It’s that time again. The summer has rolled around and England will soon head to foreign shores to disappoint the whole country as part of a bi-annual national ritual. The plot has followed its usual course. It starts innocently enough, the squad is promising with youthful splashes but not enough to make any serious impact. One impressive result against a half-hearted German side and suddenly this team could make it to the semi finals. Even a poor result against Holland, a side that did not qualify for Euro 2016, could not dissuade the tide of optimism sweeping the nation. And so we find ourselves, tournament challengers (17/2 with some bookmakers), with a deluded chance of lifting the title.
Having said that…we do have a very decent and exciting, young squad that should make an impact in France. However, this relies on Roy Hodgson being bold, not a quality that is synonymous with the England manager.
Forget the squad that is going to be unveiled on Monday, this is the squad that really matters.
Joe Hart (Manchester City)
England’s number one for that past five years. He has always been dependable between the sticks for his country. Despite some early season jitters in a team that has flattered to deceive this term, his performance in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid exemplified his world class capabilities. Consistent.
Fraser Forster (Southampton)
After years of struggling with the position, England currently have a plethora of talent in goal exemplified by the Saints’ man. Forster came back from a long-term injury and performed brilliantly for the final few months of the season. He should feel like he has a real chance of unseating Hart in the starting eleven. Able Deputy.
Tom Heaton (Burnley)
Should be given his chance after Butland fractured his ankle whilst playing in the victory against Germany in March. The Clarets have enjoyed a fantastic season with Heaton providing fantastic consistency for the Championship winners. He is the joint-leader in clean sheets and deserves his seat on the plane. Spectator.
Danny Rose (Tottenham Hostpur)
The fantastic season Spurs have enjoyed was in no small part down to their mean defence. Whilst Rose can be culpable at times for abandoning his position, he has performed admirably and benefits from a lack of strength in the wingback positions. I am not sure I fancy his chances against Gareth Bale. Solid.
Aaron Cresswell (West Ham United)
The unsung hero of West Ham’s campaign. I can’t comprehend how he is not in anyone’s thinking. He can actually defend unlike many of his competitors and also possesses a fantastic dead ball delivery which the team is severely lacking. If he had a few caps under his belt he would be in my starting line-up. Underrated.
Nathaniel Clyne (Liverpool)
The 25 year-old has been a mainstay under Klopp and repaid the faith of his new manager. Clyne has great pace which makes up for some of his other deficiencies and he is in charge of the right back shirt for now. This is an area of serious concern for the England manager. Predictable.
Kyle Walker (Tottenham Hotspur)
Another Spurs fullback who relies on his pace to get him out of trouble. He is yet to learn positional sense and finds himself in dangerous territory too often for my liking. Against top opposition I fear this lack of football intelligence will be too easily demonstrated. Liability.
Chris Smalling (Manchester United)
The United defender has come on leaps and bounds this past year and is one of few successes under Van Gaal’s tenure. He is the only reliable defender in the squad and is integral for Hodgson’s defence. Hopefully he can take on a leadership role and command the defence like Terry, Ferdinand and Adams have done before him. Integral.
Gary Cahill (Chelsea)
His team have had a terrible season and the former Bolton man has not fared much better. Zouma overtook him in the pecking order and only an injury to the talented Frenchman has allowed Cahill back into the starting eleven. He is yet another English defender that is consistent but not special and always has a mistake in him. However, he has played in a Champions League final and has collected a wealth of experience over the years. Lucky.
John Stones (Everton)
The hopes of a nation rested on this young man’s shoulders at the beginning of the year and it appears to have crushed him. The fortunes of the Toffees has not helped the youngster but he has become a shadow of the player he was in August. The hypocrisy of British punditry does frustrate me somewhat though. One minute he is praised for playing out of the back, the next he is lambasted for not hitting row Z. Give the boy some time. I would start him alongside Smalling. Potential.
Phil Jagielka (Everton)
Yet another England defender that has not had his finest season. Experience plays to his side but does not inspire too much faith when it comes to facing world-class opposition. He will only play if worst comes to worst and two central defenders get injured. This will be his last tournament. Veteran.
