There has been quite a lot of talk amongst West Ham supporters over the last couple of weeks regarding the fact that Mark Noble was once again overlooked for an England call-up for the recent round of international fixtures.
It does seem crazy that Roy Hodgson, who is not exactly blessed with good English defensive midfielders to choose from, has refused to select the Hammer of the Year for so much as a friendly during his time in charge.
I am sure there will be plenty that disagree with me over this one, and it would appear on paper that there are enough better options than him available to play on the wings, such as Raheem Sterling, Theo Walcott, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. However, I believe that Downing has qualities that make him unique compared to other England candidates, which means he can offer something different to the squad.
Downing is more what would probably be described as an old-fashioned type winger, who generally looks to take on his full-back and deliver crosses into the box, although he is well capable of cutting inside and shooting as well. This directness in approach from a wide-man is in contrast to a lot you tend to see for the top clubs in the Premier League, who generally favour a more sophisticated approach to goal. Indeed you won’t see someone like Raheem Sterling staying in one position on the wing and look to supply a striker with crosses; rather he will be moving all over the attacking positions.
The option someone like Downing as a substitute would give the side is genuine width and a different threat for the opposition to deal with. For example in England’s World Cup game against Italy, I felt we were crying out for something like this, with the Italians successfully crowding out the English attacks through the centre primarily.
I can’t think of too many others in this mould, currently, who are English, and have the ability to adapt to different game situations – this should definitely be something Roy Hodgson is looking to achieve.
That being said, I’m sure this won’t happen, because of the policy which seems to be to only pick players who are in the top five or six clubs in England. But that approach hasn’t worked for the national side for years, and it’s time to start thinking outside of the box.
Overall, if England want to start improving when it comes to the major tournaments, they should start to think more carefully about what different players in the Premier League can offer the squad, rather than just aimlessly picking players from the biggest clubs, and the likes of Downing and Noble deserve a chance in that respect.