So then, after three weeks of scintillating Premier League football, the first international break of the 2016-17 has arrived. And with a new man in the England hotseat, there has been huge speculation surrounding the squad announcement for next weekend’s visit to Slovakia. This afternoon, the rumours came to an end as Sam Allardyce confirmed his selections.
The big news is that Big Sam has awarded West Ham’s Michail Antonio his first cap – hopefully as a winger rather than a right-back. But there are plenty of other talking points to discuss. Here is the squad in full:
Fraser Forster (Southampton), Joe Hart (Manchester City), Tom Heaton (Burnley).
Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Nathaniel Clyne (Liverpool), Phil Jagielka (Everton), Danny Rose (Tottenham Hotspur), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), Chris Smalling (Manchester United), John Stones (Manchester City), Kyle Walker (Tottenham Hotspur).
Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur), Michail Antonio (West Ham United), Eric Dier (Tottenham Hotspur), Danny Drinkwater (Leicester City), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Adam Lallana (Liverpool), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Theo Walcott (Arsenal).
Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur), Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool), Jamie Vardy (Leicester City).
The first noticeable point, Antonio aside, is that it’s all very much the same as we’ve seen before James Milner’s retired, Marcus Rashford has been demoted to the U21s, and a couple of others are absent through injury. However, most of these names are the ones we’ve become familiar with over the past couple of years.
But it’s hard to argue against the inclusions. Walcott has handled the summer’s disappointment in style while Shaw is looking brilliant since recovering from injury. Likewise, Rooney and Lallana have performed well after receiving a lot of abuse in recent months.
The only names that aren’t really playing are Hart and Smalling. But both are probably going to be in the starting XI come the next World Cup, which makes it hard to omit them. The only one I’m not thrilled about is Jagielka, as I think he’ll be past it far too soon.
Of course, there are a few players that can consider themselves unlucky while the likes of Mark Noble will be wondering if the call is ever going to come.
I imagine a lot of people will be slagging Sam off, but the majority have been waiting weeks for the chance to get their claws out. I’m quietly optimistic that this set of players can still achieve good things, even if they aren’t capable of winning a tournament.
Allardyce has shown two great signs in my opinion. While it couldn’t happen, the move for Steven N’Zonzi shows that he is willing to cover all bases. Secondly, I love that he has said he’s going to give players more freedom behind the scenes. So many ex-England stars have said that the camps feel restricted. A happier camp can only lead to improved atmospheres and performances. Big Sam should still have enough authority to ensure things don’t become out of control anyway.
As far as I’m concerned, the squad selection is just fine. I for one will be right behind the maanger until he gives us a reason to doubt him.
Come on England!