Wednesday, November 13, 2013

An opportunity to get in to the 23, or to rule yourself out?

Steven Gerrard is going to Brazil next summer, unless he gets injured. Kyle Walker might be, but knows he can do himself no harm in the friendly against Chile on Friday - mainly because he has made himself unavailable due to injury.

Both pulled out of the squad, along with Michael Carrick, Ross Barkley and Danny Welbeck.

Of the injury withdrawals, you'd have to say that only the captain Gerrard is 100% assured of his spot in Roy Hodgson's squad that go to the World Cup. And at this stage, players can definitely play themselves out of the reckoning, but can't cement a place.

Friendlies at this stage are important, but you can understand the clubs not wanting their players to get injured or tired playing for their countries. Hence it's unlikely that anyone is going to perform at a level where the national manager decides that they have to be in the World Cup 23.

So what's the solution? Dean Ashton will tell you that training with the national team is just as dangerous as a game, but wouldn't a closed doors friendly between the squad help more? The minutes could be limited, the teams could interchange and work on certain formations and tactics.

These players shouldn't need the fitness work or match practice. They need confidence and a chance to bond on the field with their teammates. Playing for England against Chile and Germany will make great fodder for the press and fans, but it's hard to imagine a scenario where these games benefit England.

Hodgson and his counterparts across the world shouldn't be learning anything new from these games. If you don't know who is good enough for the national team and who isn't, you shouldn't be the manager. Play one game, coach them the rest of the time.

Walker won't have to face Alexis Sanchez, and probably won't play against the top-class German team either. If England do replace Walker with Micah Richards, Glen Johnson or just let Chris Smalling play both games, then those players are more likely to damage their reputations than enhance them.

And so Kyle Walker (who is probably lucky to even be in the squad) could end up being the first choice next week without kicking a ball. Aren't friendlies great?