First Touch

Ben White Doesn’t Fancy England

So, Arsenal’s Ben White has decided to turn down one of the most sought-after invitations in English football with an RSVP that basically announces that his presence will remain but a spectral figment at his country’s next footballing soirée.  

By Derek Ross

ben white of arsenal and england

Anyway, cue the predictable moral indignation led by that unequaled footballing mind, who remains on speed dial when nothing else but a bit of gawd blimey will do, Harry Redknapp, who wasn’t long in demanding a public execution or at least that the England  ‘door be closed in his mosh.’  Quite.  

For whatever reason, and none has been forthcoming, Ben has decided that the kaleidoscope of nations and the symphony of rivalry where the pitch becomes a tapestry of dreams, aspirations and a phantasmagoria of passion appears less attractive than a cold, mid-winter, evening kick-off in Burnley!

The Snub Was Far From Rude

The snub was polite, kindly in-fact, like a dance of a butterfly, gracefully avoiding the cap in the outstretched hand, leaving behind an echo and moans from the usual clowns who fire off both barrels from their shotguns of missed opportunity and for what they see as an unforgivable act of footballing treason.  

Ben White’s ability to play a right back and challenge Kyle Walker for that berth, or indeed the possibility of him playing alongside John Stones in central defence isn’t the issue here. When White departed the Qatar World Cup squad ‘personal reasons’ were cited quicker than a divorcing couple could blame irreconcilable differences. Ever since there have been nothing but whispers as to the ‘real’ reasons weaving through the fabric of this conversation, casting shadows of uncertainty upon the canvas of truth.  But obviously there remains unfinished business here.

Whatever, or whoever it is that has and, is still it seems, preventing a player who is in a decent vein of form, and whose team currently sits at the summit of the Premier League, from making himself available for selection deserves more consideration and inquiry rather than the Harry Redknapp’s of this world turning up with a bandwagon that the professionally offended are already falling over themselves to climb aboard.

Southgate Feeds Ben To The Wolves

Of course, Southgate isn’t prepared to impart the reasons as to why Ben White has refused to play for his country ever since he picked up his Qatar and left. And your correspondent does not believe for one moment that he doesn’t know. Moreover, by publicly throwing White under the bus on this, Southgate has handed football supporters across the country an open goal of the unmissable opportunity to scream the inevitable idiotic, and no doubt, personal, abuse.

Anyway, who can really know what tenants occupy the mind of a man who when told ‘your country needs you,’ replies thanks but I don’t need you! Maybe Ben White doesn’t fancy eighty minutes on the bench, maybe he doesn’t like time away from his family, maybe, like so many of us, he doesn’t trust Southgate’s instincts for the game. Maybe he can’t stand the sight of Harry Kane! And let’s be honest, dozens of full backs and central defenders share that very same feeling.  But instead of any careful consideration or understanding as to what Ben White’s motives might be, the two-footed tackles of ideal speculation fly in.

From ex-managers and ex-players, all of whom are handsomely paid to impart continuous bullshit with absolute authority,  to the daily headline-making sports radio programme’s that put John on the line who agrees with everyfink ‘Arry said and that Ben White is an utter disgrace.

 Such whimsical frolics and ephemeral dances of conjecture do nothing but reduce the debate to confident assertions of White’s future pangs of regret.  And none of this is going to endear Southgate to Mikael Arteta if his title chasing team suddenly become distracted by this oncoming rush of dog’s abuse for his right back.

Surprised There Haven't Been More

But what remains truly surprising is that through the entirety of Southgate’s hand-break style of management and non-victorious reign, others haven’t followed Ben White in declining a silly hat. After-all, our Gary doesn’t usually do form when it comes to team selection. His teams are based more upon players who have never let him down. Players like, Marcus Rashford who have let Manchester United down all season, but somehow remains one of Southgate’s tried and trusted favoured players.

If there’s one thing Gareth loves above all, is it is stalwarts. In-fact Jordan Henderson is such a stalwart that he could play for Dagenham & Redbridge and still not get dropped! That some of these same stalwarts let him down against Croatia, Italy, and France, isn’t something he cares discuss. But Southgate is nothing if not consistent when it comes to picking favourites above players who are cutting a swathe every weekend for their clubs and a deserving of a chance.

Southgate doesn’t trust players who put in solid performances. He doesn’t fancy players like Nick Pope, Cole Palmer, Tino Livramento or Eberechi Eze. He only trusts those he can trust, those who managed to repay that trust by losing a semi-final, a final and a quarter final. Does this explain why he hasn’t won anything and probably won’t?

Derek Ross is an occasional contributor for First Touch. He also writes for Soccer 360 and The Top Flight   

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