Football has grown in many ways and with it so have the players as public figures. Top level footballers are celebrities these days thanks almost solely to the media and it is unfortunately now far easier to find out who is shagging who’s wife/daughter/hooker than the weekends results! With the Premier League consistently being the most watched league on the planet it is unsurprising English football, and the national team have had a consistent stream of extremely talented footballers with an unmanageable amount of media coverage. From David Beckham in the 90’s and 00’s to Wayne Rooney from today’s England squad we have always had big stars who seem to get in every England squad regardless of how well they are playing, this issue of better players being unable to break into the squad due to others heightened public status peaked in the Sven Goran-Eriksson era; however somewhat fortunately we are almost completely out of celebrity footballers in the current squad.
When it comes to squad selection for the England team we have seen too many managers over recent years ignore players in form to stick with the old guard, the players with the reputations. Since Roy Hodgson took charge the England setup has been much more prone to change which is fantastic for our players, getting into the England team is starting to become far more about how well you’re playing football rather than whether you dress well enough to be featured in The Daily Mail.
Does Roy have much of a choice though? We no longer have characters like Terry, Gerrard, Beckham and Ferdinand and in terms of stature at least, our current crop just aren’t up to the same level. Whether Hodgson would act in the same way as managers past given the group of players we had 10 years ago is up for debate. England are a faltering force and have failed to produce a real leader or character over the last 5 years, English players are shunned by their club teams all too often in favour of foreign stars giving us little chance of producing international quality players, let alone leaders.
Although our talent production line is looking the worst it has in years it will hopefully force Roy Hodgson, and any other managers who deal with this generation of players to think before they pick rather than just pick the popular players. The most successful national sides of our time have not been afraid to drop the stars or end international careers early, even if the public disagrees. Brazil are a prime example of a country who pick based on talent alone, they often shun stars of the European leagues to pick players from the South American leagues because they are performing well and although this does not always work they uncover some fantastic talent by doing so. This more genuine squad selection means players take more pride in playing for their country, as opposed to believing they are a guaranteed fixture in their international team. Other countries are not afraid to introduce older players into their starting lineups late into their careers either, just because a player is not 21 and will be in and around the team for the next 12 years doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be picked.
An ego-free era of football is going to be crucial if England are ever going to get back to their best, even if we have to endure an unfortunate era where Jack Wilshere will always be an option, despite his distinctive averageness to get there.