As England’s national team manager Roy Hodgson ponders his options ahead of the Three Lions’ World Cup bid in Brazil this summer, he’s spoken out about two club he’s particularly interested in.
Premier League sides Liverpool and Southampton.
Both teams now boast a whole host of youngsters playing regularly in the top-flight, as Hodgson praised the club’s investment in youth as a big plus point for England heading into the 2014 World Cup.
Needless to say, Hodgson is impressed and seems hell-bent on shaking his squad up and putting in some of the talented youngsters now on show in the PL.
The pool of players has increased this season and more teams are injecting young English players into their teams and trusting them. Raheem Sterling has been playing regularly for Liverpool, as has either Jon Flanagan or Martin Kelly. Southampton are regularly using people like Luke Shaw, James Ward-Prowse, Calum Chambers, Jack Cork and Jay Rodriguez. So more and more teams are turning to their academies and young players they are bringing through, which is of course a positive thing.
In the case of Liverpool, Sterling and Kelly have both been capped by England, while Flanagan has performed superbly at right back in recent months as many believe he will be called-up for England’s friendly with Denmark in March. While Southampton have had recent call-ups for academy product Adam Lallana, young striker Rodriguez and stalwart Rickie Lambert, which has shown Hodgson is willing to put faith in Saints’ talented crop of players who are surprising everyone by looking at ease in the top half of the PL standings.
With Southampton boasting a whole host of talented teenagers coming out of their academy ranks, Hodgson has a big decision to make. Does he take some of the most exciting young Englishmen who are not just prodigies but are actually doing it regularly in the PL, or rely on the old guard?
Left back Luke Shaw is just 18, but many are already earmarking him to be in England’s World Cup squad this summer, while Under-21 midfielder James Ward-Prowse has impressed with wicked deliveries and another teenage right back, Calum Chambers, has been superb all season. Chambers has been keeping another England prospect, Nathaniel Clyne who is just 22, out of Saints’ starting lineup.
In Southampton’s 1-0 midweek win against Hull, nine of Saints’ 18-man squad were eligible to play for England and five were under the age of 24 and three of those were teenagers. Liverpool don’t boast that many English players in their squad, but they have more ‘finished articles’ than Saints, with Steven Gerrard, Daniel Sturridge, Flanagan, Sterling and Jordan Henderson all playing in the 3-2 win away at Fulham on Wednesday, while Martin Kelly was on the bench.
Hodgson’s comments suggest he will give youth a chance to shine in Brazil this summer, as England are well and truly in a transitional period in terms of where their squad is at. Liverpool and Southampton are two of the form teams in the PL, and it is no surprise that Hodgson wants to latch onto their talented youngsters and ride their feel-good factor into the summer and beyond.
Investment in youth is something PL teams have been slow on the uptake with, but Liverpool and Saints have shown it can work and can prove fruitful as both teams surge up the standings with young English talent leading the way.
Will these teenagers aid England’s progress this summer in Brazil? Roy is certainly contemplating giving it a go.