On Wednesday, it was finally revealed that England boss Roy Hodgson would be announcing his Euro 2012 23-man squad on the 16th May. As the season comes to a close and the Euro’s draw excitingly close, players can look to make their final moves to try and force their way into Roy’s Euro plans.
Here’s a look at the decisions Roy will have to make before he announces the squad next week.
For once this is not a position that will fill the coach with anxiety and dread. For the first time in a decade England fans can feel confident that they have a man in between the sticks that they can rely on.
Joe Hart will look forward to following up such a successful Premier League season with a first international tournament in which he will actually take an active part. Roy will still want to get hold of the best quality back up on offer, sadly many of England’s finest shot stoppers have thrown in the gloves and retired from international football. If he cannot convince Ben Foster to return then chances are it will be Robert Green and Scott Carson who make the trip this summer.
Looking at the squad Capello took to the World Cup in South Africa two years ago, the backline seems comical. The fact that Jamie Carragher had to be called out of retirement speaks volumes about the problems we had. Luckily for Roy the options have improved. John Terry remains one of the first names on the team sheet and it is fully expected that he will be on the plane. Many will believe Rio Ferdinand will decide whether he feels comfortable playing with the man charged with racially abusing his own brother, but in all honesty this is not the same Rio Ferdinand. He does not offer the same astute defensive brutality he once did and his lack of pace could prove an issue. For that reason alone, Rio should not be named in the squad.
Manchester United youngsters Chris Smalling and Phil Jones will also think that they have done enough, though Jones doesn’t seem to be at the right level just yet. However, Smalling certainly deserves his chance but whether Roy feels that both are ready will be interesting.
Ashley Cole has finally been portraying the form that had earned him accolades as the world’s best left back. Everton’s Leighton Baines will however still think he can force his way into the position; he certainly offers some great set piece expertise. He picked up an injury though, which could mean that he doesn’t appeal to Hodgson as much as a fully fit and in form Ashley Cole certainly will.
Who Roy picks at right back will be something many look forward to.
Kyle Walker has done more than enough to prove that he is a top full back. The recently named PFA Young Player of the Year has been in great form for Harry Redknapp’s Tottenham. Glen Johnson was first choice under Capello but defensively he leaves much to be desired and Roy could be tempted to side with youth to give people a sign of things to come. Roy had issues with Glen whilst at Liverpool, he even went as far as to publically challenge Johnson and his place in the team. Micah Richards is unlucky as he has recently fallen out of Roberto Mancini’s starting eleven although he can offer his services as a centre half as well as at right back and so could prove a very worthwhile pick.
Luckily England no longer have to rely on the mismatch partnership of Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard in central midfield but the loss of Jack Wilshere and even Jack Rodwell is very disappointing. Industrious midfielder Scott Parker has managed to become a key player for England and is likely to lead the Three Lions out as captain. Gareth Barry has been in good form for Manchester City and has even been able to hold onto his place despite top Dutch Defensive midfielder Nigel De Jong breathing down his neck. Steven Gerrard has ended up playing a deeper role at times for Liverpool this season and could prove very useful dropping back if extra cover was needed. Gerrard can still cut it in an advanced role and certainly deserves his place.
Michael Carrick could be understandably disappointed if he did not manage to make the final cut. He has recently shown the form that manager Alex Ferguson took him to Manchester for and has the experience to jump straight back into the England side, despite having not played since May 2010.
Frank Lampard had to fall out of the England squad for good sooner or later. The loss of Jack Wilshere may just prove to prolong it just past this tournament but a position in the hole just behind the striker would be of no help to this quicker paced England side, and much better options are available for the more defensive positions down the centre.
Stewart Downing has not been good enough for Liverpool. A player of his experience cannot hide behind the guise of the “new team blues”. However, it would not be shocking if he was named in Roy’s squad although he certainly does not deserve it. Adam Johnson is long due his time to shine, there is no doubt that if given the chance he can come good. He was unfortunate to have been left out of the World Cup team in 2010 due to Capello’s distaste of his tendency to ‘cut inside’. The best chance for Johnson to allow himself to actually become first choice for England is to move to a club that he can get a wealth of games for. He is a bit part player at Manchester City but he is much better than that. He certainly deserves a chance to prove himself at the Euro’s.
How the notion of allowing a tournament to transpire without Wayne Rooney was even considered is bordering on blasphemy. Luckily Roy will take the golden boy and the impact of bringing a player of Rooney’s talent into the team for the final group game could prove valuable. Andy Carroll has had a tough time at Liverpool, but nobody can deny the raw talent that he possesses. His recent performances for Liverpool have been tremendous. He bullied Terry all night when Liverpool recently faced up to Chelsea in the league and if Roy was to put his trust in Andy he could reap huge rewards.
Daniel Sturridge is a real gem and is dreadfully unlucky that the predicament at Chelsea means he is exiled to the wing. His competitive nature sometimes adds greediness to his play but if he gets the ball onto his left foot in space then expect to see the net bulging.
Rooney’s United counterpart Danny Welbeck can look forward to a fun filled summer holiday. He has turned in some great performances and his experience playing with Wayne at Manchester United could be what England strike partnerships have been lacking in years gone by. Welbeck also has experience playing with Daniel Sturridge in the past for the England u21′s squad.
Darren Bent looks as if he may find fitness after a long term injury. England though will have much better chance with players who have recent match experience and are at full fitness levels. Darren Bent is undoubtedly a top class player but the risks of taking a striker who may not be fully fit could prove fatal, especially as Wayne Rooney is suspended for the first two group games.
Roy has a tough job on his hands then; some Englishmen have shown promising stuff this season. Peter Crouch has been able to find goal scoring form, even scoring a goal of the season contender. Youngster Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has shown potential but calls for his inclusion are premature. He has started just a handful of games for Arsenal this season, though he is undoubtedly a future star and will have plenty of chances to prove himself on the biggest of stages. This won’t be his chance though.
It seems Roy may want to include a few players that haven’t been in the England spotlight so much in the past such as Carroll, Walker and Johnson in order to set precedence from the off. The lack of expectation this summer will allow an England boss to finally have the chance to experiment. Past England squads have been far too predictable. For years it was clear that the Gerrard/Lampard partnership was not working, yet it was continuously put to the test. And don’t even get me started on Emile Heskey.
It could prove quite the juxtaposition. For a manager like Roy Hodgson, who has continually been criticised for his use of defensive and at times predictable tactics to pick an England squad that shows an adventurous nature. He will still look to include the usual suspects, but if he can correctly blend a team of experienced figureheads and some youngsters hungry for their opportunities on the international stage then this England side may not be the anti-climax they have tended to be in the past.
My Euro 2012 picks:
GK: Hart, Green, Carson (Foster: If he comes out of retirement)
DEF: Walker, Richards, Terry, Lescott, Smalling, Cahill, Cole, Baines
MID: Young, Johnson, Parker, Barry, Gerrard, Carrick, Milner, Walcott
ATT: Rooney, Carroll, Sturridge, Welbeck