COMMENT: By Adam Leitch
Roy Hodgson has done things the Saints way.
The England manager not only picked three Southampton players in his 23-man squad for this summer’s World Cup but selected the entire group in a way that is reminiscent of the St Mary’s philosophy under Mauricio Pochettino.
It’s young, fresh, vibrant and attacking. It’s a nod to the future but also the present.
The choice to take Luke Shaw over Ashley Cole typifies that like no other.
Hodgson was being asked questions as to whether he was taking Shaw because he was one for the future.
The England boss was tactful in his reply, but could have been forgiven for pointing out he was also being selected for the here and now.
Cole may have enjoyed a great career and be an experienced international footballer, but you can hardly say he’s had a better season than Shaw.
Shaw has played week in and week out in the Premier League and shone for Saints, whereas Cole has struggled to get any game time at all at Chelsea since the turn of the year.
To have taken Cole over Shaw as the understudy to Leighton Baines would have sent out the wrong message. It would have indicated that Hodgson was picking on reputations and past experience above all else.
There was a similar theme elsewhere in the squad as well, but much of it picked itself.
Shaw’s selection, while not exactly a shock, was probably the headline grabber as it was the one area where there seemed genuine doubt over who would go to Brazil as opposed to most of the other selections. And for all the talk of youth dominating, it seems like a common sense squad.
Yes it is young, but how many players, other than Cole and Michael Carrick, that have bags of experience and were serious contenders were overlooked by Hodgson? None.
There is still experience in there, both in terms of age, caps and Premier League games played over the past season. From a Saints point of view, Rickie Lambert and Adam Lallana both also made the cut. It was hardly a great surprise, but confirmation of their wonderful seasons.
Lambert’s call-up is of course the ultimate fairytale story, and he’s the kind of guy that might just surprise a few people.
He will get some game time, just because he will get thrown on at the end of games to give that extra option. That hands him the chance to be a star, and, given how his career has risen at every single opportunity over the last five years you wouldn’t rule out him doing it again.
Lallana is an undisputed Premier League star man these days, and of the three Saints players to get the nod is the most likely to start the first game in Brazil.
With a youthful look to the squad, and also a very attacking look too, coupled with a bit of experience down the spine to back it all up, it feels very much like Saints.
Hodgson has been at St Mary’s on countless occasions this season.
He spoke yesterday once again in glowing terms when referring to the club and its side this season.
They are clearly a major influence on him and maybe, just maybe, the way they have gone about things has inspired him to try something similar with England.
Saints at the World Cup? You bet, and in more ways than one.