It already feels like Roy Hodgson has been in the England job forever, and in some places around the team he is really beginning to make his mark. Nevertheless, drawing in Poland and at home to Ukraine represents a less than ideal start to FIFA World Cup qualifying, so there is still plenty of work to do even before England are able to bring through some more young players for much needed experience.
Here is October’s analysis of England’s squad depth, the plays that are in, out or on the fringes of the squad.
It is based on the following: recent squads, current form, short- and long-term prospects and any relevant media comment from the England manager. Please note that all of those factors are applied through the filter of my opinion; this is not a statistical or necessarily accurate representation, just an idea of where I believe the squad might be. I welcome sensible debate as a result.
Joe Hart, Jack Butland, John Ruddy
Scott Carson, Robert Green, David Stockdale
Forgotten man Fraser Forster has become unforgotten thanks to his new lease of life north of the border, where he has been consistently praised for his performances between the sticks for Celtic. The former Newcastle United goalkeeper (sort of) ended a string of loan spells by making his move to Glasgow permanent, and he hasn’t looked back. With Jack Butland drafted into the Under-21s for UEFA Euro 2012 playoff duty against Serbia, Forster was a surprise call-up. Renewed recognition could do him the world of good.
Butland of Birmingham City remains second choice behind Manchester City’s Joe Hart, I suspect. Norwich City goalkeeper John Ruddy is also in with a shout having made his debut in August, while Robert Green’s already flaky international credentials have taken another battering by his being demoted to the bench in favour of cookie monster Julio Cesar despite having signed for Queens Park Rangers just weeks before the declining Brazilian.
Ashley Cole, Leighton Baines, Gary Cahill, Joleon Lescott, Glen Johnson, Kyle Walker, Phil Jagielka, Ryan Shawcross
Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Ryan Bertrand, Kieran Gibbs, Steven Caulker
With former skipper John Terry out of the picture, the quest to replace him begins in earnest. Joleon Lescott and Phil Jagielka failed to impress in Warsaw and I’ve long believed Gary Cahill is a future England first choice, if not a future England captain. After those three, there’s a question mark: Stoke City’s Ryan Shawcross was called in for the games against San Marino and Poland, but faces competition from Tottenham Hotspur defender Steven Caulker, who clearly has a fan in Hodgson.
That leaves Ryan Bertrand and (perhaps unfairly) Kieran Gibbs on the fringes. England have called up too many full backs in some of Hodgson’s squads to date, and with Ashley Cole and Leighton Baines nailed on it is an unfortunate reality that Gibbs is likely to miss out and a centre back included in addition to the three certs.
Rio Ferdinand and Michael Dawson have been scrubbed from the list altogether, dropping off the edge because neither will play for England again.
Tom Cleverley, Michael Carrick, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, James Milner, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott, Ashley Young
Scott Parker, Stewart Downing, Gareth Barry
Adam Johnson, Joe Cole, Scott Sinclair, Jordan Henderson, Jack Wilshere, Jack Rodwell, Raheem Sterling, Adam Lallana, Aaron Lennon, Jonjo Shelvey
Liverpool players have been a popular commodity throughout the Hodgson regime, and the latest on his radar are teenager Raheem Sterling, who did himself no harm with a goalscoring Premier League performance at the weekend, and Jonjo Shelvey. Both have been late call-ups under Hodgson, Shelvey making his debut this month.
Jack Wilshere is back on the scene and edging his way towards a senior Arsenal return, a development that will have interesting effects on England. Firstly, we’re all placing far too much importance on him as the great hope to finally break up a Gerrard-Lampard axis that largely features on merit. Secondly, who does he replace? Michael Carrick has to be a prime candidate after his brief international revival.
Arsenal’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain seems quite well established as a member of the squad now, and rightly so. He already has an impact in matches for club and country, and should be in Hodgson’s squad simply to pick up experience and become familiar with the task that faces him. If he plays and plays well, all the better.
Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck, Andy Carroll, Jermain Defoe
Peter Crouch, Rickie Lambert
Darren Bent, Daniel Sturridge
England remain painfully short of options up front. Wayne Rooney is an endless source of frustration at times but is the strongest in a relatively good group. Danny Welbeck continues to improve but had an iffy time against San Marino despite a couple of classic striker’s finishes. I still have a lot of time for Andy Carroll, and Jermain Defoe’s club form undoubtedly justifies his inclusion for England.
The trouble is, that’s about it. Daniel Sturridge isn’t making his case as strongly as he once was, and Darren Bent…well, as an Aston Villa fan let me tell you that Darren Bent isn’t having the best time of it.
What say you?
Support TSC by buying an England t-shirt.