This will be a very important season for England’s top players, as they try and stake their claim to be in the 23-man squad that goes to Brazil. Here are the main candidates, and who I think we should take, for each position.
Candidates: Joe Hart, Fraser Forster, John Ruddy, Ben Foster, Jack Butland
Despite losing his place for Manchester City, it would be a major shock if Joe Hart was not England’s first choice keeper for Brazil. He will probably start every game, but in case of injury, capable backups are needed. Ruddy and Foster have been solid if unspectacular Premier League keepers for a few years now, whereas Forster has put in some heroic performances in the Champions League for Celtic. Jack Butland is showing promise, and played well for Team GB at the Olympics, but may be considered too young at the moment.
My Choices: Hart, Ruddy, Forster
Candidates: Glen Johnson, Kyle Walker, Micah Richards, Nathaniel Clyne, Carl Jenkinson, Matt Lowton
Glen Johnson has for some reason been England’s first choice right back for several years now, but I don’t rate him in the slightest. Kyle Walker is the best attacking full back we have, but is defensively questionable. Micah Richards would be my first choice, but he isn’t a guaranteed stater for his club, so may want to seek a January move or loan to really show what he can do. Nathanial Clyne has been impressive for Southampton, while Matt Lowton would be a surprising inclusion.
My Choices: Micah Richards, Kyle Walker
Candidates: Gary Cahill, Phil Jagielka, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Joleon Lescott, Michael Dawson, Rio Ferdinand (currently retired), John Terry (currently retired)
The international retirements of John Terry and Rio Ferdinand have left England without any centre backs with any international experience. If either of them could be persuaded to come back for the tournament, their experience would be invaluable, but it seems unlikely. Jagielka and Cahill have been Hodgson’s preferred partnership in recent games, and seem likely to go. Phil Jones and Chris Smalling are young and have potential, and can also play at right back. Joleon Lescott isn’t first choice for his club but played well at Euro 2012, while Michael Dawson perhaps hasn’t had the recognition he deserves internationally, having been a solid defender for Spurs for quite a long time now.
My Choices: Gary Cahill, Joleon Lescott, Phil Jagielka, Phil Jones
Candidates: Ashley Cole, Leighton Baines, Luke Shaw, Kieran Gibbs
This position seems fairly obvious, Cole and Baines will almost certainly both go to Brazil, the more important question is which of them should start? Baines is the most effective attacker, while Cole is arguably better defensively. Shaw and Gibbs will certainly feature more for England in the next few years, but will probably sit this one out.
My Choices: Leighton Baines, Ashley Cole
Candidates: Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Jack Wilshere, James Milner, Tom Cleverley, Jordan Henderson, Ross Barkley, Michael Carrick, Scott Parker
Gerrard is still very important for England, he can still win games on his own with a brilliant pass or shot. Lampard is aging and this will probably be his last international tournament. Wilshere is the future of English football and will certainly go, barring any more injuries. Carrick has quietly been one of Man Utd’s better players over the last few years, while Ross Barkley and Jordan Henderson are highly rated by their Merseyside clubs. Tom Cleverley has been a regular in England squads, but there is no way he should be in the World Cup squad.
My Choices: Steven Gerrard, Michael Carrick, Jack Wilshere, Frank Lampard
Candidates: Ashley Young, Raheem Sterling, Wilfiried Zaha, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott, Adam Lallana, Aaron Lennon, Andros Townsend, Adam Johnson
One of England’s strongest positions currently, which wingers to take will probably be Hodgson’s biggest problem. Townsend has impressed massively in recent games, and is a regular for a Spurs team with no lack of talented wingers. Ashley Young is out of favour at Man Utd and universally loathed. Sterling, Zaha and Chamberlain are young and exciting, with Chamberlain having the best chance of going, although he has struggled with injury this season. Theo Walcott has also been injured, and in opinion is better as a striker, but he is always an England favourite. Lennon and Lallana have been underused by England but are possibly the best of the lot.
My Choices: Andros Townsend, Aaron Lennon, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Adam Lallana
Candidates: Wayne Rooney, Rickie Lambert, Daniel Sturridge, Jermain Defoe, Theo Walcott, Danny Welbeck, Jay Rodriguez
Rooney is the first name on the team sheet for England, he has been in great form in qualifying. Sturridge and Lambert have been in excellent club form recently. Defoe and Welbeck are England regulars, but Defoe needs to start more for Spurs and Welbeck needs to improve his scoring record. Walcott had a great goal scoring season last season, while Jay Rodriguez recently made his debut and is an outside bet
My Choices: Wayne Rooney, Daniel Sturridge, Theo Walcott, Rickie Lambert
My First 11:
Richards – Cahill – Lescott – Baines
Gerrard – Wilshere
Lennon – Rooney – Townsend