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Smalling the correct choice to fill in at right-back for England

| 14.10.2013

With Glen Johnson still sidelined and Kyle Walker suspended, England boss Roy Hodgson must earn his keep and select between two of Manchester United’s utility men to slot in at right back.

If Leighton Baines had been suspended for this crunchiest of crunch World Cup qualifiers against Poland, then Arsenal’s Kieran Gibbs could have slotted in seamlessly at left-back, after a fine to start to the season for the Premier League leaders.

However, events have conspired against Hodgson at right-back instead, and in the absence of a suitably gifted or experienced specialist player for this position, either Phil Jones or Chris Smalling will be selected.

If England are to qualify automatically for Brazil 2014 by beating the Poles at odds of 2/9, then the sensible option for Hodgson has to be to side with Smalling.

While neither Jones nor Smalling can be considered an out-and-out right-back, having both earned their stripes at centre-back, the latter is the man with more experience of performing the role.

Even though Jones is a player who was regularly lauded by Sir Alex Ferguson and arguably the more gifted with a ball at his feet, Smalling was the one United’s most successful ever manager turned to most regularly to fill-in at right-back last season.

Jones’ best position may yet be in a defensive midfield role, but when deployed at right-back he naturally likes to get involved by bombing forward, as he’s not afraid to carry the ball.

And looking at the current balance of the England team, a less ambitious right-back may not be a bad thing, with so much riding on the result.

We all witnessed what a threat Andros Townsend was playing in the advanced role on the right flank and England are sure to look to the Tottenham winger to provide inspiration again.

This makes the more conservative Smalling a better choice to hold his position in the event of a counter attack, which then leaves Townsend more freedom to express himself.

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Christian Crowther

Give Christian a sport with anything remotely spherical in it and he’ll happily while away the hours watching it on the box. However, he’d much prefer writing about, playing or betting on golf, football, cricket, tennis, snooker.... you get the picture.