It would typically be a non-event in East Anglia. in the past, both ends of Manchester, Liverpool and all four corners of London, joined by some Spice Girl’s husband on a beach in California, would be waiting pensively to hear the list of 23 names who would represent England at the next major tournament.
Meanwhile, the good folk of Great Yarmouth, King’s Lynn and other tantalizing Norfolk hotspots could rest peacefully, knowing that their humble Canaries would, once again, not be fielding any England internationals this time around.
But tonight, we wait with angst. Not one, but two of Norwich’s talismanic performers have an outside chance of being named in Roy Hodgson’s Euro 2012 squad tomorrow, when it is announced at 1pm (BST).
No one will question the undeniable quality of Joe Hart this season. An impressive 17 clean sheets for the Sky Blues and an ever-present for England in 2011 and 2012. Whilst it's not much of a claim, he’s cetainly established himself as the best English goalkeeper since David Seaman. However, the race to be his understudy and the backup to his understudy are still wide open.
It's been well documented that both Paul Robinson and Ben Foster have pulled their names out of that race long ago by announcing their retirements from international football to focus on...their thriving club careers, perhaps? Silly, silly boys!
While it’s possible that the two former England number ones could reverse their decisions, their absence improves City keeper, John Ruddy’s, chances. On paper, Ruddy is an unlikely candidate with just three clean sheets to his name all season. nHevertheless, having watched him in every game this season, his consistency and reaction time often at crucial moments in important games speak volumes for his candidacy. At 25 years-old, I would argue that not only is he the second best English goalkeeper, but that he also is a strong enough replacement, heaven forbid some sort of ill-fate should strike Joe Hart.
It’s worth noting that the third choice could easily be former Norwich loanee, Fraser Forster, who has had an outstanding season at Celtic. Forster was the man who set records in the season before Ruddy arrived at Carrow Road. Upon arrival, Ruddy famously said, "I'm John Ruddy. I'm not Fraser Forster, I'm not Robert Green, I'm not anyone who's been at Norwich before.” He even threatened to break Forster’s clean sheet record (18) and while he didn’t quite manage that, he might yet beat him in the race for an England cap.
The more controversial discussion is that surrounding England's frontline. With Wayne Rooney unavailable for the first two games, Darren Bent still unlikely to play through injury, Jermaine Defoe making just 25 league appearances this season and Peter Crouch threatening to repeat the robot dance should he score, Grant Holt is at least a possibility.
We've heard the statistic a thousand times; with the exception of Rooney no English player has scored more times this season. If the caps were handed out based on performance and sneaky shirt-tugging, Holt’s name would already be on the list. Unfortunately for the former car tire fitter, experience counts for a lot and I suspect that Hodgson will not be brave enough to pick the 31 year-old. I would love it if I’m proven wrong.
He will bring something different to all the other English forwards. His work rate is astounding for a big unit, his ability to bring people into the game is as good as any and he can find the back of the net. He’s done it against Newcastle, Liverpool (twice), Manchester United, Arsenal, Everton, Tottenham and has now claimed the Barry Butler NCFC player of the year trophy for a third successive year. He’s a fan’s favorite.
Ultimately, it’s unlikely that Norwich will have two players on that list tomorrow. Holt’s outside chances are limited because Fabio Capello failed to give him a try during one of the earlier friendlies. But, as Holt himself said this week after the dismantling of Aston Villa and Ruddy’s exceptional performance, “If there's anyone better than John Ruddy in this league come and tell me - I'll have an argument with anyone”.
I’ve got your back, Grant, even if you do insist on speaking in horribly broken, half-English, Rocky Balboa-esque sentences.