Jon Dunham – I hope Roy unleashes the young lions in Brazil

Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.
Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.
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I like to think I am the sort of person who learns from previous mistakes.

I have, on numerous occasions in the past, managed to get carried away by England’s chances as a European Championship or World Cup approaches.

I am a big fan of my country when it comes to football and I never really understand why any supporter sniffs at the nation as they prepare to do battle with the best teams on the planet.

The Three Lions are preparing for Brazil and it’s fair to say my expectations have never been lower.

Our performances at major tournaments in the recent past have been, at best, average and never really delivered with the hype that always precedes it.

I have no doubt that, as we get closer to the tournament, the national media will build up our chances and be poised with the sword as and when things don’t go to plan.

But while I certainly don’t expect us to be anywhere near winning the World Cup, my spirits were lifted when Roy Hodgson named his squad.

There will be those out there who will say his options were limited, indeed they are correct.

But it certainly seems that Hodgson is keen to lead the national team into a new era as some talented youngsters begin to enter the fray.

To pick Luke Shaw ahead of Ashley Cole was probably the biggest decision the manager had to make.

Up until a few short weeks ago, it was possibly a no brainer as Cole had struggled to get into the Chelsea side for most of the season while Shaw has flourished during a highly impressive campaign for Southampton.

Cole did perform incredibly well for Chelsea in the latter stages of the Champions League - a factor that may have swayed Hodgson’s vote.

Instead, it is out with the old and in with the new.

People can say what they want about Ashley Cole but, from an England perspective, he has been everything an international footballer should be.

Someone who has consistently taken his club performances onto the international stage and also someone who accepted his time was over with dignity and respect.

Shaw’s selection is a gamble, especially if anything should happen to Leighton Baines.

But the selections of the likes of Ross Barkley, Adam Lallana and Raheem Sterling are anything but.

These three are exciting. In Barkley and Sterling you have two players who have the ability to take on and beat opponents while also scoring goals on a regular basis.

And in Lallana you have one of the most exciting talents in European football. Throw it all together with a much-needed tournament for Jack Wilshere and the experience of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, and the midfield looks healthy.

The defence is still questionable. Joe Hart is an exceptional goalkeeper, Glen Johnson is capable and Baines is solid. Gary Cahill has had a fine season but the other centre-half position is a headache.

In attack, a lot rests on the shoulders of Wayne Rooney. There’s no doubt about his ability but it is high time he delivered on the international stage.

Rickie Lambert will do a job and Daniel Sturridge, if utilised in the right way, will score goals.

And that word ‘utilised’ is the key one in all of this.

Hodgson has got his squad selection right. But is he brave enough to go ‘gung-ho’ and throw these youngsters into the lion’s den so to speak.

In my opinion, he has to. Let’s face it, there isn’t really a great deal for us to lose is there? Many don’t think we will get past the group stage, let alone achieve anything else.

The players are in place and, of course, we will need them to perform to their best if we are to play more than three matches in South America.

But the attention is as much on Hodgson now as it is on them.

If he goes with the youth, some of which is very exciting and talented, then at least he can have no regrets when it is all said and done.

And if he utilises the squad properly, assuming everyone stays fit of course, then we might just get past that group stage - something that many believe would be an achievement in itself.