Paul Parker

England handing out caps far too easily again

It is always difficult selecting squads for meaningless internationals, with players dropping out through injury and fatigue, but again England are giving out caps far too easily and it is sad to see.

Roy Hodgson seems to be falling into the trap of saying all the right things about bringing players through, but by essentially devaluing an England cap by making changes too hastily.

A lot of players have ended up looking very silly over recent years because an England manager has gone around handing out caps, and they end up as the quiz questions of the future.

Wilfried Zaha certainly looks to be a very fine talent, but he has not yet proved himself against top-level defenders so it is very premature to give him a call-up to the senior squad at this stage.

What will happen if he gets a big move and struggles for six months or so? It should not be about giving players a cap to tie them down, then allowing them to flounder. It just isn't right.

It should not be about rushing to give players a cap so that they cannot represent anyone else, because that is foolhardy and rash. It also undermines what it means to earn a cap for your country.

This would not have happened in the Sir Bobby Robson era, because he was of the belief that a player must prove themselves before being handed a call-up to the England squad.

It is just a sign of the times that young players are able to choose between representing different countries, but that does not mean that they should be thrown in straight away.

The game has gone mad when players are representing their country despite not having made a sustained impact for their clubs at the highest level, and that is always going to be an issue when you call up young stars before their time.

There will be players who are consistently plying their trade in the top flight who will look at this and feel demoralised because they do not feel that they are getting a fair chance. It's much easier to impress, of course, at a lower level.

What really concerns me is that we are having to persuade players to represent England, and it should never come to that — it is a worrying situation when potential stars are having to be talked into pulling on the Three Lions shirt.

I can understand what is going through the minds of Carl Jenkinson and Zaha, in particular, but going back to Robson, he would have told any player to not bother unless they were convinced where their allegiance lay, and committed.

It does not stand England in good stead to have players who are not 100 per cent certain that they want to be a part of the set-up involved, and they should be given more time to figure out what they desire for their futures.

The passion of players will always be questioned if they are saying they are '50-50' about whether to play for England or not, and it is not fair on the individuals themselves to be under so much pressure before they are ready.

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Gerrard has really been the only player from the so-called 'Golden Generation' to have shown consistency throughout his international career, and he will be remembered as a distinguished England player.

There are others who will probably reach 100 caps, but he is the only one who stands out as deserving to be recognised for his quality and longevity in an England shirt.

Gerrard has not limped along looking to reach a certain number of caps, but continues to excel for his country. The fact is, he has started in all but three of his appearances, and that makes his 100 matches all the more special.

The Liverpool midfielder epitomises everything that is great about English football with his high-tempo, tenacious play, and also his incredible work-rate.

The only good that can really come out of a friendly against Sweden in November will be Gerrard getting his cap, but if you were to ask him what he would prefer, I'm sure he would say that he would have liked his 100th appearance to have come in a competitive fixture.

This match means absolutely nothing apart from simply handing players caps, and it remains a real issue for football having pointless fixtures such as this clogging up the calendar.