Jesse Lingard, Jason Puncheon and an England bias towards Manchester United and the big clubs

With Euro 2016 just over six months away and England building some momentum in the lead-up to the tournament, the debate over which players Roy Hodgson should take to France has already started.

As with most participating national sides, a core of experienced players will be on the plane to the tournament, but a host of youngsters and fringe figures will have the rest of the domestic campaign to suitably impress and win a squad place.

Most of the hype in recent weeks has been over Tottenham starlet Dele Alli, who despite only playing a handful of Premier League games for the North London side has already made an impact with the national side.

The 19-year-old has shown that he is worthy of consideration for a place in the England set-up, with a man-of-the-match performance and well-taken goal adding to his burgeoning reputation.

What would be interesting, however, is if Alli would be in the Three Lions reckoning if he had started the season in the same fashion that he has for Spurs, but with another less-prestigious club.

The step up from featuring for MK Dons to playing in the Premier League would have been just as daunting had the teenager been signed by a club not vying for a top-four spot, but whether his efforts would have been as wholeheartedly received if he was playing for a club out of the collective eye remains to be seen.

Looking at the most recent England squad shows the bias towards last season’s top six Premier League clubs, with talents from Everton, Southampton and Swansea also making the cut.

It is only natural that the best players head to the best clubs, but in a multi-cultural English top flight with an influx of foreign stars, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the top homegrown players will automatically step out for the biggest teams.

What will come as a frustration for those English players selected regularly for their clubs but overlooked by their country is the inclusion of fringe figures from top-six teams.

When Michael Carrick was injured against Spain, Ryan Mason from Tottenham was called up ahead of a host of other candidates.

This was despite the Spurs man only recently coming back from injury himself and starting only four Premier League games so far this term.

Someone like West Ham captain Mark Noble, who should have been in consideration given his individual form and that of his club this term, was overlooked despite playing every game of the Hammers’ progressive campaign in 2015-16.

Jason PuncheonHowever, the call-up of Jesse Lingard to the full squad was the most controversial decision given the Manchester United man’s inexperience.

There is little doubting that the 22-year-old is full of potential, but at the time of the call-up he had started a mere two Premier League games in the entirety of his blossoming career.

Meanwhile, someone like Jason Puncheon is seemingly not considered.

In the long haul, Lingard could well be a player that is a feature in the England side if he lives up to his potential, but as yet he is completely unproven at club level. Is he automatically a better player than someone like Jack Grealish because he plays for United, not Aston Villa?

Puncheon meanwhile has been a mainstay in an exciting Crystal Palace side that continues to thrive under Alan Pardew.

The 29-year-old is clearly a victim of playing for a so-called lesser club, with the fact that Lingard was selected ahead of him an insult to his considerable abilities.

Puncheon has been a driving force for Palace over recent campaigns, still starring whenever the Eagles were struggling as a collective unit, and must be considered as one of the most under-rated players in the Premier League.

Looking at it objectively and with a successful Euro 2016 campaign as the ultimate short-term goal, the Crystal Palace man would offer so much more than Lingard at this early stage of his career.

As such, Hodgson is guilty of bias to the bigger clubs and should be paying more attention to stars that get the chance to play week-in, week-out in the teams outwith the nation’s supposed bigger clubs.

By
I am a freelance football journalist from Northern Ireland living in Broome in Western Australia. I have worked for top media outlets such as FourFourTwo, goal.com, Soccerlens, Football Fancast and Here is the City. I am a lifelong and long-suffering Tottenham fan. Follow me on Twitter at @90MinsOnline
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