Newcastle worked through a difficult start to life in the Championship to win five of their last six games, and now manager Rafael Benitez is insisting that Sam Allardyce looks at the options that the division as a whole can offer the English national team. More specifically, he has challenged the in-form Jonjo Shelvey to find consistency to his game in order to be put into serious consideration for a return to international football.
“The Championship is a very good level now. There are a lot of good English players in this league,” says Benitez, who was impressed with the level of quality in the division. Regardless, the truth is that England have been reluctant to consider players for the national squad if they are not plying their trade in the top tier. Even more harshly, some who enjoyed seasons worthy of wide-consideration for major tournaments, but didn’t play for an elite club, were ultimately omitted. Danny Drinkwater is a good example, the Leicester midfielder had a dream title-winning season playing in a tireless, workhorse style outfit. His form paired with the style of play at Leicester would seem likely to translate well with England’s game plan, whatever that was supposed to be, and he did impress in friendlies prior to Euro 2016. What happened next? Jack Wilshere, who played 141 minutes of league football that season, was selected instead.
“You don’t have too many (English players) in the Premier League. Every year in every country…everybody is complaining, saying there are too many foreign players coming and we don’t have any space for the English players,” Benitez said. Although there is an undoubtable influx of foreign talent coming over to the Premier League, there is still a solid English core represented amongst the majority of the 20 clubs. The problem, however, is the number of these players that are at a club that is perceived as elite, as this is what has proven to be the difference historically.
The Manchester Derby, somewhat unsurprisingly nowadays, had five starting English players. The recent Chelsea vs Liverpool fixture had six, with Chelsea only having one starting Englishman (because of John Terry’s injury). Tottenham vs Liverpool a few weeks ago will probably be the biggest showing of English players between the bigger clubs, and that game featured nine starting Englishman who all featured at Euro 2016. So how then is a player like Jonjo Shelvey, playing in the Championship, going to stand a chance?
“You have a lot of media, TV and people at the game who can give you reports. So if someone scores a goal like Jonjo did at QPR and everybody is talking about him, then I’m sure he (Allardyce) will have the information to see if Jonjo can stay at this (England) level or even any of the other players can,” says the Spanish manager.
Who knows what England’s national future holds now that they are under the watch of Sam Allardyce? He has already alluded to including players from levels such as the Championship, which has brought success for other international sides like Wales. England fans will be hoping that their new manager doesn’t fall into the same shoe-horning strategy that was employed by Roy Hodgson.
England or not for Shelvey or other Englishman in the Championship, here’s the belter he scored against QPR.