In but a few short days – Thursday March 19th if we’re being exact – Roy Hodgson will run his eye over the list of available Englishmen and select his squad for games against Lithuania and Italy.
As with any selection, Roy will be looking to blend a dependable core of international regulars with a smattering of emerging new talent. Whatever the combination of personnel, he needs three points in the qualifier to stay on course for the Euros, and he needs a good performance in the friendly to prove his plan is working.
Between now and then, every journalist, blogger and football fan will take to their chosen medium to tell you who should be in that squad. Who can shore England up at the back, who can be the pulsating heart of the midfield, and who can score those goal things you used to hear so much about.
Most importantly though, they’re going to tell you which players have earned a call up. Which players deserve one. Which players have demonstrated such prowess since England’s last outing that to ignore them would be both an affront to their ability and a calculated insult to common sense.
Atop almost all of these lists will be Harry Kane who, it’s fair to say, is having a simply staggering season. After mustering a measly four goals in nearly 20 appearances last time out, Kane is coming towards the end of this season having hit the net on 26 separate occasions.
At times he’s looked like Ryan Gosling playing Alan Shearer in a film called “Look How Bloody Good I Am At Scoring Goals”. Against Arsenal he made Nacho Monreal and Laurent Koscienly look like two disinterested children getting taught a lesson from their over-competitive dad during a Sunday kickabout. With maybe the exceptions of Eddie Redmayne and my mate Gavin – who is currently awaiting a five figure settlement from a high street pastry firm for chipping his tooth on a piece of gristle – no Englishman is having a better year than Harry Kane.
It's not gone unnoticed either. A quick search on Google brings up quotes from almost every Premier League manager about Kane, all of which lead (or are led) to his chances of making it into the senior England squad come March. To a man, they reckon he “deserves” to be there. Arsene Wenger even suggesting that if he’s not picked, some other country will sharpish sort him out with a passport.
That’s important apparently. That Roy Hodgson should ignore any tactical plans he may have, ignore finding the right players to fit his system, and instead field a starting XI full of individuals who’ve put the best shift in at club-level this season.
If that's the logic you subscribe to then, obviously, Harry Kane will lead the line, but he'll have do so in an attacking quintet that includes the richly deserving Danny Ings and Charlie Austin. Wayne Rooney, who's also entitled to some reward for overcoming his club manager's tactical tinkerings, and Daniel Sturridge who's done so well to battle back from injury, will also need to be accommodated.
In goal, he'll field both Rob Green and Fraser Forster, who've proved a number of detractors wrong this season and have more than earned a place between the sticks. While in front of them will be Ryan Bertrand at left-back, and Nathaniel Clyne on the right. With Cahill and Jagielka going backwards this season, and Jones and Smalling having no form to speak of, England will have to play without any central defenders as simply none of them deserve a place.
The midfield, meanwhile, will consist of Stewart Downing launching crosses into the box, while Jordan Henderson, Fabien Delph and Jack Colback play 30 minutes each to reflect the fact they all *almost* deserve a place. So that's a lop-sided 2-2-5 for England, with two goalkeepers. A side that might not have any balance, solidity, cohesion, strategy, or hope whatsoever, but one that definitely deserves to represent the country.
There's something so quintessentially English about the national obsession with seeing international caps as a reward for good performance. Barely any player in this country can enjoy a strong run of form now without a trending hashtag demanding a call-up for them - #DB4ENGLAND and #getmiketobrazil both causing regional outcry of varying irony when they fell upon deaf ears.
But selection for the national team should be about one thing and one thing only: being the best player for the particular job they'll be tasked with. If the role Hodgson is going to assign to his forwards isn't something that would suit Harry Kane, then there is no reason to pick him. He might want lightning pace in behind or total dominance in the air, and while Kane can certainly run around and win a header there are far more suitable players to do these jobs.
Would that be a shame? Of course. Would it be a waste of his many other talents? Definitely. But that's the decision Roy Hodgson has to make.
As England crashed out of the last World Cup, Chris Waddle spoke very passionately about how the country's obsession with picking the biggest names from the Premier League was always going to be the national team's downfall. Sterling, Barkley, Sturridge, Rooney, Lallana and others already make up a list of talented young Englishmen who simply won't all fit in the same team, and Hodgson's upcoming decisions over his long-term plan have to be as smart as they are ruthless.
There's no reason Harry Kane can't be the focal point for his country in the future, but unless that's the plan there's no reason he should be getting in the team.