Having sat and watched the England football team play out a fairly drab one-nil win over Denmark on Wednesday, I thought I would plough-in with my thoughts on the squad that I would take on the plane to Brazil (via the US) for the World Cup in June and July. I realise that this is all complete conjecture, and personal opinion, but it makes a change from my ‘soap box’ views on more serious issues, and good fun too!
Before detailing my squad, I’d like to express my views on three important characteristics of my squad of 23; firstly, I believe that there should be at least two players in every position (expect Goalkeeper, where there should be 3). I realise that the formations that are successful in modern international Football (i.e. 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3) suggest some flexibility in that, but to travel to a World Cup without at least four out-and-out Centre Forwards/goal scorers and at least four recognised Centre Half’s is, in my opinion, rather balmy! The whole ‘Seven or eight defenders versus eight or nine midfielders’ debate is redundant to me.
Secondly, the calls for players to come ‘out of retirement’ (John Terry, anyone?) suggests a lack of confidence in the current players. How would you feel if you were a Defender or Midfielder and you were over-looked for Jamie Carragher (great player, by the way) or Paul Scholes (even greater!), like Fabio Capello did in 2010 (although Scholes obviously declined the invitation)?
Finally, I am a believer that the Manager/Coach picks the team, and that you support whoever represents the side regardless of your views. The futile attempts by some ‘followers’ (they aren’t fans) to select the team for Roy Hodgson, the England Manager, is just a little bit pathetic not to mention disrespectful. I’d like to see any of the 12,500 that signed the ‘Don’t select Tom Cleverley’ petition (http://tinyurl.com/k864d9x ) cope with the rigours of playing at Old Trafford in front of 75,000 fans every other week (although Cleverley doesn’t make my squad!). Right, on to my squad…
I would contend that one of the first names on the team sheet is Joe Hart, so won’t provide any further comment on him. I’d have liked to have seen Fraser Forster get more International game time, but his big-match experience in the Champions League is a good substitute for this. My first, slightly debatable pick is Ben Foster. Anyone to turn their backs on International selection doesn’t really deserve a second change (IMO), but his form is good enough and he looks more confident (to me) than John Ruddy.
Joe Hart: Manchester City
Fraser Forster: Celtic
Ben Foster: West Bromwich Albion
I’m going to hedge my bets a little here. Assuming that the first-choice back four will be Baines (shoe-in), Cahill and Jagielka (again, I can’t see any other combination at Centre-Half) and one of Johnson (who I thought was excellent last night) or Walker at Right Back, that leaves a position for reserve Left Back and two Centre-Half’s. Whilst opinions are divided on Ashley Cole, and the merits of giving the experience of a World Cup to Southampton’s Luke Shaw, you can’t beat that level of experience so he’s there for me. I’ve opted for Phil Jones (who can do a job at RB and/or as a holding Midfielder too) and Joleon Lescott at Centre-Half. I don’t think that Lescott will be selected, but I rate him as a Centre-Half more highly than I do Smalling of Manchester United or any of the others avaialble. I’m also disappointed to see Michael Dawson, who has done an excellent job for Spurs and gets lots of game time, overlooked.
Leighton Baines: Everton
Ashley Cole: Chelsea
Gary Cahill: Chelsea
Phil Jagielka: Everton
Joleon Lescott: Manchester City
Phil Jones: Manchester United
Glen Johnson: Liverpool
Kyle Walker: Tottenham Hotspur
Whilst certain players have guaranteed seats on the plane, …Steven Gerrard and Hodgson favourite Jack Wilshere, …much debate surrounds the other midfielders. Is taking both ‘senior’ players, in Frank Lampard and Michael Carrick, too much of a risk? Should the young tyros, like Jordan Henderson, Ross Barkley and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, be given places in the squad? My decisions are based on a combination of reliability, potential and form. The toughest decision for me was how many Central Midfileders to take because, as you can see below, I’ve opted to list my wide midfield/forward players separately. As a result, I’ve opted for four Central Midfielders who I believe could, at a push, do both ‘jobs’ (i.e. could sit in front of the defence and/or play in a slightly more advanced role). As a result, Lampard misses out as does Liverpool’s Henderson. Oxlade-Chamberlain makes it into my squad as a wide player. I have watched a lot of Everton this season, and there is an argument (although a slightly tenous one) that much of Barkley’s form has come about as a result of the performances of Gareth Barry. I rate Barry very highly, but my squad needs to be more versatile coming forward than he is, so he misses out!
Steven Gerrard: Liverpool
Michael Carrick: Manchester United
Ross Barkley: Everton
Jack Wilshere: Arsenal
The toughest decision for Roy Hodgson, and not that easy for me! I’ve not found a place in my squad for Andros Townsend, a revelation at the end of England’s qualification campaign but not getting much game time at Spurs, and have opted for James Milner, in and out of the Manchester City team but a player who could ‘do a job’ at Right Back (at a push), Central Midfielder and/or as a Wide Player. Adam Lallana can do the same sort of jobs, …his performance on Wednesday gets him the nod over Townsend, …and Raheem Sterling is in the form of his life!
Raheem Sterling: Liverpool
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: Arsenal
Adam Lallana: Southampton
James Milner: Manchester City
The difference between winning and losing at International level is taking chances. With this in mind, I have picked my Forwards on the basis of who I would most trust to find the back of the net from six yards. Because of this, I have left Danny Welbeck out of my squad. Many believe that he is a Hodgson favourite, and I can see why, but I have gone with the proven record of Jermain Defoe for my fourth Centre Forward. Rickie Lambert ‘gets the nod’ because of his relationship on the pitch with Adam Lallana, and that he is something different to the other players in the squad.
Wayne Rooney: Manchester United
Daniel Sturridge: Liverpool
Rickie Lambert: Southampton
Jermain Defoe: Toronto
Given that I’m not selecting the squad, and can therefore do whatever I like, my reserve players (I’ve picked seven) are those who I feel have been unlucky not to make my squad and/or given the chance to prove themselves under Roy Hodgson. No need for a reserve Right Back, …I’ve got Phil Jones and/or James Milner in my squad for that!
John Ruddy: Norwich City
Luke Shaw: Southampton
Michael Dawson: Tottenham Hotspur
Jordan Henderson: Liverpool
Gareth Barry: Everton
Andros Townsend: Tottenham Hotspur
Danny Welbeck: Manchester United
Clearly, if Lescott doesn’t get any game time between now and the end of the season, Smalling will get the nod (even though my preference would be Dawson). Cole is at risk, owing to a lack of minutes on the pitch, but his fitness and experience can’t (surely?!) be ignored. Other players with susceptible injury records, …Barkley, Wilshere, Sturridge to a certain extent, …mean that the door is not closed in my squad! So, let the debate begin!