To Ricky Lambert the veteran Southampton striker, and now to Andros Townsend, the 22-year-old Tottenham outside right. Lambert responded with excellent marksmanship on his Wembley debut against Scotland.
Andros, so surprisingly and boldly thrown on for his debut in the vital World Cup qualifier against Montenegro, a revelation with his pace, supreme self confidence, elusiveness and finishing power. Montenegro could never subdue him, he scored a spectacular goal and was a menace almost every time he got the ball.
Yet only a couple of years ago Spurs were prepared to sell him down the League to Millwall for a mere half a million pounds. Previously Townsend, who has now signed a lucrative new contract with Spurs, had been on loan to no fewer than nine different clubs, surely enough to subdue the confidence and ambition in many a footballer.
It was really with the last of these nine, across London at Queens Park Rangers last season that in a struggling side doomed to relegation, his talents became truly plain. He did in fact have a couple of months with Millwall in 2011, but they brought just a couple of goals in eleven matches. Townsend was told he could leave for Millwall if he wanted, but he bravely and as it transpired wisely, decided he would take his chance and stay.
Lucky Tottenham. If ever a player had the “Big Match Temperament,” it is surely this young Londoner and Hodgson is to be praised for giving him his chance and in so vital a match. His prowess has overshadowed another gifted Tottenham outside right in Lennon who reached the peak of achievement by scintillating in the 2006 World Cup finals, so much so that the much indulged David Beckham even had once the grace to drop deep to get out of his way.
Yet there are other aspects of Hodgson’s England team which are less reassuring. Same old same old one thought wearily when Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard were picked against Montenegro in the two central midfield roles. You might have thought that this uneasy partnership was all done and dusted. The two, though Lampard was used deeper against Montenegro, which thus limited his ability suddenly to break through and score, have never convinced as a partnership.
There were, as we know, somewhat ludicrous times when to accommodate them both Gerrard was actually used as a false right footed left winger; even if at least once it brought a fine goal. But with these two in the middle, England grievously lack the element of surprise which arguably, given the sad current lack of resources, could be given to them only by the passing and perception of Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere; who came on far too late against Montenegro to make any real impact.
Failing him there is Manchester United’s Michael Carrick, discarded for a while by Hodgson after one disappointing game, but an intelligent and consistent passer of the ball even if he isn’t potentially as inventive as Wilshere.
The withdrawal of John Terry, still surely the best of all English centre backs, is alas irreparable and Rio Ferdinand’s sun seems to be setting. So Cahill and Jagielka it must be for the moment for lack of any real challengers. Not Hodgson’s fault.
During the course of the Montenegro match, a television camera unkindly, embarrassingly and perhaps all to significantly, focused on the recently appointed Chairman of the Football Association, Greg Dyke, who was not watching the game but somewhat distractedly consulting his programme. At least, you might say he attended the match, having missed the Wembley game against Scotland and the vital game in the Ukraine. His new investigative committee? I’m with Gary Lineker; wholly unimpressed.Subscribe today to World Soccer Magazine - The unrivalled authority on the game of soccer
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