So England is again a jubilant nation as the national team secured their place at Euro 2012 on Friday following the 2-2 draw with Montenegro. Street parties broke out across the nation in celebration and the mood of the people has been of near-orgasmic proportions … well that’s what I like to believe anyway. So the countdown has begun. With another qualification slog successfully navigated, who will be making the cut to travel to Poland and the Ukraine? We’ve decided to put a squad prediction together nice and early so we compare it come the end of the season, so here we go:
Joe Hart (Manchester City)
There is no doubt Joe Hart will be England’s first choice goalkeeper come the tournament and has done enough throughout qualifying to leave no one in doubt that he is established as England’s number one. He has all the attributes that the world’s best keepers have and he will only enhance his reputation as one of Europe’s finest at the tournament bar injury.
There are a few in the running to go as part of the squad and, as always, 3 keepers will be taken. David Stockdale has continued his development from last season by going out on loan this year to Ipswich Town and will no doubt have a solid season there as he is groomed to become Fulham’s number 1 when Schwarzer retires or goes home to play. With questions still remaining over Scott Carson and also Robert Green, Stockdale is currently in pole to occupy one of the 3 places. It is hoped that Ben Foster will be ready to play for England again by the time the Euro’s come around, if not, Frankie Fielding could be another in the frame, with an outside bet being Ross Turnbull if he gets game time.
This is a tough one since the emergence of both Phil Jones and Chris Smalling for Manchester United. Both are big players who can get forward – very Sergio Ramos-esq. Then in a more attacking vein you have Glen Johnson and we all know what he can do, but his position will be under threat from Kyle Walker who’s stock is rising quickly, and if he continues the way he has been, there is little doubt he could take Johnson’s place in the side.
The left back slot is a little bit more clear-cut with Ashley Cole still widely considered one of the best left backs in world. But he is being pushed hard by Everton’s Leighton Baines who for me offers a little more in terms of end product and is a huge threat from free-kicks. Goals from a full back can be of massive help during a tournament like the European Championships. So this one will go down to form and Cole, playing for Chelsea will have the upper hand. If there is an injury to either one the most likely to come in will be Aston Villa’s Stephen Warnock who is looking good since he has returned to the Villa XI whilst young Keiran Gibbs could be in with a shout if he has a good season.
Over the years England have always had an abundance of good centre backs and we have probably never had it this good. John Terry is currently the only guaranteed starter as captain of the side, but along with him you have the injury prone Rio Ferdinand and Ledley King, Gary Cahill, Michael Dawson, Phil Jagielka, Joleon Lescott the aforementioned Phil Jones and Chris Smalling, Steven Taylor, Ryan Shawcross, Scott Dann and Roger Johnson. That is not forgetting those defenders who are still knocking about like Stoke pair Matthew Upson and Jonathan Woodgate, whilst you also have Titus Bramble and Anton Ferdinand! (Joke). There are some up and coming defenders to, none more worthy of attention than WBA’s Craig Dawson who is starting to look impressive at the heart of West Bromwich Albion’s defence. There is almost too much choice in this position and a lot will come down to injuries. I think England have been burnt before with Ledley King and his injuries and Rio Ferdinand’s days unfortunately seem numbered as there are several defenders, probably now equally as good waiting in the wings. This category will go down to form and will probably be the hardest choice for Capello.
Rascal Picks (if all fit):
GK: Joe Hart, Ben Foster, David Stockdale
Kyle Walker, Phil Jones, Ashley Cole, Leighton Baines;
John Terry, Joleon Lescott, Gary Cahill and Michael Dawson
Next up will be the midfielders and strikers but let us know your thoughts on who you want to see representing England and why.