Two German midfielders England missed out on
Lewis Holtby and Aaron Hunt
27 November ~ A shortage of midfield talent has resulted in some rather pragmatic recent selections by Roy Hodgson. Michael Carrick was recalled despite making himself unavailable for the European Championship, while Jack Wilshere was fast-tracked back in to the squad after only three starts since July 2011. Leon Osman was given his debut at 31 while Raheem Sterling also earned his first start aged 17. Had the previous England regime been a bit sharper, Hodgson may have benefitted from the availability of two of the Bundesliga's brightest talents.
Lewis Holtby was born in Erkelenz in western Germany, where his Liverpudlian father was stationed while serving the British military. Brought up an Everton and England fan, he joined Schalke in 2009 after two years with Aachen. He represented Germany's Under-19 team on several occasions before playing in the Under-20 World Cup in September 2009.
His domestic breakthrough arrived during the 2009-10 season on loan at Mainz where he was one third of the "Bruchweg Boys", a term derived from the Mainz Bruchwegstadion. Alongside Sami Allagui and André Schürrle, they inspired seven wins in seven games, including a famous victory at Bayern Munich, to briefly top the Bundesliga, leaving manager Thomas Tuchel suitably impressed with Holtby's impact: "Lewis is a very creative player, good at one-on-ones and he can win the ball. It's a pleasure to work with him. He's special."
During this period the prospect of representing England materialised but Holtby was already captain of Germany Under-21s. When the subject of a call-up by Fabio Capello was broached in an interview, Holtby said: "I would definitely listen. I really love both countries." Contact was never made and Holtby finally made his competitive debut for Germany in a European Championship qualifier against Azerbaijan in June 2011. After impressing in Germany's recent draw with Holland coach Joachim Low was effusive in his praise for Holtby, who has drawn comparison with Mesut Özil: "He is technically good. He has good creativity, a good eye for a pass and great ball control."
Werder Bremen's Aaron Hunt has a German father and an English mother whose family is still based in the London area. Having made his debut in September 2004, Bremen's youngest ever player and became their youngest ever scorer in February 2005 at the age of 18. He scored eight goals in 41 appearances during the 2009-10 season and in November 2009 Stuart Pearce is believed to have given Capello a glowing report of the winger's form.
Hunt represented Germany at Under-16, Under-17 and Under-21 level. While representing the latter, he was accused of making a racist remark towards Anton Ferdinand and Micah Richards but the charge was dropped due to insufficient evidence. A potentially uncomfortable situation was avoided when Hunt declared his intention to represent Germany. "I feel very honoured and extremely happy that England have expressed an interest in me and even watched me play," he said. "But I am clear in my mind that I want to play for Germany. This is where I have grown up and played all my football, and it seems a logical decision to make." He made his senior debut in a friendly against Chile soon after England's interest was revealed.
Hunt is currently enjoying a fine season, scoring a goal every other game, while Holtby is a free agent in the summer, with both Merseyside clubs keen. "I have always said that I want to play in England one day," he recently claimed. "Even Liverpool I do not rule out, even if that for my father would be a blow as a diehard Everton fan." Should a Premier League move materialise, England's half-hearted pursuit and subsequent failure will be magnified. Scott Johnson