With less than 50 days until the World Cup kicks off in Rio, Sport Editor James Beeson gives his verdict on which English players deserve to be on the plane:
Goalkeepers: Joe Hart, Ben Foster & Fraser Forster
In a remarkable change from past World Cups, Roy Hodgson finds himself almost spoilt for choice in the Goalkeeping department. Despite a slight blip in form earlier in the season Joe Hart remains England’s undisputed number one between the sticks, whilst West Brom’s Ben Foster is a more than capable deputy. Should injury befall both of the aforementioned, Fraser Forster has proved himself to be worthy of a place on the plane, keeping 13 consecutive clean sheets in the SPL for Celtic earlier this season. John Ruddy and Jack Butland may feel aggrieved to miss out, but do not merit selection ahead of the talented trio already selected.
Defenders: Leighton Baines, Ashley Cole, Phil Jagielka, Gary Cahill, Phil Jones, Steven Caulker, Glen Johnson & Kyle Walker
With John Terry ruling himself out of contention, central defence is a straightforward selection, with Everton’s Phil Jagielka having struck up a stong partnership with Terry’s teammate Gary Cahill in qualifying. Manchester United’s Phil Jones merits a place in the squad purely based on his versatility, whilst Steven Caulker’s valiant efforts in the heart of the Cardiff defence this season ensure the Three Lions will be sufficiently equipped in Rio. Jon Stones and Chris Smalling fail to make the grade, but have youth on their side and could feature in future tournaments.
Left-back is another position in which England are more than adequately stocked, with Leighton Baines and Ashley Cole making the grade in my squad. Southampton’s Luke Shaw has been excellent this season, but is inexperienced at International level. Glenn Johnson and Kyle Walker have both had solid seasons, and offer an offensive threat from Right-back.
Midfielders: Raheem Sterling, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson, Ross Barkley, Jack Wilshere, James Milner & Adam Lallana
With Theo Walcott being ruled out of this Summers’ tournament through injury, England will look to Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling and Arsenal’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to provide width out right in Rio. On the opposite flank, Adam Lallana has been in scintillating form for Southampton and James Milner’s commitment and energy makes him deserving of a place. Andros Townsend has faded for Spurs after a promising start, and Ashley Young has never regained his form from his days at Aston Villa since moving to Manchester United.
In the centre of midfield, Steven Gerrard continues to defy Father time and has been consistently excellent for Liverpool this season; a worthy recipient of the Captain’s armband. His teammate Jordan Henderson is almost unrecognizable under the tutelage of Brendan Rodgers. Despite an injury hit campaign, Jack Wilshere is still capable of producing a World Class display, and ought to make the cut alongside Everton wonderkid Ross Barkley, who has excelled under Roberto Martinez. Veterans Michael Carrick, Frank Lampard and Gareth Barry could all stake a claim to be on the plane, but their best days are arguably behind them.
Forwards: Daniel Sturridge, Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck & Andy Carroll
Despite being blessed with some great strikers in the past, England are a little lightweight upfront going into this years tournament. Daniel Sturridge has been outstanding for Liverpool, but is yet to perform on the International stage. Wayne Rooney has faded for United after a bright start, and has never performed to the level expected of him at a major tournament. Danny Welbeck ought to be given a chance in Brazil, and has the added bonus of being able to play out wide should he be required to. Andy Carroll completes my list of forwards, as I believe he offers a more direct alternative than the unfortunate Ricky Lambert, although I may regret that decision if England have to take penalties! James Rodriguez is another casualty missing due to injury, whilst Jermain Defoe sacrificed his place by moving to the MLS in January.