With England’s place at EURO 2012 confirmed after an unbeaten qualification campaign, the inevitable, hypothetical 23-man squad selection process has begun.
Manager Fabio Capello has a plethora of players available to him, with around 40 seemingly in with a chance of getting on the plane to Poland/Ukraine.
The midfield, particularly, gives Capello some positive problems; there may not be a lot of supreme talent but at least there are now a lot of options, something that England haven’t had in the past. Players like Scott Parker and Jack Wilshere could be replaced by Gareth Barry and James Milner – a slight drop in quality maybe but the players are more than capable of filling in.
One of the major talking points in these selections has involved Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard, currently recovering from an ankle infection and not set to return for some time. The midfielder played 90 minutes against Manchester United and Norwichin October after being eased back into the side following groin surgery.
Gerrard’s last appearance before his injury woes was the 1-0 loss away at United in January, his last international appearance coming almost a year ago in the 2-1 friendly defeat to France. In short: it is a long time since we have seen Steven Gerrard at his pulsating best, or even at a level even vaguely similar to that.
It seems slightly incongruous, then, for Gerrard himself to label EURO 2012 his “last chance”. Gerrard is no longer a mainstay in the England side. He’s not as vital to England’s hopes as he perhaps once was. So for Gerrard to even politely assume that he’s going to be selected for a tournament after barely playing for the past eleven months is a bit egotistical.
A similar criticism could be had of anyone who argues that Gerrard should go to EURO 2012 over X, Y or Z: how can you make that decision when he’s done very little – a Giggs-aided freekick aside – this year?
The point here, though, is that you can’t say he shouldn’t go to the Euros and you can’t say he should – because no one knows if Gerrard will return from injury in time to build up some form ready for the summer and nobody knows whether he’ll be at his explosive best when he does return. So what’s the point in even discussing it, other than filling column inches?
Many would argue that it is pointless discussing the squads now anyway because anything could happen between now and June, be it with injuries or form. The fact that England don’t know their best eleven, or know who is going to be in the squad is irrelevant at the moment.
The England side should (and the word ‘should’ is in italics for a reason there) be picked based on form; who are the best players going into the tournament and how can Capello fit them into one cohesive team? The side – or the squad – should not be picked on reputation.
And that, right now, is the only way Gerrard is getting into these hypothetical squads: his reputation.