The time is 15:05 27/02/2014, I refresh Twitter and to my horror see Tom Cleverley's name in the England squad. I had to do a double-take, baffled by the lack of Johnson, Huddlestone and Barry to name a few. Cleverley is an easy target, but are England and particularly Roy missing a trick here? We all know the old opinion that it's who you play for and not how you play that guarantees selection, well Roy has done nothing to dispel that here.
Cleverley is not up to scratch. Others will disagree, but that's surely the beauty of football. I'm positive that I'm not alone though, emphasised in the rather amusing E-Petition that has emerged entitled 'Ban Tom Cleverley from the England Squad'. I remember watching Cleverley playing for Wigan in the 2010-11 season and thinking he looked like a decent player. Nothing too flash but decent nonetheless. It was my hope at that time that he would sign for a club like Wigan and enjoy a decent career. The last few seasons have however proved different. 'A Scapegoat!' some will cry, well scapegoat or not he should not be in the England squad.
Anyone watching Man United's dismal display in Greece midweek will have no doubt recognised how poor Cleverley was, but amazingly he caught the eye of Roy Hodgson. I refer back to my earlier description of Cleverley here,'decent'. It's important not to totally lose perspective, the lad is an alright footballer. Ordinarily very tidy, he's a solid midfielder but nothing more. As a result I have no doubts that he should neither play for Man United nor England.
But how does Cleverley fit the wider picture? Roy Hodgson appears to pick players based entirely on their club, rather than form or ability. You only have to read my article from yesterday to understand my fury at Adam Johnson's exclusion from the squad (a player boasting 7 goals in 9 games and the January Player of the month award) and it represents a wider issue. With English football seemingly in a state of transition I cannot help but feel that Roy is missing a crucial opportunity to dispel this ridiculous process for team selection.
Who cares which club you play for domestically? When it comes to pulling on the England shirt I certainly don't. This is an attitude Roy must adopt and in doing so remove his outrageously stubborn process of selection. As the 'Golden Generation' gradually filter out of the squad, the manager must remove any agenda when choosing his squad and start acknowledging the players who have genuinely earned a place. Obviously every manager has a favoured system and selects players appropriate for this, but I cannot believe that someone like Johnson who has 7 goals and 3 assists in his last 9 games can be ignored in favour of Cleverley, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Milner and Townsend who have 5 goals and 2 assists COMBINED in the Premier League this season. (Admittedly there are some reasons for this but the point still stands).
Is it coincidental that those above play for Man United, Arsenal, Man City and Tottenham respectively? Absolutely not. This is a significant problem that is sucking the life out of our national side. If we are to progress forward we must do so with talent from all of the teams on offer. To occasionally play for a bigger side does not make you in any way more capable than a player who plies their trade at a lower club and to think otherwise is downright ignorant.
If Cleverley still played for Wigan or an equivalent in the current Premier League he would not have any chance of inclusion in this latest squad and this is so, so wrong. To ignore players who are putting their absolute heart and soul into gaining a place in the national side purely because of the shirt they wear is criminal. Too often England have employed this outrageous process of selection and as I'm sure you can tell, I've had enough!
Roy has not acted 'Cleverley!'