Should Luke Shaw go to the World Cup?
Mar 16, 2014 8:13 PM GMT
As England begin their preparations for this summer’s much-awaited World Cup with a friendly against Denmark in front of the Wembley home crowd this Wednesday, there is one player on every England fan’s lips up and down our football loving nation. That name is Luke Shaw. The 18-year-old Southampton left-back has been touted as a future England legend, and this week received his first national team call-up from Roy Hodgson. It must be a dream come true for Shaw, receiving a call from the England manager to play at Wembley at his tender young age, but it is a dream that he fully deserves. It is fair to say that there are a fair amount of weaknesses in the current England side, one that is arguably at its poorest for a long time, but the left-back berth is not a position in which we lack. The squad selected by Hodgson for the Denmark friendly contains three left-backs, two of whom are considered to be up there with the best in Europe in Ashley Cole and Leighton Baines, so what makes Luke Shaw, an inexperienced teenager, worthy of a position that England are rich in competition for? Well in reality, the answer is simple. He is already too good of a footballer to leave out of a squad that is, quite frankly, lacking in many departments. Shaw has already racked up an impressive 50 appearances for Southampton, the club that has been his footballing home since he was a boy. He also has 17 caps at three different youth international levels. The faith shown in him by both his club and international managers at such a young age is a sign of his incredible ability, and the consistency he displays in his performances resembles that of an experienced professional. Southampton’s academy is without doubt the best in England when it comes to producing top-notch homegrown talent, but few have been talked about with as much praise as Luke Shaw. That is no easy achievement considering some of the talent that has rolled out of the Southampton talent production line. Real Madrid superstar Gareth Bale, Arsenal and England wingers Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott, and creative midfielder Adam Lallana are just a few of a large crop of top young players to come through England’s answer to La Masia, but many at the club say that Shaw could be the best yet. He has every attribute a full-back needs. Strength, pace, determination and skill are all major parts of his game, and he has already developed a large amount in ability despite his young age.
This season has been something of a breakthrough campaign for Shaw. Thanks to a series of phenomenal performances for the Saints, he has become a regular first-team member, and has attracted attention from across the country. In the January transfer window both Chelsea and Manchester United were heavily linked with 30m moves for the youngster. Rarely do you hear of an 18-year-old left-back receiving bids of such an astronomical level. It is yet another mark of the kind of player that Shaw is. However, an incredible talent is not Shaw’s only quality. His mentality, modesty and loyalty is phenomenal. Despite being a Chelsea fan from a young age, he refused to join the blues and penned a 5 year contract at Southampton. He knows how much he owes to Southampton for the way they have shaped his career, and he is willing to pay it back. Egotism is a world away from Shaw, and money doesn’t motivate him. He just loves football.
Qualities like this can be just as important at international level as at club level. Rarely do you see England’s supposed ‘top players’ performing with the same desire and determination for England as they do for their clubs, and a player with the mentality of Shaw could be just what the Three Lions need. Maybe he could teach Wayne Rooney a lesson or two on loyalty and commitment when he pulls on the famous white shirt. Mind you, trying to teach Rooney anything is a seemingly difficult task, especially things he knows so little about.
Despite his obvious quality and potential, there is a big debate as to whether he warrants a place in England’s squad at the World Cup. But is he ready, or is 2014 just too early for the youngster? There is little doubt that if he went he would not feature regularly, considering the consistency and experience of Leighton Baines and Ashley Cole, but Shaw would bring a new dimension to England’s play. He will be more motivated than anyone else should he turn out for England in Brazil, considering both his mind-set and the fact that it is a pure dream for a teenager to play at a World Cup in Brazil. The task of facing up to wingers like Arjen Robben, Neymar, Pedro, Alexis Sanchez, Hazard, or even the great Cristiano Ronaldo could appear daunting to some, but I have no doubt that Shaw would thrive upon the greatness of such opposition. He has put on some superb displays in the Premier League against the league’s best, and there is little reason as to why he shouldn’t do so against the best that the world has to offer. He has all the attributes to play for England many times over the years, and this summer could be just the beginning of a fruitful relationship between Shaw and the international scene. Cristiano and co. won’t know what’s coming.