This is the first tournament I can remember in which there hasn’t been a hype about England bringing home the trophy, perhaps the managerial situation being only recently resolved has played a part in this lack of hype, one of the most exciting premier league campaigns for a long time may have also taken a part. The England team no longer seems to ‘pick its self’ and even those players with huge reputations may well slightly anxious to hear if they’ve made the cut. For me, only 2 players are guaranteed starters, Joe Hart has been a colossus and looks like he could well occupy the #1 shirt for the next decade injury permitting. The other ‘first name on the team sheet’ would be Ashley Cole, the Chelsea left back has been perhaps England’s most consistent performer in recent years and is arguably the best left back in Europe right now. The only other certainty on the plane is Wayne Rooney, Hodgson has said that the Manchester United striker is part of his plans even though he is not available for the first 2 group games.
Goalkeepers: Joe Hart (Manchester City) Robert Green (West Ham) Ben Foster (WBA)
There have been cries (particularly form Norwich City fans) for John Ruddy to make the squad, but I’ve gone for the experienced Robert Green to back up Joe Hart. Ben Foster could well be named as the other ‘keeper despite making himself unavailable in the past, Hodgson is a keen admirer of the ex Manchester United player and could offer him a return to international football.
Defenders: Kyle Walker (Tottenham Hostpur) Rio Ferdinand (Man Utd) Joleon Lescott (Man City) Ashley Cole (Chelsea) Phil Jones (Man Utd) Glen Johnson (Liverpool) Gary Cahill (Chelsea)
PFA Young Player of the Year Kyle Walker merits a place after his form this year, whilst Ferdinand and Lescott have both been solid for their clubs fighting it out for the title, Phil Jones has shown he is very capable at centre back, right back and even in a holding midfield role and this versatility could be invaluable to England should injuries and suspensions come into play. I’ve opted for Glen Johnson ahead of Leighton Baines as the Liverpool full back offers cover on either side. Hopefully Gary Cahill will overcome the injury he sustained in the Champions League semi-final to make the squad, I’ve gone for him over John Terry as in recent weeks the once reliable three lions captain has come unstuck in big games, this aside from the obvious controversies he carries with him. Chris Smalling is now ruled out through injury. Micah Richards is another who is in with a shot, but despite some good performances this season would not be on my plane.
Midfielders: Scott Parker (Tottenham Hostpur) Michael Carrick (Man Utd) Steven Gerrard (Liverpool) Frank Lampard (Chelsea) Gareth Barry (Man City) Ashley Young (Man Utd) Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal) Theo Walcott (Arsenal)
This was the hardest section of the squad to choose. Jack Wilshere will unfortunately miss the tournament through an ankle injury that has plagued him all season, Tom Cleverly has not played enough football after starting the season promisingly and although making an almighty return to Old Trafford it is unlikely Hodgson will be able to tempt Paul Scholes out of international retirement. Scott Parker was given the arm band under the brief Stuart Pearce interim era, whether he will lead the team come the summer is another matter but he will be proud to be involved in whatever capacity. Michael Carrick has taken a lot of criticism in the past, but has really been the dominant force in the Red Devils midfield and for me is hugely underrated. Likewise, Gareth Barry is never the most exciting player to watch but has played nigh on every game for a side that is sitting top of the table.
Lampard and Gerrard, the battle of big reputations, can they play together? Who knows, Lampard has been in scintillating form since Roberto Di-Matteo took over at Stamford Bridge and the top premier league goal scoring midfielder of all time could really be an asset to England this summer. As for Gerrard, the lifelong Liverpudlian always seems to come up trumps in big games, England will be counting on him unleashing one of those trade mark strikes this summer. I’ve gone for pace in the wide spots, but with Young and the Ox there is also a creative edge and unpredictability in their play that can trouble full backs. Theo Walcott edges in ahead of Aaron Lennon and James Milner on the fact he has performed for England in the past, his pace and directness could change a game late on.
Forwards: Wayne Rooney (Man Utd) Andy Carroll (Liverpool) Jermain Defoe (Tottenham Hotspur) Daniel Sturridge (Chelsea) Danny Welbeck (Man Utd)
Rooney’s spot has already been confirmed despite his suspension. Andy Carroll has been labelled an expensive flop, but has shown in recent games that he can be a handful and score goals, he would bring a different approach to the England attack and possesses more of an aerial threat than Peter Crouch. Youngsters Sturridge and Welbeck have performed well for their clubs this season and could even be deployed in wide positions depending on how Hodgson sets up his team. The final forward spot goes to Jermain Defoe who despite being a bit part player for Tottenham this year, has fired in an impressive 15 goals. His ability to come on and ‘find’ a goal could see him thrown into the action when Hodgson’s team need to find a breakthrough. Those that miss out then, Emile Heskey, understandably and perhaps the only other to feel they had a shout of making the squad, Norwich’s Grant Holt. The talisman has been an integral part of the Canaries first season back in the top flight, but misses out on a place in the 23 man squad.