Marcus Rashford has turned quite a few heads since his debut against FC Midtjylland in February. The electric eighteen-year-old has become our prime attacking outlet, scoring seven goals in his last fourteen appearances. Highlights include stunning individual efforts against Man City and West Ham.
These performances have led some to call for Rashford to be included in the England squad for Euro 2016. Speaking on the Fletch and Sav show, Robbie Savage suggested that Hodgson should take the starlet to France.
“He is playing without fear. OK, it is all hypothetical, but if he keeps this form between now and the end of the season – he is playing in a struggling Manchester United team and he is playing without fear.
If he scores 10 goals this season and is on form going into that tournament, I would take him.”
Rarely do I agree with Savage’s punditry, and this is no exception. It is easy for people like Savage to jump on the bandwagon. However, we must consider Rashford’s long-term development. Prematurely rushing a young player into the senior squad can have detrimental consequences.
Firstly, playing for England can be a daunting experience, even for established veterans. The glare of the media, expectations of a nation, and the weight of history have caused successive generations of England teams to buckle under pressure.
Adding an inexperienced youngster into this cauldron can, and has, backfired. One only needs to look at the inclusion of Theo Walcott in the 2006 World Cup squad. Sven-Göran Eriksson’s rationale was that the overall experience would prove valuable for the then seventeen-year-old. The reality was different. Walcott was thrust into the media spotlight and a squad that was unable to reach its potential. Ultimately, even though injuries had left the team with a dearth of strikers, Eriksson did not give Walcott a single minute of tournament football. This certainly would not have helped the fledgling forward’s confidence. In the aftermath of England’s quarter-final exit, Walcott came under more scrutiny. Pundits were heavily critical of his inclusion in the squad.
In another parallel to Walcott, it is difficult to imagine where Rashford would actually fit into the current squad. For once, England have a variety of high-class attacking options to choose from. We can safely assume that Kane, Vardy, and Rooney will be on the plane to France. If Hodgson takes five strikers, then Rashford would be competing for a place with Welbeck and Sturridge. Welbeck has been a dependable and hard-working stalwart of past Hodgson sides, whilst Sturridge is a world-class poacher when fit.
These are factors that have been taken on-board by the England management. According to the Mirror, Hodgson is reluctant to fast-track Rashford into the senior team. Furthermore, England U21 manager Gareth Southgate has expressed his belief that Rashford should work his way up England’s youth set-up.
“We are very conscious that when you promote a young player too quickly there can be fallout from that and at times the right thing is to move them back down and that is always more difficult.”
In my opinion, this is the most logical approach. Rashford is an immensely talented and exciting prospect, but he needs time to fully develop his potential. The ideal place for him to do this is at his club, where he can enjoy his football and progressively gain more big match experience.
No doubt Rashford will be in the running in two years when the 2018 World Cup squad is being assembled. For now, though, the time is not right.