Saturday 20 January 2018

Michael Owen hails England squad

Adam Lallana
Adam Lallana

Former England striker Michael Owen believes Roy Hodgson has named "a squad for now" and is not looking too far into the future after the England head coach named his 23-man group for this summer's World Cup finals.

Hodgson announced his squad on Monday afternoon and included young players such as Luke Shaw and Ross Barkley, along with experienced internationals like Frank Lampard - but there was no place for Ashley Cole and Michael Carrick was named on the replacements list.

Chelsea defender Cole announced his international retirement on Sunday evening having missed out on the squad, with Shaw included alongside Everton's Leighton Baines as England's left-backs.

Owen told BT Sport's Sports Hub: "It's a team for now. Yes, it's building for the future but our best players are these players.

"I wouldn't look at it and think 'he's let go of a top-class ageing player in place of a youngster to give him experience'.

"The likes of (Raheem) Sterling and (Adam) Lallana and Barkley, they're on merit, they're players that can affect the game at international level.

"It's great that some of our best players are young and they're going to stay in the squad, but this really is the squad for now and Roy Hodgson's said that - he's picking a team for now. Why would you go to a World Cup just blooding youngsters?

"A lot is said of the experience, but there's no great experience going out to Brazil for six weeks and sitting on the bench and not kicking one ball. I'd prefer to get our best 23 players out there and thankfully a few of them are youngsters which stands us in good stead for the future."

Owen admitted he was pleased with Hodgson's selection but was worried what would happen if captain Steven Gerrard was to get injured, with no direct replacement cover as Carrick missed out.

He added: "I like the squad, I really do like the squad. But, my only concern is, if you look at the different midfield players, if Steven Gerrard got injured, then who could sit in there?

"You'd say maybe (Jordan) Henderson, but he's a runner and we're going to need his legs.

"The lack of somebody like Michael Carrick maybe to come in in case Steven Gerrard got injured but apart from that I really do like the squad and I think it's a good pick from Roy Hodgson."

But former England goalkeeper David James believes the omission of Cole might have been a mistake with the experience he brings to the squad.

He said: "Ashley Cole I think is a class player to start with he's got the experience and I think he would have been vital just the way he is around the camp - as he has been for previous tournaments - I think would have been vital experience for the squad."

Owen Hargreaves, who made 42 appearances in the England midfield from 2001 to 2008, was delighted with the squad and believes the young players can bring a lot to the team.

He said: "I think that's the big positive. Ashley Cole's always been brilliant servant to England but I just think you need to look to the future.

"I think giving Luke Shaw that opportunity and the experience to be at the tournament, Leighton Baines is going to be the first-choice left-back and to have these younger players, like (Ross) Barkley, have them in the squad and have that experience and they will benefit from that in two or four years' time."

Hargreaves believes the inclusion of the younger and less experienced players takes some pressure off the England team as a whole to go all the way, especially with difficult group matches against Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica coming up next month.

He added: "I think the biggest thing for us, we've been in those environments and I think we had such great teams as time we were expected to win a European Championship or a World Cup.

"I think with this team being so young the expectation level will be very low especially with the group being difficult - so I think that would be a positive.

"I think in the past we were always favourites to go on a do better and the quarter-finals was never really enough, whereas I think a quarter-final for this team would be an achievement."

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