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A Hoad off my mind with KM Group reporter Alex Hoad - Looking at the state of Roy Hodgson's England squad ahead of Slovenia and Scotland games

I winced as blow after blow rained down. My wide eyes darted left and right but in every direction, my gaze was greeted by a fresh wave of woe as the hits just kept on coming.

I needed to see someone, a saviour, some fresh beacon of hope that things were going to be all right.

It never came.

Smalling... Townsend... Walcott... Lambert... Has it really come to this?

Out of form (to put it kindly)... bang average... bed-ridden since January... not playing.

I fully expect we’ll see all four of them in England’s games against Slovenia on Saturday and Scotland on Tuesday.

How have we sleepwalked into a world in which international football has been so neglected that the England side would probably be relegated from the Premier League?

I am, of course, envisaging an existence in which Gary Cahill could play in the same game, against himself, equally well for both Chelsea and England. He could even pick himself up at corners.

Wow, just imagine.... Cahill or not, Chelsea would slaughter England in a must-win game these days.

How does Roy Hodgson, lovely chap that he seems, pick these squads? Reputation, pay-scale and nostalgia seem possible, although I grant you, the talent pool at his disposal is drying up by the week.

Whether you blame the influx of foreign players blocking the progress of young homegrown talent to first-team football, or grassroots coaching, or the hardness of the water in southern England, it doesn’t matter. We are in this mess, how do we get out of it?

My solution would be to pack the under-21s with under-21s. Seems simple, eh?

The lack of talent and short-termism of football means that if they’re half-decent, 18-year-olds get launched straight from the Academy to the England squad. They learn at the supposed highest level, they make their mistakes there, they often get burned by the glare of media attention there.

No more of that. Every player should learn international football at under-21 level. Even phenoms like Wayne Rooney at 16 or whatever. Chuck him in for 3-4-5 games minimum before making the step-up.

I’ll go further, no player should go to a World Cup or Euros unless they have done so with an age-group team. We don’t need senior players who have never been away from their mum for a week before all of a sudden bottling or disrespecting a major tournament.

Finally, the England under-21 manager should also be involved in the senior set-up, as a coach or assistant manager, and should employ the same systems and formations as the senior side. It helps bond the two together even more.

If doing all this means we have to field an ageing team of average players for a few seasons, then so be it. I seem to remember Germany ripping up their team and starting again, writing off a couple of tournaments in the process. I have no problem with that.

I’d rather win the World Cup and Euros once in my lifetime than go out in the last-16 or quarter-finals every two years until I die.

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