantly in contention for a place in the starting eleven. Saying this, it seems that Hodgson is attempting to build for the future by giving call-ups to Sterling and Caulker, so why is Osman being selected?
Don’t get me wrong, I also think that he deserves it and is under rated, but he is 31 years old. He is hardly going to become the future of English football. Do we need him in the squad for a friendly? Not really at all. Seeing as it is a friendly, the result doesn’t hold high significance (besides the fact that it can provide a confidence boost for some players), however, if Downing and Henderson can get England caps then maybe he should have his chance. But it isn’t about whether he deserves it or not, it is about the use he will have within the team.
But Leon Osman is not the first player to do this; he is one in a long line of useless caps. Think of Bobby Zamora, Jay Bothroyd (who played in the championship at the time and was also old), Matt Jarvis, Zat Knight, Kevin Davies etc. These were all players who, at the time of their debuts, were too old and they didn’t really stand a chance of getting into the squad for the next international competition, which begs the question why they got selected in the first place. I would rather that England picked someone that is really young such as Sterling, Jake Livermore, or someone who is decent and a bit under rated and would have more of a chance of getting into the England squad in 2014 in the form of Huddlestone, or Jack Rodwell. There would be no reason for Osman to be in the squad, no matter where he plays. There are better, younger players to fill those positions, and if we want experience in those positions, we have plenty; such as Gerrard or Carrick.
These late caps appear to be merely recognition from our nation’s managers, of the players’ successful top flight careers, using an England call up as a lifetime achievement award. Whilst his presence will certainly not cause England to play badly, should England really be selecting players based on sentiment?
Of course the manager will argue that Osman has been selected for ‘footballing reasons’, namely he’s a good player. But if he plays in the friendly at all, he is likely to be brought on as a second half substitute, doing his reputation no harm but never being selected again to play internationally. The only purpose his selection would have served, would be to add to the man’s domestic recognition and have future match-day programmes list him as an England international. For him it’s great and well earned, for England it is pointless.
By Will Halse
(edited by Tom Greenstein)