Early Doors

Don’t blame Roy for midfield misery

Early Doors

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Hodgson shows Downing where to stand

Roy Hodgson knew that it would be an arduous task cobbling together a decent squad from a weary bunch of half-fit bit-part Premier League players, but he could have never imagined it would get this bad.

England's misery was compounded on Thursday evening by the news that Frank Lampard had been ruled out of Euro 2012 with a thigh injury, and Jordan Henderson was the man called up as his replacement.

Make no mistake about it; Lampard's injury is a hugely damaging blow for Roy's men, despite what anyone says (the England team chef, for example).

The list of midfielders who are not available for selection continues to grow: Lampard, Jack Wilshere, Gareth Barry, Tom Huddlestone, Jack Rodwell, Tom Cleverley, Paul Scholes, Michael Carrick, to name but a few.

Lampard's experience will be sorely missed at the tournament with the weight of expectation and pressure on captain Steven Gerrard's shoulders continuing to mount, while Scott Parker battles to prove his fitness following an Achilles injury.

The Chelsea midfielder was only in his second day of training for the tournament, having joined the squad late after winning the Champions League with his club against Bayern Munich on 19 May and celebrating in his full kit with John Terry.

It surely spells the end of his England career.

Lampard turns 36 during the next World Cup, and Hodgson will be expected to offer younger, more dynamic, midfielders a chance to prove themselves during the qualifying programme - Lampard's record of 23 goals in 90 appearances is likely to remain as such.

In his absence, England's midfield should see Parker - if fit - partnering Steven Gerrard in the middle with Stewart Downing and Theo Walcott wide and Ashley Young slotting in behind Andy Carroll until Wayne Rooney returns. A central midfield of Phil Jones and James Milner, alarmingly, is also not out of the question.

Parker struggled with a sore Achilles at Spurs during the latter part of the season -eventually missing the final four games - and had an injection to accelerate his mobility (Carroll and others could be well served by receiving similar treatment). The injections have worked, but there remains a grave concern among England staff that Parker is not actually ready to go full pelt outside of six-a-sides and bleep tests.

Of course, there are those that are eagerly seizing the opportunity to put the blame at Hodgson's door, but he has dealt with a spate of injuries in the only way that he can — by simply turning to the next option available.

Which brings us to this - the apparent furore over the absence of Scholes and Carrick is as absurd as it is unhelpful.

Carrick's agent reportedly told the FA back in January that his client did not want to be involved after cleaning Barry's boots in South Africa, and was adamant that he would have to be told that he was first choice before reconsidering.

Understandably, at the time of selecting the 23-man squad and back-up players, that was not a guarantee that Hodgson was prepared to make.

While many people are keen to lambast the England boss for not bowing to Carrick, cap in hand, grovelling, and and extend every sympathy with the Manchester United midfielder's situation, there are other more relevant factors to bear in mind.

The 30 year-old was capped just seven times by Fabio Capello during his four-year reign as manager and was an unused squad member in England's failed World Cup campaign in South Africa two years ago, but his treatment under that regime is not Roy's concern.

Granted, Carrick has not been afforded plentiful opportunities with England since making his debut back in 2001; but his commitment to the cause has hardly been impressive since being used by Capello as a waterboy in Rustenburg.

The United midfielder has won 22 caps in 10 years, but equally, Scott Parker has 12 caps in nine years; the difference is surely in the perseverance and resolve in wanting to represent England.

Indeed, it has been suggested that coach Gary Neville would have provided the perfect conduit to repair relations with Carrick, but Hodgson does not want players to have to be persuaded to play for their country.

There was no way that the manager could put Carrick on his stand-by list given the stance taken by the player. Oh, and he has been undergoing treatment on an Achilles injury himself.

As Hodgson reiterated at the time he selected his squad, "I wouldn't dream of putting Michael Carrick on a standby list after he's made it clear in the past he doesn't want to be involved like that - I'd have to be convinced he was better than the four (central midfielders) I've selected, and that he'd be happy to come out of retirement."

Ultimately, Carrick and Scholes made themselves unavailable. Henderson has 21 U21 caps and two senior appearances. Horrendous a reality as it may be, he was the next best available option.

Hodgson must have known that his inclusion would not be met with widespread approval. But his critics have not been quick to suggest alternatives willing to take Roy's call.

Henderson joins Stewart Downing and Andy Carroll among Liverpool's so-called misfiring signings now helping to carry the nation's hopes, but Hodgson did not have many other credible alternatives.

He has had to contend with a great deal of misfortune with injuries since taking the job, but then so have other countries  - England must look forward and leave the coach to work with what he has at his disposal.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "The FA learned from the experience in 2006. The England team did. The England players did. That wasn't ideal for anybody. It was symptomatic of the times. Between 2002 and 2007 everyone got carried away with everything in life. It is a different world now and those mistakes won't happen again under any manager or any regime. The platform won't be given. We are managing it this time in a completely different way. We are here to play football. We are here to work." (Coach Gary Neville on the WAG-influenced chaos in Baden Baden, Germany)

FOREIGN VIEW: "It will certainly not be an easy game for us because we are missing eight key players who did not show up when they were called, but I hope my boys will put up their best." (DR Congo coach Claude Leroy bemoans losing most of his team due to eight players failing to show up for their African World Cup qualifier against Cameroon - and England thought they had it bad)

COMING UP: Paul Parker's eagerly-anticipated blog is coming up today, and he's coming off his long run-up for this one. The effervescent Jim White is also offering us a treat this afternoon. In pre-Euro 2012 friendly fodder, we have the following: Czech Republic v Hungary; Austria v Ukraine; Italy v Russia

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