They say releasing players is the hardest part of management, and cutting the long squad for a tournament is as close as international gaffers get to it. It's a tricky business, and not all players handle it well – ask Glenn Hoddle how Paul Gascoigne accepted the news – but with UEFA's May 31st deadline looming, it's inescapable.
So we pushed a quartet of FourFourTwo staff into Roy Hodgson's shoes, asking which two of the 25-man England party (not counting the injured Fabian Delph) they'd be leaving behind...
Gary Parkinson, Global Digital Editor:
Roy's rejuvenation of the squad and trust in youth deserves far more credit: his starting XIs were the third-youngest in Euro qualifying, while this 26-man group's average of 24.8 years is exactly half a decade younger than Fabio Capello's 2010 selection.
However, part of management is telling young hopefuls that they they haven't made the cut, and that's why he has to leave Ross Barkley at home. It's not the Scouser's fault Everton have been woeful for months, but at 22 years old there's still no sign of Barkley making the right decisions on a regular enough basis to flourish at the top level.
In either of Hodgson's two main systems Barkley only suits the No.10 role, where he'd be perhaps fourth or fifth choice. Even as that curious tautology an "impact substitute" – who wants a sub that doesn't make an impact? – others seem more likely to emerge and change the game, whether it's whichever striker didn't start the game or even Newcastle's Andros Townsend with his direct wingplay and goal threat.
Speaking of which, England should take Marcus Rashford; the Manchester United kid's debut wasn't quite as uniformly brilliant as many have made out, but he has the intelligence and calm ball retention to play a similar role to Hodgson favourite Danny Welbeck out wide in a front three. In fact, he might offer more in that role than Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge, whose incessant injury woes mean he faces an anxious wait for Hodgson's nod.
Others have question marks. Is Jordan Henderson fit? His hometown performance on Friday said so, and in a fairly callow midfield Hodgson needs someone with a bit of calm reassurance. Is Danny Drinkwater up to it? Word is he'll be dropped but I'd say Leicester's indefatigably reliable distributor should go, especially sitting at the back of midfield (and firing balls forward for clubmate Jamie Vardy).
Indeed, England haven't got much depth in defensive midfield, with Tottenham's Eric Dier still finding his feet at this level and Jack Wilshere a somewhat ersatz regista. Like Sturridge, the Arsenal man also has his injury problems to overcome, and won't be sure of his place. But if it came to a toss-up between the two – and it will, as this is my squad, not my prediction of Hodgson's – the paucity of alternatives would mean I'd take Wilshere and leave Sturridge at home.
Chris Flanagan, Staff Writer:
The question for me is: Which players would Roy Hodgson be least likely to bring on as a sub? Those who are in danger of missing out on the squad are highly unlikely to actually start matches, so those who are useful as substitutes should get the nod. Remember Sven-Goran Eriksson taking Theo Walcott to the 2006 World Cup, but then not coming remotely close to actually putting him on the field?
Fabian Delph has already been ruled out through injury, and for me the next one to go would be Danny Drinkwater. Barring a horrendous injury crisis, I can’t see how he’d play. England have plenty of central midfielders, and he’s not a player you’d bring on to change a game.
England’s bizarre reliance on Harry Kane to take set pieces against Turkey means I’d be tempted to keep Andros Townsend just as a back-up in that department. It’s unlikely that Hodgson will use all five of his forwards, so reluctantly I'd leave Daniel Sturridge at home, purely because of doubts about whether he can stay fit.
Huw Davies, Managing Editor:
Cutting just two names comes down to substitute options, not balance. You have to be clinical. You have to prioritise usefulness. You have to leave out another defender.
England’s 25-man squad features seven defenders, generally seen as the bare minimum. Most teams take eight. Everybody assumes Roy Hodgson will cull an attacking player and one of his seven central midfielders. But why not lose Kyle Walker?
A team needs more attackers than defenders on the bench, for tactical variety. It gives the manager options in changing the game – go long, say, or use pace? By contrast, defenders’ substitute appearances are rarely tactical. They represent well over half of World Cup squad players left unused (something Hodgson himself has acknowledged before).
Walker will only play if Nathaniel Clyne can’t. Clyne’s discipline and injury records are pretty good, and England have four, four other players who’d deputise competently at right-back. It’s not ideal, but take the risk and save a space for attacking diversity.
The final cut is between Danny Drinkwater and Andros Townsend. Drinkwater’s a better player, and his season has far outstripped those of midfield rivals Jordan Henderson and Jack Wilshere, but European Championship squads shouldn’t be about who ‘deserves’ it. This isn’t Team of the Season. Drinkwater’s unlikely to start or feature as a substitute; at least Townsend might have a flash of genius. Well, it could happen.
Ben Clark, Digital Apprentice:
Marcus Rashford – Manchester United's young striker has surprised me, and it's difficult to deny his ability and potential – but I wouldn't take him to the Euros. And no, it doesn't come down to his age. Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy, Daniel Sturridge and Wayne Rooney give England more than enough firepower, so why take another striker? Maybe in two years' time, but right now, better options are available.
Jack Wilshere – I'm not sure what Roy sees in Wilshere, but whatever it is, I don't see it. His lack of game time this season means he isn't match fit – just look at his performance against Australia. Hardly ideal for a summer tournament.
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