However, as we await the start of the European Championships on Friday night and England’s tournament opener against Croatia on Sunday, I can’t help but have a thought for the Sheffield United defender.
Because, I really believe that if O’Connell hadn’t been struck by the need for knee surgery last year, he would have been part of Gareth Southgate’s squad. Indeed, in my opinion, it would be a nailed-down starter.
The center of defense is really the only position the England boss has a problem with, his side just look a little vulnerable, especially when Harry Maguire isn’t around.
O’Connell could have been the glue that held him together, then scared the lives of Europe’s top players by bombarding the left flank and shooting a cross over Harry Kane’s head.
Alas, all is only if, but and maybe, just like when you think about the reasoning why Sheffield United fell off a cliff and ended up relegated last season.
O’Connell’s absence and this downgrade is no coincidence.
When people explain why the Blades ended up in the championship, no end to arguments – no fans, recruiting, the Wilder / Prince clash, tactics, etc. the brick-headed defender was there.
Enda Stevens’ form dipped because O’Connell wasn’t there; Aaron Ramsdale was slow to settle in because there was a struggle to find the right formula right in front of him; the midfielder was slow and lacked in creativity as they didn’t have so many options without O’Connell pushing forward and as a result there weren’t as many chances created for forwards.
By the time the World Cup arrives in winter 2022 – fingers crossed he will be in good shape and shooting again – O’Connell will be 29 years old. It’s late to get an international call-up, but if he returned to his two-season form seasons ago, then he still deserved it.
It’s just a shame we won’t see him in an English shirt this weekend.
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This notice was published: 2021-06-10 21:40:24