England fans are used to disbelief and shock when it comes to their national team. The low expectations England football fans have come to expect this year, from embarrassing Iceland defeat to the shock of the allegations against Sam Allardyce, are becoming commonplace. For this reason, the England team selection was keenly watched this week with a new coach at its head. Gareth Southgate was appointed caretaker manager for the next four games. After a 67-day reign, Allardyce’s job came to an abrupt termination after inappropriate comments to undercover reporters only one game into their 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign.
Safety and stability seems to be the key focus for the England Under-21 manager Gareth Southgate. He chose his team to reflect his emphasis on solidity retaining experienced Wayne Rooney for the captaincy in a young squad averaging around 25 years old. However, personal solidity for Southgate may have also have come with his inclusion of many young players that he worked with as Under-21 manager. Jesse Lingard, 23, has been brought into the squad with Marcus Rashford. The teenager scored a hat-trick on his debut for England Under-21s for Southgate and has been on form for Manchester United as well with three goals since the most recent international break. Linked to this concentration of youth, is the attacking focus on speed. With the inclusion of Vardy, Walcott and Michail Antonio, it seems that Southgate values speed over height and power in his attack against Malta and Slovenia.
The largest surprise in the team selection was for Glen Johnson of Stoke City to cover for Nathaniel Clyne’s injury. Having just returned after seven months out with injury and not played for England since the 2014 World Cup, 32-year-old Johnson’s inclusion certainly surprised many. To the England manager though, it was obvious: “To be able to bring in a player with 50-plus caps was the right decision.” In other team news, Andros Townsend has been drafted in as late as the 3rd of October due to injury to Raheem Sterling, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has also been brought into the squad to replace an injured Adam Lallana.
With the game on the 8th of October, it feels like England will want to put the speculation behind them and produce two good wins in front of a home crowd. While the pressure is off for Southgate as he has the title ‘caretaker’ manager, these matches could prove pivotal in his managerial career. Already rising through the FA coaching badges, Southgate is one of very few young English managers at the highest level and so this could represent the next step of his managerial career.
Goalkeepers: Forster, Hart, Heaton
Defenders: Bertrand, Cahill, Jagielka, Johnson, Rose, Smalling, Stones, Walker
Midfielders: Dier, Henderson, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Antonio, Lingard, Sterling, Walcott, Alli
Attackers: Rooney, Rashford, Sturridge, Vardy
Photo Credit: AFP