Hodgson Can Pick for England's Future and Present at the World Cup in Brazil

Nick MillerFeatured ColumnistMay 9, 2014


The England manager's job is, to all intents and purposes, basically impossible. The main problem is that there is no middle ground, no shades of grey in the eyes of the English press and public: Unless you win either the World Cup or the European Championship, someone will regard you as a honking failure.

It's for this reason that Roy Hodgson faces quite a conundrum when he names his England squad on Monday.

England will, of course, probably not win the World Cup. Indeed, by any objective judgement, reaching the quarter-finals will be an excellent result, given the talent available, the climate and the opposition.

Rui Vieira/Associated Press

With this in mind, it would be tempting for Hodgson to pick a squad with an eye for the future, to choose Luke Shaw over Ashley Cole or John Stones over Chris Smalling or Ross Barkley over Frank Lampard.

England probably won't win the World Cup, but if those players, along with the likes of Adam Lallana and Raheem Sterling, develop as we hope they might, they have a puncher's chance of doing well at the 2016 European Championships in France.

However, Hodgson will be under pressure to get the best performance possible this time, which will inevitably appeal to his relatively cautious nature. It would be the easy choice to choose Cole, Lampard and so forth because they are the experienced candidates and they have enormous reputations.

Indeed, Hodgson's recent statement to the effect that he actually picked his squad some time ago would suggest he is leaning towards the "proven" players at his disposal. Quoted by Sky Sports, Hodgson said:

I've had a very clear idea of what I want to do with this squad for a long, long time. Certainly over the last couple of weeks I'm pretty much sure of what I want to do when it comes to the team.

The question of balancing the present and the future is a difficult one, but it is something of a false dichotomy. Picking for the future and the present do not have to be mutually exclusive because the players one might think are being chosen "for the future" are actually the ones who are best served to help Hodgson now.

At left-back, for example, Ashley Cole has barely played this season starting just 14 league games and only four after the turn of the year, and while his few appearances have been impressive, there is surely a danger of selecting a player so lightly raced as him.

Shaw, on the other hand, has started 34 games and looks almost preternaturally composed, to the extent that it must be tempting to check his birth certificate whenever he takes to the pitch, given that an 18-year-old really should not be this assured both in defence and attack.

Scott Heppell/Associated Press

Equally Barkley, who combines physicality and touch in a way that is reminiscent of Zinedine Zidane, which obviously is not to say that he is or will ever be as good as the great Frenchman but is a rare gift among creative midfielders, and one who cannot be ignored for long.

If it is a choice between him and Lampard, a player not beyond his usefulness but one who has been relatively limited in his chances for Chelsea this season, then Barkley is the far more exciting option.

Hodgson is in a difficult position because he has twin concerns to balance, but he should not be confused between picking for the future and the present. He can do both.