Jay Rodriguez may be close to an international call-up. But is he ready?
Roy Hodgson will soon be naming his squad for international friendlies against the Republic of Ireland at the end of May and Brazil at the start of June. With some young players perhaps set to get their first call-up, Jay Rodriguez has a chance to be among them. But is he ready?
No he’s not
Jay’s had a solid first year as a Premier League player after his £6.5 million move last summer, but any calls for him to be elevated to international status are a little early.
He had a slow start to life at St Mary’s and only had two league goals by the end of the year, though he did also find the net twice against Sheffield Wednesday in a Carling Cup tie.
The unexpected sacking of Nigel Adkins could have been a disaster for Jay. It’s not ideal when the manager who brought you to the club leaves only a few months later. But the arrival of Mauricio Pochettino proved to be a major turning point for Jay and he’s shown his best form under the new manager.
He scored in three successive league games for Southampton – each of which they won – at the end of March and start of April to push the Saints close to ensuring top flight survival.
Jay’s all-round game was always impressive and this has been evident in recent months on the south coast. Though he still plays predominantly from the left flank, just as he did in his best form for the Clarets, he has the ability to pick his moments to get in the box and cause issues for opposition defenders.
Nine goals in his first season so far is a good start, but it isn’t the sort of return to get him noticed by Hodgson. Indeed, teammates such as Nathaniel Clyne and fellow ex-Claret Jack Cork are arguably more deserving of a call-up.
Rickie Lambert is another Saint you’d expect to get the nod ahead of Jay. Lambert’s game is suited to the hustle and bustle of the Premier League rather than the more patient and nuanced style of the international game, however.
It’s easy to see how Jay could fit into an England side in the future. Danny Welbeck’s importance to Hodgson has shown how vital it is to have forwards who can play across the front and perform to a good standard and Welbeck – despite only scoring one league goal this season – is the type of selfless player Jay should look to emulate.
Although Hodgson’s striking options are fairly limited – Wayne Rooney is the only player close to being world class he has available – Jay is nowhere near the front of the queue for a call-up just yet.
The Premier League top scorers list is typically multinational with the top places dominated by the likes of Luis Suarez, Michu and Robin van Persie, but you still have to pass more than a dozen Englishmen – including midfielders like Craig Gardner and Frank Lampard – to reach Rodriguez.
Of course goals aren’t everything, especially with Jay playing mainly from the left, but he’s got to get on a par with the likes of Theo Walcott, Daniel Sturridge and Gabby Agbonlahor before having any serious international aspirations.
Yes he is
The former Liverpool, Spurs and England midfielder and current Nintendo salesman/son of Harry/Sky Sports mannequin Jamie Redknapp has recently been backing Jay Rodriguez for an England call-up, as has Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino – but is Jay Rodriguez ready to pull on the famous Three Lions?
Although it’s difficult to argue a credible case for him as the focal point of England’s attacking options come Brazil 2014 (should we even qualify), in my opinion and many of those who’ve seen the former Barden pupil grace Turf Moor, he’s certainly worthy, at the very least, of being given a chance in the forthcoming international friendly against the Republic of Ireland at Wembley later this month.
It’s true Jay struggled initially in the Premier League at Southampton under Nigel Adkins but since the appointment of the former Espanyol coach Pochettino, Jay has absolutely flourished.
Adkins had often asked Rodriguez to be the player that looked to get beyond target man Rickie Lambert either from wide or more centrally and although he might have made his name in the Burnley youth ranks as a goal poacher, Jay never truly looked comfortable in this role at the highest level.
Jay Rodriguez was always at his most impressive at Burnley while playing deeper between the lines where he is able to use his technical ability, skill and intelligence to link with the midfield, bring others into play, drive dangerously at the opposition defence and shoot from range. Having been given more freedom to play to his strengths recently Jay has well and truly excelled and has been one of the Premier League’s in-form players.
This cultured style of play will hopefully also add weight to Jay’s case for an England call-up. Rodriguez is well suited to international football where the game is less about power and pace and more about technical ability and wits; talents Jay has in abundance. He is the archetypal versatile model international striker with the technical ability, creativity and tactical awareness to play as a number 10, enough power and pace to play as a 9 and the skill and directness to play as wide player. He has the lot and would give Roy Hodgson a fantastic option from the bench if the likes of Wayne Rooney, Jermain Defoe, Daniel Sturridge or Danny Welbeck aren’t firing.
In truth is it is unlikely that Hodgson will select Jay this summer. The former Blackburn Rovers manager is renowned for his caution and will likely wait and see whether Jay can maintain this level of performance well into next season before giving him a chance on the international stage. This is a shame. Players like David Nugent, Jay Bothroyd, Michael Ricketts and Francis Jeffers have previously received England call-ups having demonstrated relatively less ability over a similarly short period of time.
The loss will be Wembley’s.
Does Jay deserve an England call or is it too soon? Comment below.