Ex-England manager Glenn Hoddle has signed on to write a weekly column for Bleacher Report UK. Learn more out about Glenn's exciting new website venture, Zapsportz, here.
I’m truly mystified why it has taken Adam Lallana so long to break in to the England setup.
It leaves me wondering whether it is symptomatic of a lingering belief that English football still doesn’t trust the truly gifted individual.
Some might say that I myself symbolised the mistrust of gifted players who were regarded as unreliable mavericks. I was never a regular as an England player, hardly ever played two games in a row and was left out after scoring on my debut against Bulgaria.
I did my best to address that issue when I became England coach—giving the likes of David Beckham and Michael Owen their England debuts, as well as encouraging Paul Scholes and Rio Ferdinand in their international careers.
I’m delighted Lallana has broken into the World Cup reckoning, but it's taken an exceptional season with the surprise package in the Premier League, Southampton, to get his big break.
Lallana is now 25 years old. He played for England Under-18s, Under-19s and Under-21s, but this is just the second time he's been selected for a full England squad. Should he play, Lallana will earn his first international cap.
But he has always had the talent. So why has he had to wait so long for his chance?
Maybe it's indicative of what's been going wrong over the years—that players like this have been ignored. Lallana’s talents were overlooked until his club side came to the fore. But what if Southampton hadn't enjoyed the rise they have?
You would have thought a player with Lallana's skills would have been scouted some time ago—that the England staff under Fabio Capello would have spotted him and brought him into the fold, but it didn’t happen, and I’m curious as to why.
More to come from Gerrard and Lampard
Lallana is just getting his chance, but at the other end of the scale, I think it is far too soon to be talking about the likes of Steven Gerrard or Frank Lampard retiring form international football.
Gerrard can play on for many more years with England in his new 'Pirlo' role.
I think Gerrard should be retained by Roy Hodgson for the Euros, despite Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers suggesting Gerrard might consider retiring from international duty after the World Cup in Brazil, as per ESPNFC.
I doubt very much whether either the player, or the England manager, will find that desirable, and I’ve no doubt Gerrard can become just as effective for England by adapting his role as he gets older.
By playing much deeper, Gerrard will last much longer—just the way Andrea Pirlo has adapted his passing game with Italy in the last three or four years. Pirlo has dropped deeper, but still hits those lovely passes, and Gerrard has to look at that and think about doing the same.
Gerrard can no longer be the box-to-box player he used to be, but now has to drop deep, protect his two centre-halves and spray those passes around from there. On rare occasions he brings a surprise element by coming forward, but he should mostly stay deep now.
England need a passer of the ball like Gerrard. You would also want Gerrard around for his set plays, in much the same way that David Beckham turned a game from a free-kick. Gerrard's delivery is still as devastating as its always been, and he still has a physical presence.
Lampard also still has a contribution to make within the squad, if no longer an automatic first choice as he gets on a bit. If you need a goal, he is still valuable to have around to come off the bench. For a 30-minute spell as a substitute, Frank would be ideal.
Much depends on what happens to Frank over the next two years and whether he is retained by Chelsea for next season. To stay in the England set-up, I suspect he'll need to stay playing in the Premier League, rather than drift off to the MLS for example.
We need to learn from how Italians have used Pirlo in his advancing years. They've found a way of accommodating him and still accessing that range of passing that can hurt opponents. The same can apply to Gerrard and Frank.
Providing they both still have the desire to play for England, there's no reason to stop now.
*Zapsportz.com is an exciting new website where Glenn Hoddle reveals how kids from all over the world can enter the X-Factor-style Zapstarz, the former England manager's search for a new generation of footballing talent.
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