After the last round of international fixtures concluded this week, I suddenly realised that Town have made our own contribution to the make-up of the teams that will grace the 2018 World Cup. We weren’t just spectators like we usually are.
Danny Williams, Aaron Mooy, Jonas Lossl, Mathias ‘Zanka’ Jorgensen and Laurent Depoitre were all called up to their respective national squads of USA, Australia, Denmark and Belgium.
Whilst not all of them tallied up minutes on the pitch for their respective countries, the message was abundantly clear: Town now have the quality of player to thrive on the international stage, not just at local level.
Gone are the days where the merest sniff that we got to a full national call-up was Nakhi Wells spearheading Bermuda’s front-line. Alex Smithies did receive several England U-21 call-ups that we briefly got excited about but he usually got injured on these excursions or did not even play when called upon.
Aaron Mooy has been vital to Australia’s World Cup qualification campaign and his presence was jarring in its absence as well as influence when he was benched for the second-leg of their game against Syria.
When he was introduced after 11 minutes due to an injury to Brad Smith, he immediately made up for lost-time and exerted his usual authority and influence on the game, making his initial exclusion even more incredulous.
Laurent Depoitre was also rewarded for his fine form for Town so far this season with a place in the Belgium national squad.
When you think about the eye-watering attacking talent that manager Roberto Martinez has at his disposal; the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne, Alex Witsel, Dries Mertens, Christian Benteke (when fit), Kevin Mirallas, Radja Nainggolan and more, it is a credit to ‘Lolo’ that he has forced his way back into this squad after a lengthy absence and managed to secure a place on the bench for their game against Mexico.
Jonas Lossl and Zanka also had successful World-Cup qualification campaigns, despite not making it onto the pitch for Denmark’s crucial play-off game against the Republic of Ireland.
In Lossl’s defence, he has the Leicester no 1 Kasper Schmeichel in front of him whilst Zanka has to compete with Andreas Bjelland, Andreas Christensen and captain Simon Kjaer for a place in the starting line-up.
Both players however, celebrated with as much vigour and ecstasy after their 5-1 victory as if they had scored the winning goals themselves so in that sense, the call-ups can only have been beneficial.
The winning mentality that Denmark’s squad has, combined with the time they have spent around genuine world-class team-mates like Christian Eriksen can only be beneficial to them and will spur them on to better themselves even more as this season progresses.
This is without mentioning Phil Billing’s involvement with the U-21s. A full call-up can not be far away if he comes back to full fitness and demonstrates the form he showed at the start of the season.
Finally Danny Williams was called up to a new-look USA squad for their friendly against Portugal. The combative midfielder was given the captains armband in their 1-1 draw and the game will no doubt have given him vital experience against a vibrant youthful Portugal side whilst broadening his leadership qualities that he can bring back to Town.
In most points during a game, we now have potentially seven captains who could be on the field if all of them are played. This is an immeasurable quality in today’s Premier League, where primadonnas and disruptive team-mates can be all an too common occurrence in derailing a team’s title-challenge or relegation fight.
A word must also be given to Jonathan Hogg and why he has been noticeably absent from pundits lips when postulating about alternative central defensive midfield picks.
There are many things Jonathan Hogg cannot do, but the things he does well, he does impeccably and to the highest quality.
He surely cannot be worse than Jake Livermore or Jack Cork who have both seemingly been brought in purely because of Southgate’s lack of options. As well as his ability, Hogg would bring a steel and leadership presence to the England dressing room that they have been sorely missing at times in the last decade.
Whilst most football fans berate the international break for its climb-down in pace and at times, unnecessary presence amongst their teams clogged up fixtures lists, it has no doubt been of huge benefit to our players involved.