In the midst of England's disappointment at a home draw with Ukraine a glimmer of hope should shine for the future. An extremely youthful bench looked on as England toiled to break down a counter-attacking Ukraine side, with several of the first team regulars putting in solid performances. I agree with Roy Hodgson that despite the scoreline, this was a far better performance than the 1-0 win courtesy of Wayne Rooney’s header at the Euros.
Tom Cleverley and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had ‘learning curve’ games but Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and James Milner were particularly impressive.
Yet it was the three substitutes introduced in the second half who combined for England’s penalty. Daniel Sturridge’s lofted pass volleyed in first time to Welbeck by Bertrand, whose bamboozling trickery resulted in the penalty that Lampard converted.
The substitute’s performance was testament that hope springs eternal with our young players capable of making an impact at international level given the opportunity; leaving aside the fact the three will not get assured regular football this season for their respective clubs.
Danny Welbeck was the most influential of the subs. He was the first player on the pitch to get in the faces of a Ukrainian side with a bustling display of pace, strength and raw ability that caught Khacheridi and co off guard after 60 minutes of far too respectful displays of bum patting affection against a team that were physically dominating.
Welbeck’s promise comes at a time of, what should be excitement, for the future of England’s team. Raheem Sterling just 17 years old looks set to be a regular at Anfield this season. A talented winger yet to fully realise his physical potential got the opportunity to show off his talents in training with the England team in training.
Adam Lallana and Jake Livermore were also called in and with Jonjo Shelvey and Steven Caulker coming through the Under-21’s with promise we should try to avoid that doom and gloom so early in our campaign.
What we should take as promising is the performance of the subs who came on and injected attitude, hunger and desire to the team.
England miss that something extra however, which Wayne Rooney has been relied upon in recent years and that Joe Cole so often provided in tight Qualifiers such as these in times gone by.
Times like this remind you how much England rely on the return to fitness of Jack Wilshere, the player with that something special to inject into the game. That defence splitting pass, mazy dribble or generalistic performance that Iniesta, Pirlo or Schweinsteiger produce for their respective nations.
As much as Arsenal fans should hope for a full injury recovery England fans should also hope his career restarts as soon as possible. Laying too much pressure on him is difficult, and that is his own fault, he shouldn’t be so absorbingly talented during a time of national team strife.
image: © vagueonthehow