Pride of playing for England is no longer as strong as it used to be
England manager Roy Hodgson has admitted that it is getting more difficult to select players for his squad on a regular basis.
His decision to call up Southampton’s Adam Lallana, Liverpool youngster Raheem Stirling and Jake Livermore of Tottenham for the World Cup qualifier against Ukraine suggests this.
It isn’t being helped by players deciding not to be available for selection.
Recently, it was revealed that Peter Crouch had refused to be available for standby at Euro 2012.
While the Stoke City striker isn’t the first player to do this, does England and international football itself have a bigger problem in individuals not wanting to represent their countries?
Crouch lets himself down
Former Portsmouth, Liverpool and Tottenham hitman Crouch (pictured) has been often viewed upon as a wise selection for the international setup, especially in regards to the height issues he poses for defenders.
The 31-year-old made his international debut for the Three Lions against Colombia in 2005 and has scored an impressive 22 goals in 42 appearances.
He featured at both the World Cup in 2006 and 2010 but hasn’t played since he scored in an international friendly against France in November 2010.
Over the summer, there were strong calls for him to go to Euro 2012 but he wasn’t interested in being only a standby selection.
Hodgson said: “I selected him for the Euros but he didn’t want to come.
“He made it clear that unless he was in the squad he didn’t want to be considered.”
Perhaps Crouch will be regretting his move now, especially with both Wayne Rooney and Andy Carroll missing through injury.
Darren Bent is starting to find some form after a lengthy injury while Grant Holt has been mentioned and Bobby Zamora has also previous international experience.
For any English fan reading this, they have to be disappointed with Crouch’s decision and it is quite understandable that Hodgson hasn’t considered him since.
Previous cases of refusing to play
At international level England have a problem of convincing players to play for them, especially as attitudes seem to be dwindling towards pride in wearing the shirt.
One of the most famous examples of refusing to play was when Chris Sutton, a Blackburn striker at the time, refused to play for an England B side in February 1998.
Glenn Hoddle never picked Sutton again and nor did any other manager afterwards.
Sutton has since admitted in his autobiography released last year Paradise and Beyond that it is his biggest career regret.
It is believed that Micah Richards rejected the chance to play at Euro 2012 after like Crouch, he found out he wasn’t going to be in the 23-man squad but on the standby list.
It is doubtful that either player will ever represent England again.
Other players like Ben Foster, Paul Robinson and Wes Brown have retired because they grew tired of not being featured in the starting 11 for qualifiers and friendlies.
Michael Carrick was another player in this category, although his recent return into the setup last month means that the door won’t be slammed shut on the likes of Crouch and Richards.
However, what it does show is international football has fallen down the pecking order of player priorities.
Clubs don’t help
The club v country row has been one of those debates in England that never looks like it will be settled.
While it is understandable for a Premier League manager to show concern of poorly-timed friendly arrangements, surely a player’s greatest landmark is to represent their country.
It still is the case with some international sides like Spain and Germany. The likes of Fernando Llorente and Juan Mata barely or didn’t feature at the Euros this summer for the winners but didn’t show any signs of distress or complaint.
Perhaps as England are not a winning side, some players’ feel it is best to be focused on club football.
Sure, there are bigger prizes up for grabs in recent seasons. The FA Cup is still showing its romance and the Champions League is taking bigger priority with the top sides than ever before.
However, the significance of England players refusing to go on standby for the chance to represent the Three Lions is a sign of player power dominating the game in the 21st century.
Playing for your country should still be amongst the biggest achievements of any player’s career.
When England players say ‘no,’ to selection, it gives the whole jibe that not all is well with team harmony and spirit in the England camp.
Hodgson has admitted he isn’t dismissing anybody, not even those who have refused selection.
The reality is the likes of Peter Crouch will be lucky to play for their country again and the reality also is representing England is just not as important as it once used to be.
By Simon Wright – Follow me on Twitter @Siwri88
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