It has taken Jesse Lingard just 193 minutes of Premier League game time to earn himself a call-up to the senior England national team. How is anybody’s guess, but it has happened. With the recent withdrawals from the Three Lions’ squad ahead of the friendly matchup against France on Tuesday, Roy Hodgson needed to bring in some reinforcements, and Lingard is, shockingly, the name he has chosen.
It’s decisions like this that make you wonder just how Hodgson comes to the conclusions he does at times. Lingard has been involved in slightly more than two-games worth of action in the EPL in his young career, has one goal to his name, but has yet to register an assist. What can Hodgson possibly have seen in that short space of time to make such a rash judgement on the 22-year-old?
Sure, Lingard has played well for Manchester United (in his lone start and three brief substitute appearances). But there’s a cast of thousands who have done that, too. A glance around the EPL brings players to light who have done much more than Lingard and over a more consistent amount of time. Hodgson, instead, could have picked Wilfried Zaha, Nathan Redmond or Jason Puncheon to join up with the squad — all three more deserving than Lingard.
Puncheon is currently playing in his seventh season in the EPL and has 22 top-flight goals to his name; Zaha is in his fourth season in England’s top division and has five goals on his record, whilst Redmond has appeared in two EPL campaigns and has five goals on his ledger. All three have performed well over a longer period of time — much better than Lingard — yet, apparently, that counts for little in Hodgson’s eyes.
Even at under-21 level, Lingard has made just 11 appearances for the England team and has hardly been a hot prospect coming through the ranks. Numerous loan spells with clubs in the Championship saw Lingard perform well in recent seasons, but not exactly set the world alight. In the future, Lingard could well have progressed to the full England national team, but at this point in time, it is just a bizarre decision to call up the United man.
Puncheon could arguably have missed the boat in terms of making an impact at the international level now, but there’s no excuse for Lingard to be selected ahead of Redmond and Zaha. Maybe at the end of this season, if Lingard remains in the United starting lineup and has a good season, then the landscape could change dramatically. But right now, it’s a baffling decision from Hodgson and nothing more.