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Adam Johnson comments hit home for England World Cup hopefuls

| 19.03.2014
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“I don’t think it really matters how well you are playing – it’s who you play for,” said England World Cup hopeful Adam Johnson in a recent interview, after missing out on selection for the squad name to face Denmark.

Coral make the Sunderland winger a 5/1 shot to be on Roy Hodgson’s final 23-man roster for Brazil, but much has been made of a perceived bias towards top Premier League teams rather than rewarding form with call-ups.

“I think a lot of people saw me as almost a certainty for the Denmark squad,” Johnson, who last represented his country in August 2012 in a friendly win over Italy, added. “But if you look at the latest squad, it was almost all top-eight players. I think that says a lot about the selection.”

Does Johnson have an acute case of sour grapes or is there some substance to his claims? Looking at the last five Three Lions squads, 31 out of 35 players (almost 90 per cent) given their country’s call by Hodgson this season have played for a current top-eight side this term.

Steven Caulker, a former Tottenham centre back that is now captaining strugglers Cardiff City, and the backup goalkeepers to Joe Hart are the only exceptions to this. In short, the vast majority of Hodgson’s roster come from Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool, the Manchester clubs, Southampton or Spurs.

There is nothing new in this, though. The Premier League table doesn’t lie, but what hope then for the likes of Johnson and Hull City’s Tom Huddlestone? It is difficult to make the case for including much-maligned Manchester United midfielder Tom Cleverley, for example, ahead of the latter.

Humberside is far from fashionable in football terms, but Huddlestone has scored twice and made five assists in all competitions for the mid-table Tigers.

Those returns far exceed Cleverley’s contribution – just a single goal and laying another on – to what has, admittedly, been a difficult first season for David Moyes at Old Trafford.

Comparing the odds offered by Coral, based on their respective statistics, on this pair making the plane to Brazil is mind-boggling. Cleverley is 2/1, while Huddlestone, whose passing and power is far superior, is a massive 20/1 outsider.

It is perhaps a case of who your club teammates are, coupled with the cautious managerial approach taken by Hodgson, which explains this anomaly.

Cleverley lines up alongside England talisman Wayne Rooney, versatile forward Danny Welbeck, patient and sitting midfield presence Michael Carrick, and defensive duo Phil Jones and Chris Smalling at the Red Devils.

All of those names are odds-on to make the final Three Lions squad for the World Cup, so if Cleverley is included, then it looks like it will be by association only.

Punters should bank on the status quo being maintained. Hodgson will pick his roster from the established order, unless a spate of injuries force his hand.

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Author

Jamie Clark

Athletics aficionado, die-hard snooker fan and Crystal Palace supporter Jamie has written for Coral since February 2014 after spells with Soccerlens and the Press Association as a digital journalist and copywriter. A former East Midlands sports correspondent and Bwin tipster, he is a graduate of both the University of York and University of Sheffield, with a Masters in web journalism from the latter.