England boss Roy Hodgson has pulled a few surprises in his squad to face the Republic of Ireland and Slovenia next month.
The former-Fulham boss has named three uncapped players in his squad in the shape of Leicester’s Jamie Vardy, QPR’s Charlie Austin and Burnley’s Tom Heaton.
All of the trio have enjoyed decent campaigns in struggling Premier League teams.
Vardy helped the Foxes beat the drop to the Championship, while despite their best efforts Austin and Heaton were relegated to the second tier with QPR and Burnley respectively.
The three players involved have earned their places as a reward for their good performances this season.
Both Vardy and Austin have fought their way up through the divisions. The two strikers were both plying their trade in non-league football just five years ago in Austin’s case and in Vardy’s case three years ago.
Austin has had a fine debut season in the top-flight scoring 17 Premier League goals and providing the Hoops focal point of their attack. Without Austin’s goals this season the Londoners would have been relegated a long time before they were.
Austin is unlikely to be plying his trade in the second tier with Chris Ramsey’s team next season and has been linked with a number of Premier League clubs.
Vardy is a pest of a forward, in the best possible sense. He just will not give opposition defences a second of peace. The 28-year-old will run all day and is Leicester’s very own version of the Duracell bunny.
A criticism that has been levelled at the striker is that he maybe does no score enough goals for his team, although he often plays as a winger rather than a striker.
Burnley ‘keeper Tom Heaton has been one of the standout players for the Clarets this season, despite the side from Lancashire making a quick return to the second tier. The 29-year-old former-United trainee has produced a string of impressive performances for Sean Dyche’s side.
Heaton has been linked with a summer move to Everton and it also likely to be playing top-flight football next season.
For a long time England bosses have not picked players on form, but just selected the same group of players from the usual clubs. Hodgson’s selection of the new trio is quite refreshing to me. Hodgson had never displayed much of an inclination for the refreshing or the innovative really.
He was always struck me as a steady and solid ‘let’s pick my favourite players’ kind of guy. The two games the players have been selected for will not be the most difficult and all three may not even appear in the games, so it is not like they are being picked for vital games.
The two games will give Hodgson a chance to see if the likes of Austin and Vardy can provide him with attacking options for future games. The games will also give Hodgson the chance to see more of the likes of Ryan Bertrand, Ryan Mason and Ross Barkley on the international scene.
Barkley has won 12 caps, but has yet to put together a string of decent performances for club or country this season. Mason and Bertrand have both enjoyed impressive campaigns with their club teams this season.
Mason has won just one cap, while Bertrand has won three caps spread over three years. The pair now have their chance to stake a claim for regular spots in the Three Lions squad in the future.
England’s games have become rather mundane to watch in recent months. They are in a European Championship qualification group that is rather weak and the Three Lions are expected to top the group, which they are on course to do.
The inclusion of the likes of Austin, Heaton and Vardy makes friendly games and Euro qualifiers slightly more interesting for England fans. It also demonstrates that players do not have to play for the so called ‘big teams’ to get picked for England.
Some fans have criticised Roy Hodgson for his selection of Vardy, but the lad works his socks off and deserves his chance, even if it is just a one-time call-up.
England have a number of forwards either injured, or on under-21 duty and Vardy has been in very decent form in recent weeks, so Hodgson has given him a chance.
Austin meanwhile has done exceptionally well in a poor QPR team this season and is the fourth highest scorer in the Premier League.
I for one applaud Roy Hodgson’s selection. If he never tries these players out, he will never know if they are good enough or not to feature in the future.
Is Roy Hodgson right to experiment in upcoming games?