Analysing Club Allegiances & Asking If They Can Influence England Squad Selections

Gareth Southgate’s England squad for the March World Cup qualifiers certainly made him public enemy number one in West Yorkshire.

The ire of the Leeds United fans fell upon the England manager after it emerged that he had selected Aston Villa’s Ollie Watkins ahead of Patrick Bamford.

Many were left scratching their heads at this decision given Bamford’s superior goal and assist tally to that of Watkins’. Indeed, the list of the Premier League’s top scorers (Stat BBC Sport) at the start of the March international break showed Bamford in fourth position with fourteen goals, astonishingly, not far behind Harry Kane who tops the charts. Crucially, it’s also worth noting that Bamford could indeed be tied with Kane in the race for the Premier League’s Golden Boot if it weren’t for some desperately unlucky VAR decisions going against him. 

Ollie Wakins, meanwhile, has now scored twelve. The Villa striker is also lagging behind Bamford in terms of league assists after registering three whilst Bamford has recorded an impressive seven. 

Further analysis of the comparison between the seasons that Watkins and Bamford are both having shows that the Leeds Utd forward also has a better minutes-per-goal ratio. 

Try as one might, it’s hard to ever recall a striker being called up to the England squad who averaged a goal more than every 4.2 hours in the Premier League. Perhaps Emile Heskey or Andy Carroll did, but even then, both those players were target men whose jobs were to work in tandem with their quicker counterparts, the telepathic little and large strike partnerships if you will. In Watkins’ case, however, he is the Michael Owen to Heskey’s tireless work rate being a striker that makes a living off hanging on the shoulders of the defenders. 

Indeed, having put the available stats and evidence under the microscope, you can all of a sudden understand why there was such an uproar in Leeds after the decision. 

Now, fans are always going to be aggrieved whenever an England manager neglects one of their players who is producing the goods at club level. It’s an age-old story of a fan base’s indignation which leads to wild theories as to why. But when the evidence is so startlingly clear like it is in Bamford’s case, what possible defence is there for Southgate’s decision not to call him up in his last Three Lions squad? (Squad Via

Could Southgate’s Aston Villa connection have played a role in his decision to pick Watkins ahead of Bamford? The England manager did turn out 219 times for The Villains over the course of six years. Admittedly, the last thing the world needs in 2021 is another conspiracy theory but when the evidence of Bamford’s superiority in front of goal is so overwhelming, one is forced to perhaps connect dots that aren’t there in a bid to make sense of it all. 

What’s done is done though and Ollie Watkins had the privilege of joining up with an England squad that are the joint-favourites to win the Euros. Indeed, when you bet on football at Space Casino, you’ll see that the Three Lions are well placed to win the summer showdown. There really isn’t a better time to be involved with the England national team.

In Watkins’ case, he grabbed a debut goal against San Marino and he’s now in serious contention to win the Euro 2020 with England. 

For Patrick Bamford, he hasn’t been under the Wembley arch yet but he continues to further his footballing education under Marcelo Bielsa at Leeds United. Who knows, he might still have a chance of claiming a spot in Southgate’s squad!

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