HERE’S one for the older readers . . . what do Alan Hudson, Rodney Marsh, Tony Currie and Stan Bowles have in common?
All of them marvellously gifted players — and all of them ignored by England while others with a fraction of their talent racked up the caps.
England should build their team around Jack Grealish Credit: AP:Associated Press
Grealish is a similar player to Chelsea legend Alan HudsonCredit: Getty – Contributor
Well, watching Thursday’s game against the Republic of Ireland, my mind went back to those days in the 1970s. Or at least it did whenever Jack Grealish was on the ball.
Grealish is a young player who divides opinion like few others. Some don’t think he’s inter national class, others think he should be the main man.
And the more I see of him, the more I am convinced he’s a guy England should be building the team around. I really think he’s that good.
I tell you what, if he was playing for any other country, the only argument would be how to stop him, not whether he should be in the side in the first place.
The problem is, when Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford and Harry Kane are all available, will Grealish get in? I’m not so certain.
But even with a fully-fit squad, Jack would still be one of the first names on any England teamsheet of mine.
I’m not saying that should be at the expense of Sterling or Rashford. There’s no reason why all three can’t be in the same team.
It would mean playing with a back four — and I know Gareth Southgate likes a back three at the moment — but that’s how I’d fit him in.
A back four, two holding midfielders, Raheem and Marcus out wide, Kane up top . . . and Jack on the ball floating around as a No 10.
You want to see players who excite you — and Grealish does that better than most. He’s someone who can change a game in an instant.
Grealish has an eye for a pass and loves running with the ballCredit: Rex Features
Rather like Hudson used to do. A couple of passes Jack made against Ireland were out of this world because he sees things others don’t. Again, very similar to Hudson.
When he’s got the ball at his feet, his head is always up, he’s looking at opponents. He is in complete control, he just glides along and actually runs at people.
That may sound obvious but these days it’s almost a dying breed. You hear coaches screaming: “Pass, pass, pass.”
I want to see dribble, dribble, dribble. One-on-one, there are few better than Grealish at beating a man. He’s strong as an ox, too. Have you seen the size of his calves?
He has three caps for England now, which is already one more than Hudson got in his whole career.
I just hope that in years to come Jack isn’t another fantastic talent we look back on and scratch our head over why he never truly got the recognition he deserves.
But I don’t want to see him playing in friendlies against opponents who aren’t in our class — and let’s be honest, England v Ireland was like Tyson Fury against the 20th- ranked boxer.
I want to see Grealish playing against the best, in the biggest games of all. And I would love to see him playing against Belgium today for a start.
With so many great young players coming through, it’s certainly a great time for Gareth to be England manager and I love how he is giving them a chance at this level.
We saw the latest of them on Thursday, when Jude Bellingham came on. What a player he looks.
Jude Bellingham impressed for England against IrelandCredit: Rex Features
I’ve always said that if they’re good enough, then pick them and put them in your first team, not in an Under-21 game at a training ground.
They learn more by playing “real” football, league football, and that often means sending them out on loan.
That’s what I did with Rio Ferdinand and Jermain Defoe, who both went to Bournemouth. Michael Carrick went to Swindon and Frank Lampard was at Swansea.
I don’t know if Jude thought he wouldn’t get a chance in the Premier League because Manchester United were supposed to be interested but he went to Borussia Dortmund.
He’s getting more games than he probably would with United. It will be great for his development as a person too. It’s certainly paying off.
With the likes of Jadon Sancho, Reece James, Phil Foden, Ashley Maitland-Niles, Mason Mount and Bukayo Saka, the future is definitely rosy for England.
I just hope Grealish plays as big a part in it as he should.
DANGERS OF TRIVIAL MATCHES
YOU don’t need to be a genius to know what Jurgen Klopp is thinking right now — and I’ve got every sympathy for him.
He was already without Virgil van Dijk and Trent Alexander-Arnold, and then Joe Gomez gets a serious injury training with England.
The international break has not been kind to Liverpool boss Jurgen KloppCredit: PA:Press Association
Chris Wilder — already missing a load at Sheffield United — will have been just as angry as Jurgen, too, after Irishman John Egan went off at Wembley.
Having a three-game international break now made no sense when the demands on players in the current climate are so great.
I could understand bringing them together to give countries a chance to work on shape and patterns but these games were meaningless, pointless and dangerous.
Of all the matches last week and this week, basically the only ones that matter are the Euro play-offs and the South American World Cup qualifiers.
No one loves watching football more than me but on this occasion it did more harm than good.
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