England vs. Poland: Andros Townsend Proves Roy Hodgson Must Trust in More Youth

Greg JohnsonSpecial to Bleacher ReportOctober 15, 2013

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 11:  Andros Townsend of England in action during the FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifying Group H match between England and Montenegro at Wembley Stadium on October 11, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
Michael Steele/Getty Images

England will need more than the fearless direct running of Andros Townsend to prosper over a well-organised and talented Poland team.

While the Tottenham Hotspur winger was the bright spark that lifted and inspired Roy Hodgson's team against Montenegro, the midfield duo of Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard remained unconvincing.

The Chelsea and Liverpool veterans may finally have found a way to play together after all these years, but their new-found understanding comes more through their lack of mobility than an increase in awareness or tactical familiarity.

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 11:  Stevan Jovetic of Montenegro shoots as Steven Gerrard (4) and Frank Lampard of England (8) during the FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifying Group H match between England and Montenegro at Wembley Stadium on October 11, 2013 in Lond
Michael Steele/Getty Images

It's hardly fair to call it a double pivot, which has always been the ultimate dream of every one of their supporters calling for the dysfunctional partnership to be tried once more.

However, the on-paper theory of the two club-level match winners tempering their attacking tendencies against the other, with one sitting back when the other surges forward, and vice versa, has never come to fruition.

Rather, now that they are both unable to bomb forwards, Lampard and Gerrard have begun to sit back and play a more static game, covering each other by default but sapping England's midfield of energy.

Introducing a younger player with the legs to run up and down the field alongside one of the two old hands is vital.

Jack Wilshere or Jordan Henderson look ideally suited for such a role, if only Hodgson could bring himself to trust the respective Arsenal and Liverpool prospects.

Henderson's absence from the England squad at all is very peculiar given his form for Brendan Rodgers' team and inability to play for the Under-21s anymore.

It's pointless calling up U-21 players who won't get games. England should focus on players like Townsend.
It's pointless calling up U-21 players who won't get games. England should focus on players like Townsend.Paul Gilham/Getty Images

It's these sorts of players that the national set up so often fail, as new starlets such as Ross Barkley and Raheem Sterling are promoted from England's youth teams while past graduates are abandoned to the international wilderness.

Worryingly, the former Sunderland prodigy was included in Hodgson's Euro 2012 squad at a time when his club performances were often dire. Now that he's in good form, and a litter older, he's being over-looked, outshined by new, youthful flavours of the month.

Perhaps it's time that England made better use of the players coming through in their early 20s rather than continuing to strip Gareth Southgate's U-21 team of their best players. After all, it's unlikely Barkley and Co will be receiving any real amount of game time in the senior squad.

Now that Jordan Henderson deserves a cap, he's nowhere near the England squad.
Now that Jordan Henderson deserves a cap, he's nowhere near the England squad.Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Andros Townsend shows what can happen when a player from this missing age group is given a proper chance for England, and his impact against Montenegro will hopefully encourage Hodgson to see him as a model for further injections of youth into his team.

The alternative is to fall back on the tried, tested and mediocre solutions that unfortunately seem highly likely.

Lewandowski will be hoping Poland's fans can bring the noise at Wembley.
Lewandowski will be hoping Poland's fans can bring the noise at Wembley.Adam Nurkiewicz/Getty Images

It wouldn't be a shock to see Townsend benched to play Poland, with James Milner returned to the first team as a defensive, wide midfielder rather than an attacking winger, while it would be a surprise if Lampard and Gerrard are broken up in the middle.

Having already talked up the chances of Robert Lewandowski and his countrymen as they head to Wembley with 18,000 fans, per The Telegraph, England fans will hope Hodgson isn't once again seeking to manage expectations.

Back in September, the former Fulhan, West Brom and Inter Milan manager was reportedly happy to finish second in Group H, according to the Daily Express, but he needn't risk the play-offs.

Adding a more youthful vigour to the starting 11, especially in midfield, would increase the team's confidence and the effectiveness of Hodgson's system.

Replace Lampard with Wilhere, retain Townsend, and there will likely be no need for flukey own goals and scruffy openers to get England underway against Poland.

This is a must-win game, and a bit of boldness and new ideas could be exactly what's needed to see the team over the line and into first place and automatic qualification.