Euro 2012: Roy Hodgson must call time on John Terry’s England career | Daniel Taylor
Elsewhere in Europe countries are clearing out the old and bringing in the new. It is time that England did the same
In Holland, they are already in the process of dismantling their Euro 2012 squad. The cut-off point is roughly 30 or above. Mark van Bommel has ushe red himself to the door. Joris Mathijsen, Wilfred Bouma, Khalid Boulahrouz and Dirk Kuyt are all considered too old. John Heitinga falls beneath the line but is just not good enough any more. Rafael van der Vaart, a 29-year-old malcontent, was going to be shown off the premises until the manager, Bert van Marwijk, sacrificed himself instead.
Roy Hodgson’s insistence he should keep faith with England’s over-30s is certainly not in keeping with the other nations who have come up short, in varying degrees, in Euro 2012. In France, Patrice Evra is the fall-guy. Maybe Florent Malouda, too. For Portugal, Ricardo Costa has probably played his last game. Germany could cut Miroslav Klose free.
It’s tough, this changeover business. Some will make the decision themselves, others will have it done for them. Van der Vaart is one short of joining the small and exclusive list of Dutch footballers to reach 100 caps. If Van Marwijk had stayed put, the Tottenham player would have been on 99 for life.
Hodgson’s approach is very different. He was almost bemused by the suggestion it was time for England’s thirtysomethings to be moved on, in complete contrast to the operation that Gary Neville would like to see enforced. Neville was saying as long ago as March that the old guard had to be eased out and it is worth recounting those words now he is effectively Hodgson’s right-hand man. “Now is the time to clear the decks and go in with a fresh approach, with players who are not tarnished by failure and cynicism,” Neville said. “They’ve got to get rid of the negativity because it doesn’t create the right environment for young people to thrive and blossom in.” Steven Gerrard and Ashley Cole made his cut; John Terry did not. Jack Rodwell and Daniel Sturridge were in; Frank Lampard and Gareth Barry were not.
The problem with statements like that is twofold. First, Hodgson evidently disagrees and, second, Terry has had a pretty good tournament, to the extent that a group of football writers could be found at a hotel bar in Warsaw a few nights ago debating whether he might warrant a mention when it came to nominating the competition’s best defenders. The consensus was that he had played with an intransigence that helped to ensure the ordeal that England ultimately suffered against Italy did not arrive any sooner.
Yet Terry fell short because it was his lack of mobility that meant the team were frequently guilty of defending too deeply, just as his creaking limbs were not conducive to André Villas-Boas’s desire for a higher line during his time at Chelsea.
This does not overlook the fact Terry still came up with his usual quota of tackles, blocks and interceptions but look more closely an d there is a downside when an old-fashioned, muck-and-nettles kind of centre-half, albeit one with uncommon ability on the ball, reaches 31 with a history of back issues and, very often, playing through injury. When the ball is in front of Terry, he is a formidable opponent. It is when he has to turn, with space behind him, that he is vulnerable, so his natural inclination is not to push out because a ball over the top risks exposing his pace.
Just think back to that moment against Sweden when he was sucked out of position and found himself in a sprint with Zlatan Ibrahimovic on the left touchline. The way he was caught and overtaken was compelling evidence that Terry, for all his ability to walk out on a field and put his body on the line, will not be in any state to play in the next World Cup. Too many injuries; too much putting himself through it.
A good degree of this is immaterial until the verdict comes though from Westminster magistrates’ court and Terry i s either cleared or convicted of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand when Chelsea played at QPR last October.
Case number 1103985595 is listed for 9 July under the charge, denied by Terry, that he “used threatening or abusive or insulting words within hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress, and that the offence was racially aggravated, contrary to section 28 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1988”. The trial is expected to last the full week, involving character witnesses, players from both clubs, lip-reading evidence and police officers. Only when it is done can we be sure of Terry’s position with the national team and, specifically, whether he can be picked again.
Whatever happens, the point is that Terry is dispensable and there is a danger here of Hodgson’s thinking being affected by short-termism when he talks of persisting with him. Hodgson has already sent Rio Ferdinand to the guillotine and, at 33, there is no feasible way back for the Manchester United defender. But the centre of defence is not a problem position for England.
Joleon Lescott and Phil Jagielka will be 31 by the time the World Cup comes around, Gary Cahill will be 28, Chris Smalling 24 and Phil Jones 22. Apart from Jagielka, they are all playing in the Champions League. Cahill’s performance in the final against Bayern Munich should have soothed any argument about his ability to cope at the highest level. Smalling and Jones, talented yet still raw, should be markedly better in two years.
England’s qualifying programme – home and away games against Moldova, Ukraine, Poland, San Marino and Montenegro – is surely a good place to entrust these players because the alternative, namely to start the campaign with Terry, would be denying the opportunity to those who will still be there in 2014.
The trick, as Italy have shown, is to get the blend right between the old and the new. Mario Balotelli, at 21, may have sco red the goals that put Cesare Prandelli’s team into the final but it is a 33-year-old, Andrea Pirlo, who has been their outstanding performer and perhaps the player of the tournament, commended for producing a “piece of art” when Peter Schmeichel presented him with another man-of-the-match award after Thursday’s semi-final.
Gerrard will be 34 in Brazil and, like Terry, a player on the wane, with fitness issues of his own – the first attack of cramp was biting at his legs 71 minutes into the Italy quarter-final – but there can be modifications to his role and it was always clear, as soon as he was given the captaincy, that he would be kept on.
Lampard may have to reinvent himself and curtail those penalty-box runs, just as Paul Scholes has done for Manchester United, but even then it may be too late – he, like Barry, might have to make way if Jack Wilshere gets over his ankle injury. Cole has lost a touch of his old pace but is still anything but a slouch an d less of a concern, providing he still has the appetite. That just leaves Terry and whether Hodgson will listen to the advice of his assistant. “They’ve got to bring through a new group of young players,” Neville had said. Read More