Aston Villa

Wednesday Night Is The Night…

Agbonlahor: Future England front-man?

On Wednesday night, England play host to Hungary in the first game following their embarrassing and regrettable World Cup campaign. This has caused much anger and consternation amongst England fans with the Premier League season starting just three days after wards.

Hungary may be a shadow of their former selves without a destroyer like Ferenc Puskas, but they remain as passionate and forthright on the pitch as ever, with standout household names such as Gabor Gyepes, Zoltan Gera and Tamas Priskin regularly featuring for the once magical Magyars.

For many enthusiasts of home-grown development in this new era of a cap on squad numbers, the risk of injury and fatigue is far too great, and it is believed in some quarters that sides with a great quantity of overseas players (such as Arsenal and Liverpool) could be given an unfair advantage.

There is however, nearly always another side to any football related argument, and with people powerless to stop this friendly going ahead, it is important to look at the positives and potential opportunities presented by the match against Hungary.

This week, Everton defender Phil Jagielka has been rumoured as an inclusion in the starting eleven, and (depending on appearances) could be a regular inclusion in Fabio Capello’s squad, since many fans would agree that the defence could hardly have done much worse against Germany.

The Everton centre back missed almost an entire calendar year of action, following a hugely unfortunate injury sustained during a 1-2 home defeat to Manchester City in 2009. In the latter stages of the 2009-10 season it was as if he had never been away, as his return ‘coincided’ with Everton going on a run of only two defeats in twenty four games, this after an utterly wretched campaign for The Toffees before Christmas.

Fabio Capello may also be looking the length and breadth of the country as his current charges persist in their non-delivery and underachievement. Perhaps a more youthful approach is required on the wings, in which instance he should consider the inclusion of Manchester City’s Adam Johnson. Although anyone can have a good day, his contributions at Eastlands (now a difficult place to get a starting eleven berth) have thus far been somewhat pleasing.

His injury time goal against Sunderland was testament to his unique skill, raw talent and huge potential displayed at Middlesbrough. At both international and domestic level, he is needed now more than ever, especially if Manchester City are to experience any measure of salvation should they once again fall behind Chelsea and Manchester United, once again spinning the wheel of disgruntlement and purchase.

Up front, Wayne Rooney, Jermain Defoe and Peter Crouch continue to frustrate, even without Emile Heskey’s guest appearances. Like it or not however, it will certainly be them who shall lead the line once the Euro 2012 qualifiers begin, with a home game against Bulgaria and a trip to Switzerland in September. But when it comes to friendly matches and building experience, they should move aside and make way for the next generation – enter Gabriel Imuetinyan Agbonlahor.

Aston Villa’s natural finisher has a firm devotion to his club’s cause, and despite not reaching the 20-goal mark last season, some of his goals (against Fulham and Birmingham) caught the eye.

At 23, he has outgrown any risk of him being tagged as a “hot prospect” or “boy wonder”, but with many years ahead of him, it might be worth playing the Villa striker more often in times of confusion, unsettlement and a primadonna mentality amongst the England ranks.

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