Shelvey selection encouraging, but has Hodgson called up right Swan?
Finally, Swansea City’s English contingent have some recognition. Roy Hodgson has made history by handing midfielder Jonjo Shelvey, a player the Three Lions boss worked with when he managed Liverpool, a recall after 18 months in the international wilderness.
This is the first time a Swan will swap the white club shirt for the same colour of his country with England. Occupying a top six spot in the Premier League table after a great start under coaching novice Garry Monk, Hodgson has sent out an encouraging message to provincial clubs.
It may, in fact, be a growing theme of this Three Lions qualifying campaign, after the national boss took a punt on Aston Villa midfielder Fabian Delph for last month’s friendly with Norway and competitive away day in Switzerland. Now, it’s possible, but not plausible, he and Shelvey could occupy the England engine room.
Such an occurrence seemed impossibly remote as recently as three months ago, when we were all examining the wreckage of another poor World Cup finals showing. It just goes to show how fast the winds of change can blow. Shelvey will be the toast of his Swans teammates, but spare a thought for Nathan Dyer.
The diminutive winger is top scorer at the Liberty Stadium with four in all competitions and looks on course to better his tally of six in each of the last three seasons, but that is still not enough to earn Dyer a spot in Hodgson’s Three Lions squad.
At 26, he is entering his prime and has offered decidedly more than Tottenham counterpart Andros Townsend, who seems to be dining off that explosive England debut almost a year ago against Montenegro, this term.
Dyer, who was approached about representing Jamaica in 2012, has never been capped by England at any level, despite coming through Southampton’s academy, which has produced stars like Gareth Bale, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott. Perhaps Hodgson feels he is not robust and well-built enough for international football, but small, skilful players like Dyer were a huge part of Spain’s spell of dominance.
For Nathaniel Clyne of the Saints, meanwhile, games against San Marino and Estonia are a golden opportunity to capitalise on a maiden senior call-up by making the right back berth his own. Glen Johnson and Kyle Walker are injured and, because only six defenders have got the call from Hodgson, John Stones may be needed at centre half.
The sale of former clubmate Calum Chambers to Arsenal this summer has paved the way for Clyne to burst onto the scene. Gareth Southgate selecting the talented teenager for England Under-21 duty, a crunch play-off with Croatia, is a slice of luck.
Spectacular strikes, plus the fact Southampton sit second in the Premier League in spite of a summer of huge upheaval, have helped raise Crystal Palace product Clyne’s profile. Coral football experts sung his praises recently when we featured him in depth, and our voices among others have combined to form a clamour which Hodgson clearly could not ignore.
England fans expect six points from hosting San Marino and a trip to Eastern European outfit Estonia, especially after earning victory in their toughest away assignment in Basel as qualification for the Euro 2016 finals in France got underway. Odds-on at 2/7 to top Group E, a 7/1 price says the Three Lions can come through their pool with a perfect record by winning every game.