So Roy Hodgson has stepped in the breach left after the resignation of Fabio Capello. His first major task is of course Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine and the much-travelled Hodgson’s squad selection will be critical to his teams chances. Here’s who I think should be on that plane:
Joe Hart (Manchester City) – In simple terms, the best English goalkeeper since Peter Shilton. Still only 25, Hart appears to have it all and is the first man since David Seamann to really cement his place in the England goal. Yet to make a notable howler this season, the former Shrewsbury goalkeeper has shown outstanding consistency, shot-stopping and leadership at the spine of the league leaders, propelling himself from third choice at City 2 seasons ago, to being one of the leading goalkeepers in the world as well as one the first names on Englandss team shirt. A shoe-in.
Ben Foster (West Bromwich Albion) – Although currently on self-appointed sabbatical from international football, Foster has rediscovered his form since his move to the Hawthorn’s under the management of none other than Hodgson himself. At 28, Foster in is the prime of his professional career and has been instrumental in West Brom’s comfortable battle to avoid relegation. Who would bet against Hodgson being the man to persuade Foster to represent his country once more?
Scott Carson (Bursaspor) – Although I believe Carson to be a very good goalkeeper, he is prone to making rather famous blunders, most notably on competitive debut v Croatia. Carson has somewhat escaped the gaze of the public since his move to Turkey, where his side enjoyed a comfortable mid-table league finish. Despite his past errors, Carson would provide able back-up if England ever had to call on their third choice stopper.
Glen Johnson (Liverpool) – Despite having a stop and start season due to injury, Johnson has featured prominently in a Liverpool defence which has collected many plaudits. Two-footed, athletic and with tournament experience, Johnson is likely to deny Micah Richards, who is unable to get a game at City at the moment, a place on the plane.
Kyle Walker (Tottenham Hotspur) – Much like Joe Hart, Kyle Walker is another player the advocates of the loan system will point to as an example of why it can be so effective. The Spurs full back, first called up during his loan spell at Villa last season, has continued to impress ever since. Probably the best footballer of all the right backs in England, Walker has demonstrated his danger going forward, (personified by his pile driver to win the North-London derby) as well as competence in defence. The combination make him, in my eyes, a certainty to figure in the England set up when Hodgson names his squad on Wednesday.
Phil Jones (Manchester United) – For me, Phil Jones is, along with Jack Wilshere, one of the best and most exciting young footballers in this country. Since making the shift from Blackburn to United, the young centre back has answered his manager’s call and more, having played in central midfield and right back as well as centre back. Despite receiving his fair share of criticism, the youngster has shown more than enough to warrant a spot on the plane not just for his versatility but his ability also.
Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United) – After the much-documented captaincy debacle, Ferdinand is probably one of the players relieved to see the back of Mr Capello. Despite reaching the autumn of his career, Ferdinand has been the mainstay of a Manchester United defence which has conceded, bar Manchester City, the fewest league goals this season. Sir Alex Ferguson has come out today suggesting Ferdinand would not be able to cope with the weight of matches over a short period brought by a major tournament, but given he has already completed 3 games in 8 days twice this season, Ferdinand must go, providing some much needed experience to the centre of England’s defence.
Gary Cahill (Chelsea) – Despite enduring a torrid 6 months at Bolton this season, and conceding 3 in his first start for Chelsea, I believe Gary Cahill to be one of the best centre backs in the country. Thanks to the unfortunate injury to David Luiz, Cahill has been given a consistent run of games under Roberto Di Matteo, particularly impressing in the FA cup Semi Final against Tottenham and in his side’s 1-0 victory over Barcelona earlier this year.
Joleon Lescott (Everton) – Mocked by his own fans who sing “Joleon Lescott, he’s top of the league”, Lescott seems to have benefited from not being under the international spotlight on many occasions. Alongside Vincent Kompany, he has part of the best defence in the league, whilst also completing a higher percentage of tackles than any other English centre back this season. He was superb against Spain and would certainly make my squad of 23.
Ashley Cole (Chelsea) – I don’t feel I need to say much to justify this decision. Over the last decade, Cole has proved himself to be the most consistent left back in the league and, along with Philip Lahm, in the world, Cole is just one of England’s genuine world class performers who, unless of injury or extenuating circumstances, will be in Englands starting XI come June.
Leighton Baines (Everton) – Unfortunately for Baines, he is behind one of England’s most capped players in the pecking order. His performances over the last few years for club and country would warrant him a place in most top sides, but while this competition with Cole is detrimental to Baines’ cap collection, it is great for the England side to have another outstanding left back as back up. A dead ball specialist, Baines has the ability to create something from nothing, as well as being one of a rare breed, an Englishman who can take penalties.
Scott Parker (Tottenham Hotspur) – The Benjamin Button of football. Having wasted much of what he achieved at Charlton in moving to Chelsea, the Spurs hard-man has been reborn in the last few years and seems to be getting better with age. He has moved from the fringes of the England squad to a first choice central midfielder. Fearless and tenacious off the ball as well as underrated on the ball, Parker is perfect for the favoured 4-3-3 system, providing the protection our back 4 will need against the other top sides.