The international squads announced for the next week’s round of international friendlies offered an opportunity to compare the merits of various squads. What doesn’t show very favourably for England is that a midfield player of the quality of real Madrid’s Isco cannot force himself into Spain’s squad, whilst Tom Cleverley is, and always was going to be, in Roy Hodgson’s selection. Now, Cleverley is probably a decent young bloke and is good to his family and small furry animals, but is he really of the quality that England should be contemplating to take to the World Cup? Some clearly don’t think so, and an online petition calling for him to be banned from England’s World Cup squad garnered some 4,000 signatures in 24 hours. So, just how good –or bad – is Tom Cleverley?
At the end of the 2010-11 season, the player who Sir Alex Ferguson described as special had just finished a season long spell on loan at Wigan Athletic, from Manchester United, and fair to say that he was no nearer the England squad than a dozen or so other ‘wannabe’ 20 year olds cutting their teeth in the Premier League. In the Charity Shield game that presaged the following season however, Cleverly returned to United and played in the second half of the game when the reds fought back to overturn a deficit and beat Manchester City. A few days later he was selected for an international call up. The question was of course, was it any advancement in his talent blossoming over the summer that earned his international honour, or the fact that he had donned a red shirt rather than a Wigan blue striped one?
Looking at Cleverley’s record this season isn’t exactly what you would call inspiring. He’s made 19 appearances, netting just one goal and creating ten chances. His pass accuracy is 89%, winning a tad over half of the possession duels he has been involved in. Compare this then to a “Tom” wearing a different shirt, Tom Huddlestone of Hull City, who many think should be in the squad ahead of Cleverley. The Hull city player has made 27 appearances and scored twice. His pass accuracy is slightly less than Cleverley, although his range is substantially higher and his possession duel figures are almost identical. He has however created 42 chances, more than four times the amount of cleverly, and yet cannot get a place in the squad.
Putting petitions online is not really a good idea, and berating a player for a supposed lack of quality is of questionable taste. What is indisputable however is there is a large amount of conjecture about the how the shirt you wear and the team you represent can influence how you are perceived in international terms, and surely that cannot be right.
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