As someone who took great pleasure in England’s swift Euro 2016 departure at the hands of Gylfi Sigurdsson and company, not just for the underdog factor, but also for the amusement which graces any Scottish person when we’re granted the chance to see England embarrassed, I find myself disappointed in Gareth Southgate’s admirable dedication to stick to his sensible principles.
Southgate has kept his reservations about handing out too much too soon
Southgate, who is determined to champion the value of patience which so often escapes his nation, has picked his World Cup squad with one eye on the future. The average age of England’s squad is 26 years and 18 days, making it the third youngest squad the nation has ever selected for the World Cup. While bleeding through more experienced youth prospects such as Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who has potentially revitalised his future at Chelsea through a successful loan spell, and Trent Alexander-Arnold, a Champions League finalist, Southgate has kept his reservations about handing out too much too soon, resisting the temptation to call up Fulham wonderkid and Championship Player of the Year Ryan Sessegnon, who could have been at risk of suffering the same stagnation as Theo Walcott.
Southgate has also resisted over-indulging his tendency to base his decisions based on potential rather than experience. He chose safer options in forward positions, opting for players with international experience, as opposed to any over-performing dads in disguise (sorry, Glenn Murray). This clear blend of youth and experience points to Southgate approaching the upcoming World Cup as less of a chance to secure immediate silverware, and more of a chance to put his side in a better position to compete at future tournaments.
Southgate has recognised that while the current sub-par crop of England players he can choose from is beyond his control
While the likes of Spain usher through the predictably brilliant but inevitably aging talents of Andres Iniesta and Sergio Ramos, Southgate has recognised that while the current sub-par crop of England players he can choose from is beyond his control, he has a huge part to play in the development and improvement of the prospective England team.
Perhaps the only clear lapse in Southgate’s man for man selection comes in the shape of Fabian Delph. Deputising at left-back for Manchester City’s record breaking campaign, Delph has been, in fairness, dependably solid. However, with the inclusions of Ashley Young and Danny Rose, it can be assumed that Delph, if he features, will line up as a central midfielder, making Southgate’s decision to choose him over former England golden boy Jack Wilshere, who has had a relatively injury-free season, questionable. Despite his career often being tainted with his half-hearted attempts to impersonate the glass-boned Samuel L. Jackson in Unbreakable, Wilshere possesses a level of control and technical talent superior to all other central midfielders included by Southgate, and is surely worth the risk.
Overall, while Southgate’s admirably ambitious youthful overhaul does point to a World Cup of frustration and transition for England, fans can rest assured that the future promises brighter things. Unlike his predecessors, Southgate has shown signs that he possesses the necessary tools to mould this promising batch of players into a powerful unit. Although this time fans found the majority of their excitement about the squad announcement in hoping Leon Bailey’s grandparents have British passports, future World Cup campaigns could hold more tangible reasons for optimism. For the time being though, England fans will have to settle for dreams of seeing Danny Welbeck stepping into shoes which have been left unfilled since Charlton. Look out, Russia.