England boss Roy Hodgson has been criticised for his often cautious approach to the game.
His teams are described as solid, functional and hard to beat. He is not usually a boss associated with taking risks.
However, the former-Fulham boss took a gamble when selecting Tottenham winger Andros Townsend for England’s vital 4-1 World Cup qualification win over Montenegro. It turned out to be a masterstroke.
Townsend had a major influence on the contest, having a hand in the opening goal and scoring England’s third goal with a superb long-range effort. His positivity and willingness to run at his man was a breath of fresh air.
The Spurs winger was selected because of his ability to run at defenders and his direct style of play. In the first half England had few opportunities, but that did not stop Townsend having a good first half and being positive.
England’s performance improved in the second half and Townsend’s influence started to grow. It was far to say that the young Tottenham winger had a senior international debut to remember and that Hodgson made the right decision.
It also seems that most of Townsend’s colleagues appreciated his performance, as half the team came out and praised the debutant in post-match interviews.
The victory over Montenegro was a vital one, as we all knew prior to kick-off that the Three Lions needed two victories and they would qualify, no matter what happened elsewhere. The victory became even more crucial after Ukraine defeated Poland 1-0 and moved above Roy Hodgson men in the group table.
England’s second half display and eventual win put Hodgson’s team back on top in the group. With Ukraine facing a walk in the park in San Marino on Tuesday night, the Three Lions will have to put in a similar display against Poland to that of the second half in the latest game. The current form of the Three Lions suggest that England’s chances of beating Poland are very good. Based on player form alone, Skybet suggests that the line-up against Poland should include players like Shaw, Barkley and Baines, which is quite interesting.
If they do then qualification should be ensured. However, this is England and they never like to do anything the easy way. Being an England fan entails becoming accustomed to scenarios like this one. The Polish have caused England problems in qualification campaigns before and Hodgson needs to make sure that does not happen in this campaign.
To be honest I really did not think that Roy Hodgson had a decision like selecting Andros Townsend in him. He has always seemed to have taken the safe option when it has come to team selection and selecting someone for their international debut in such a big game was a gamble.
Hats off to the England boss, I really did think he would go with the safe option of playing James Milner. The City midfielder is not a bad player, but he is the sort of player that plays when you are worried about the opposition threat.
On this occasion though that was not the case, as England went into the game as heavy favourites and Montenegro were missing a number of key players including Juventus’ Mirko Vucinic. Even the Montenegro boss Branko Brnovic did not seem that convinced of his sides chances before the game.
Roy Hodgson may be cautious, but he has managed the likes of Italian giants Inter and Premier League Liverpool and you do not get jobs like that without a modicum of managerial talent.
After Townsend’s performance in Friday night’s match hopefully Roy Hodgson will continue to show his faith in some of the younger players at his disposal. At 22-years old Townsend is relatively young, but there are also the likes of Everton wonderkid Ross Barkley and Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling waiting in the wings for their chance.
The pair are unlikely to get their chance against Poland, as Hodgson is likely to stick to the same team that played against Montenegro, apart from Phil Jones or Chris Smalling coming in for the suspended Kyle Walker at right-back.
However, the youngsters will no doubt have a part to play in England’s future, as they look to have bright futures in the game.
The England players know that a win against Poland will send their nation through to the World Cup in Brazil it really is that simple. As always though England will most likely make it difficult for us supporters, as England would not be England without a bit of drama and turmoil.
Will England defeat Poland to qualify for the World Cup?