Eric Dier (Tottenham Hotspur)
Transformed from a no nonsense central defender into a cultured holding midfielder. A year is a long time in football. For all the praise directed at another Spurs midfielder, Dier has been my revelation of the season. Pochettino has had a tremendous impact on the 22 year-old. Whilst he has not faced world-class opposition yet, he looks the real deal; his time in defence has givien him an awareness others do not enjoy. His versatility is crucial. Adaptable.
James Milner (Liverpool)
The forgotten man of English football. Milner has transitioned comfortably to life on Merseyside and been given a chance in his favoured central berth. He may not pull up trees on a regular basis but his work rate and crossing ability should not be underrated. He is tied with David Silva and PFA Player of the Year Mahrez on an impressive 11 assists. Committed.
Jordan Henderson (Liverpool)
Another Red who does not inspire great excitement in the belly. He has had a steady first season as captain of the club and is improving at a gradual rate. As he returns from injury he faces stiff competition for one of the holding roles in midfield. He has shown surprising leadership this year which may play in his favour. A Hodgson favourite. Uninspiring.
Danny Drinkwater (Leicester City)
Another remarkable rise. The Manchester United reject has flourished under Ranieri and become an all-round midfielder. Despite being outshone by the outstanding Kante alongside him, Drinkwater deserves a place in the squad and can provide capable back up for those ahead of him. Deserving.
Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur)
The PFA Young Player of the Year has had a tremendous season (one of my rare correct predictions) and will start in the coveted number 10 position. He will be tasked with providing the spark that has too often been lacking in England sides over the past decade. Let’s hope he has a similar impact to a former teen sensation back in 2004. Outstanding.
Ross Barkley (Everton)
This year has seen him overtaken by Alli as the young hope of English football. He started the season in impressive form but has tailed off drastically along with that of Everton’s. The 22 year-old is still young and has plenty of time to progress but many thought he would be a mainstay of the team by now. Sadly he has not kicked on, yet there is still plenty to expect from this young man. Promising.
Adam Lallana (Liverpool)
Another that seen his career revived this season. After a disappointing first year in Liverpool he has turned into one of Klopp’s main men. What the former Southampton man lacks in pace he more than makes up for in trickery. He will have a pivotal role to play on one of the wings and I hope Hodgson gives him his chance. Creative.
Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)
The £49 million man has had an horrendous season. Unsurprisingly he has found himself behind De Bruyne and Silva with even the impotent Navas overtaking the Englishman. Sterling did show glimpses of his past form in the Champions League but too often than not he has been found wanting. The lack of competition out wide has saved him and hopefully he can provide an impact off the bench. Lucky.
Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur)
The first name in the squad. Despite many, including myself, doubting he could reproduce the form of 14/15, especially after his slow start, he has evolved into the deadliest striker in the league. His world-class finishing prowess was illustrated in the 3-2 win against Germany and he will strike fear into all opposition defences. World-class.
Jamie Vardy (Leicester City)
The story of the former non-league star is almost as remarkable as that of his team’s. Vardy had an average season last year but was transformed into a goal machine this time round. His movement and electric pace has made him an essential cog of the Leicester juggernaut that has steamrollered the Premier League this year. At 29 it must be asked, where has he been all this time? Speedster.
Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool)
The most natural finisher in the Premier League. Despite being riddled with injuries he must be on the plane. He has come back into the Liverpool side and proved as efficient as ever, managing to score 12 goals in 23 sporadic matches. If England need a goal with 10 minutes to play, there is no one better to chuck on than the Brummie. Clinical.
Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)
He makes my squad…just. If it was any other player then he does not make the plane, but the captain’s experience will be vital in such a young squad. The argument that he should play because he is England’s all time top scorer is nonsensical, I don’t hear any clamours for record cap holder Peter Shilton to return in goal. If he starts against Russia on 11th June then English football has taken a huge step back. Captain.
Clyne Stones Smalling Rose
Lallana Alli Vardy
So there it is. My 23. What do you think? Feel free to comment, rate and like!