Sport Editor Jack Pethick evaluates the recent success of Tottenham striker Harry Kane, and why the international selection debate has become overcomplicated.
With Roy Hodgson watching as Harry Kane scored two goals to win Tottenham the North London derby on Saturday, many pundits yet again called for Kane’s call up to the England squad. There has been a brewing debate in the footballing world as to whether Kane ‘is ready’ to get the call up, but I would question as to why there even is a debate.
For too long now, the England squad has been filled with the same names time after time, and the same old disappointment that naturally follows. I am not going to single out any particular players, but if any other England fans feel the same way, I’m sure they will know roughly who I am talking about. Following this inevitable disappointment that an England fan feels after an international tournament, the same repetitive debate then starts of whether these players should be replaced in the squad by more exciting youthful talent, or whether in fact those players who have failed in that tournament, now have the ‘experience’ necessary to know what it takes in order to be successful the next time around.
This certainly is a difficult paradigm to solve, and there are arguments to support either debate. Inevitably, the manager at the time seeks to achieve a balance between experience and youth, but for me it is much simpler to solve.
Every week, a Premier League manager faces the task of picking his side for the weekend. Yet unlike the international managers he picks his side based on form and not on experience. Take Tottenham for example, for the last few months or so, Mauricio Pochettino has picked Harry Kane over the likes of Emmanuel Adebayor- who boasts all over 50 Premier League goals to his name- and Roberto Soldado who has nearly 100 goals in La Liga and countless experience on the big stage. Kane in contrast, has only just broken into the Spurs first team properly this season, yet he has scored 22 goals already this season, and is in a real run of good form. Arguably, the reason for such a streak is that unlike Adebayor and Soldado, although Kane doesn’t cost the experience that the other two have, he nevertheless has been playing week in and week out for Spurs this season, he has game time under his belt.
Players need to be match-fit when it comes to competing on the international stage, it seems ridiculous to put someone into an international squad when he has only just come back from injury, regardless of how good he is. It is unfair to those players who are match-fit and on form, whether they have international experience or not. It goes back to that rather cliché phrase heard in football of ‘if you’re good enough then you’re old enough’. Take Charlie Austin for example, just a few years ago he was playing non-league football for Poole and yet now here he is scoring goals for QPR each week in the Premier League. Surely if he is good enough to make such a huge jump in such a short space of time, he can manage that much smaller jump from the Premier League to the international stage? I certainly would argue so, and indeed would argue the same for the likes of Kane, Sterling and Dier.
Therefore, when Roy Hodgson comes to pick his England side for the friendly fixtures in just over a months time or so, I hope that this is done based on the current form of the players available and not on ‘experience’. For instance, based on recent performances, would you rather have Harry Kane or Jermaine Defoe? Ryan Bertrand or Leighton Baines? Charlie Austin or Daniel Sturridge? Stuart Downing or Ashley Young? I certainly know who I’d rather have.
Of course, it’s not always that simple. International managers do have to build up a sense of familiarity in the squad before tournaments, but again, how much familiarity can you have before a tournament when the friendly’s are just a few days at a time every six months or so. To me that hardly appears to be ample time in which to familiarise yourself completely with the other players and the England set-up.
I could write close to a thousand words on this topic and would have barely scratched the surface of the debate, so in order to summarise the point I am trying to make, this would be the 23 man squad I would submit if I was Roy Hodgson (subject to fitness) based on current form and with the aim of achieving a balance of players throughout the squad.
Jack’s England Squad:
Goalkeepers: Joe Hart, Fraser Forster, Ben Foster
Defenders: Gary Cahill, Nathaniel Clyne, Ryan Bertrand, Phil Jagielka, Phil Jones, Danny Rose, Eric Dier, James Tomkins.
Midfielders: Raheem Sterling, Stuart Downing, Jordan Henderson, Michael Carrick, Adam Lallana, Ryan Mason, James Milner, Jack Colback
Strikers: Wayne Rooney, Danny Ings, Harry Kane, Charlie Austin/Daniel Sturridge (If fit!)
Reserves: Daniel Sturridge, Saido Berahino, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Adam Johnson, Jon-Jo Shelvey and Curtis Davies.