Jack Wilshere will always have a devoted fan club but injuries have sabotaged his career and only Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s knee ligaments are keeping him in the World Cup picture
Can anyone remember those days when the common assumption about Gareth Southgate was that he was too gentlemanly, too afraid of upsetting people and, ultimately, too damn nice to succeed in an industry where all the people at the top occasionally have to use their elbows?
That nonsense stopped being trotted out once Southgate made it a priority to phase out Wayne Rooney, the player around whom England’s national team had been shaped for the previous decade. Theo Walcott found out he had been jettisoned with a telephone call on the morning of his 28th birthday and Chris Smalling was cast into the wilderness on the basis, as Southgate put it so bruisingly, that England needed central defenders who could play it out from the back. Smalling has helped Manchester United accumulate the most clean sheets in the Premier League but that, as far as Southgate is concerned, cuts no ice. Don’t think for one second that behind the polite demeanour, the perfectly knotted tie and the gentle touches, the manager of the England team is afraid of making the big calls.