Sometimes you have to gamble in international soccer, and when a manager gambles, it raises eyebrows. Those eyebrows quickly lowered on Friday night at Wembley Stadium in London as England boss Roy Hodgson’s risky selection of Andros Townsend paid off in spectacular fashion. His side beat Montenegro 4-1 in their penultimate World Cup qualifier.
The 22-year-old Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Townsend was quite simply amazing on his international debut, finding space, creating chances and looking fearless in his approach. He was instrumental in setting up England’s first goal (scored by Wayne Rooney), and capped off a remarkable night by scoring England’s third goal, a sensational shot that went in from 25 yards out.
Townsend replaced Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere in the starting lineup and it caused shockwaves across England when the rumors of the move hit the airwaves on Friday afternoon. However, it was an inspired tactic by Hodgson, whose reaction to Townsend’s goal had a “told you so” look to it as he sprung from the bench and mouthed something along the lines of “that’s my boy!”
England has desperately needed a spark in recent years since the gradual retirement of superstar David Beckham. I’ve been watching England games since I could stand up, and watching Townsend was like witnessing a near miracle; an England player with enough passion and energy to power a small London pub. The team needed a breath of fresh air, the country needed it and most of all — Hodgson needed it.
Some might say that Townsend only made it into the team due to injuries sustained by other midfield options including Manchester United’s Tom Cleverly and Manchester City‘s James Milner (who came on late as a sub despite a reported calf strain). Others might say that it was precipitated because Wilshere was suddenly out of favor.
However, whatever the reason, Townsend needs to start Tuesday against Poland. A win against them will secure England a berth at the World Cup in Brazil next summer.
Townsend is somewhat of a soccer journeyman. He’s owned by Tottenham Hotspur, but has completed no less than nine different loan spells with other English clubs since 2009, including a stint at the end of last season at Queens Park Rangers where he impressed their manager Harry Redknapp. This season, he’s been a regular player for his parent club in the Premier League and the Europa League.
England has a reputation for not playing with the same hunger for victory as its European counterparts. On Friday night in London, a new player emerged who may just change that depiction. His name is Andros Townsend. Remember it.