England youngsters Ravel Morrison and Jack Butland will be playing the remainder of their 2013/14 campaigns in the SkyBet Championship it seems. But is this a missed opportunity for the England national team ahead of Brazil?
Ravel and Jack, owned by Premier League teams West Ham and Stoke respectively, have found themselves out of favour in recent times this season, with the latter already been involved in Championship action for Barnsley during an emergency 3 month loan spell from September to December, during which time the 20 year-old made 13 appearances and keeping 2 clean sheets. A stat that would probably have been better if Barnsley weren’t fighting their battles down the wrong end of the table. He heads out to a solid mid-table Leeds team, to challenge Paddy Kenny for the number one spot. There is an aura of potential around Butland, with him rejecting a bid from Chelsea last January to sign for the Potters.
Ravel Morrison burst onto the Premier League scene this season. Many clubs were thought to be after him during the summer transfer window, but he opted to sign on the dotted line for West Ham. He has made 21 appearances for the team in all competitions this season, scoring a total of 5 goals, 3 of which have been scored in the Premier League. His energy and trickery has made many fans and the media alike, sit up and take note of his potential, and his goals against Everton, Cheltenham, Cardiff, Spurs and Norwich even made him West Ham’s top scorer in the early dawn of this season. But since the turn of the new year, Ravel has found his first team opportunities limited, and has chosen to accept a 93-day loan offer from QPR, and could prove just the influx of quality they need to keep their promotion push going.
Both players then will be hoping to hold down regular first team places, to impress England manager Roy Hodgson with a view of getting a ticket to Brazil this summer. But will turning out in the Championship every week make much of a difference? On past experience the answer could be yes. On the one hand, granted, International managers prefer that players are involved every week and playing matches, so that their fitness levels are right where they need to be when they are called up on International duty. So playing every week for Leeds and QPR should be an advantage to young Jack and Ravel, which sitting on the bench or in the reserves one league higher wouldn’t offer them. Although to assume my previous suggestion that Roy Hodgson will favour those playing in the Premier League rather than delve into the league below rings true, would it not be more logical (in Ravel’s case rather than Jack’s here), to play less often but be turning out in a league that in subject to more publicity, to keep himself in the gaze of Roy Hodgson and his team of scouts? West Ham are as I write this, showing signs of improvement, but their season has been far from a successful one. It seems a shame to me that with all the potential that Morrison showed at the beginning of the season, has somewhat faded in recent days and he has had to drop to the league below to keep his Brazil chances alive.
In the case of Jack Butland, it is a more difficult one. In any team, keepers are rarely rotated. It is often clear on who is the number one, who is number two, and so on. And in the case of Stoke City, Asmir Begovic is clearly number one. Butland earned himself an England call-up in 2012 when playing regularly in the Championship for Birmingham (all be it thanks to John Ruddy’s injured finger). But a call-up is a call-up. Who is to say that if he plays regularly and plays well for Leeds United between now and the end of the season that he can’t earn himself a trip to Brazil on his own merit? He came into the Stoke side in January for 4 games when Begovic was injured, and helped Stoke secure a home point against Everton and progress in the F.A Cup against Leicester (minus the following two losses against Liverpool and Crystal Palace).
These boys are young English talents who, if their situations played a little differently, could have been real assets to England’s bit to glory this summer. If Morrison had of been given more time at West Ham and given a word of encouragement from both Allardyce and Hodgson, he could have been a real contender for the England squad. Unfortunately now he has dropped a division, I fear his chance has gone this time around as there are other English wingers playing more regularly in the Premier League. With the injury to Theo Walcott, his place is no doubt up for grabs by whoever impresses the most, and after the way Ravel’s season started, that could have been him. For Jack Butland, his chances are a bit more realistic. Admittedly, Joe Hart appears to be the England number one, and with Ben Foster and John Ruddy playing regularly in the Premier League, and Fraser Forster impressing at Celtic, his chance perhaps is a slim one. But injuries happen, and any English keeper who is getting regular action (because there isn’t many playing at a top level) is a contender in my book.