I will openly admit that I am not an England fan, and I haven’t been for at least 8 years.
I got sick and tired of the hype before every major tournament they qualified for, with most of it being something along the lines of “this is going to be our year this year”, “we’re going to end 30 years/40 years of hurt” or “no one expects us to win so we’re going to sneak in and take everyone by surprise and win!”. After all that hype and build up, it was followed, inevitably, by national “shock and disbelief” when they “crash out”.
With the World Cup in Brazil now less than 100 days away, and with the friendly against a good Denmark side in midweek, much of the talk has turned to who Roy Hodgson will name in his initial 30-man party, which will then be cut down to 23 by the end of May.
If you have an opinion on my selection, let me know in the comments section below, or get me on Twitter (@peteosmont), let’s get some kind of debate going here people!
So, here are my picks for Brazil*:
Hart – Best goalkeeper England has produced for many-a-year. Nailed on starter, no question.
Foster – Good backup for Hart. Had a good few seasons for West Brom either side of a long lay-off this season.
Forster – A very good third choice – having a great domestic season at Celtic this season by all accounts (although Scottish football is hardly world-beating), and has had some excellent performances in Europe.
Baines – Ashley Cole has been a great servant to English football, but if you can’t get a game for your club (Cole hadn’t played any first team football for 5 weeks before the Denmark game) then you don’t deserve to go to the World Cup. Plus, Baines has a wand of a left foot. Starter.
Shaw – Next generation coming through. Shaw has had an excellent season for Southampton and will play for England for many years to come I feel.
Cahill – Absolute rock at the back for both England and Chelsea. Pops up with an occasional goal as well. Starter.
Jagielka – Formed a good understanding with Cahill at centre-back for England. Excellent defender. Starter.
Walker – Tough to choose between Walker and Johnson. Johnson gives you experience but Walker gives you pace. Second to Johnson at the moment you have to feel.
Johnson – Good season so far for a resurgent Liverpool side who are an outside bet for the Premier League title. Experience and good crossing ability, solid at the back, got to start.
Jones – Difficult to pick a third centre-back. Jones hasn’t done anything magnificent, but then again, neither has Chris Smalling. Lescott as an outside bet despite not playing much for Man City?
Lallana – The second Saint on the plane for me. Having a phenomenal season on the south coast. Is lively in the middle of the park, he’s quick, scores goals, goes past people. Starter.
Gerrard – Stevie G is starting to get old. But he is skipper, and still a magnificent player. Can play passes most players can only dream of. Inspirational for Liverpool, and can drive England on. Starter.
Barkley – Having a good season at Everton. He was starting the majority of games at the start of the season, but an injury set him back a bit. I expect to see more of him towards the end of the season. Lively, pacey, not afraid to shoot and happy to run at players, another future stalwart.
Oxlade-Chamberlain – Pace. The Ox is known for it. Similar to Walcott in many ways (both products of Southampton’s excellent academy), would be used predominantly out wide, but showed that he can play in the middle as well for Arsenal.
Townsend – Has had a stellar season for Spurs this season and scored a good goal on his England debut. Another player with pace who isn’t afraid to take players on, which is what England are lacking. Starter.
Milner – Has rebuilt his career at Man City as the ultimate utility man. Possibly a starter on the left hand side of midfield, but is an excellent option to shore up the midfield in the second half of games from the bench.
Sterling – Having a good season for Liverpool. Can be a bit hit and miss, but experience of a major tournament will do him good. Impact substitute. One for the years to come.
Barry – Has largely gone unnoticed this season at Everton, but has been brilliant for them, holding the midfield together, breaking up the play and popping up with the odd goal. Underrated, but probably not a starter.
Carrick – Has added forward passes to his game. We know he is excellent at passing backwards and sideways, and can now get England moving on the front foot.
Rooney – You’re not going to not pick Rooney. He is capable of moments of genius, but I don’t know if he or Roy Hodgson knows his best position. He seems to switch between out-and-out striker, the advanced playmaker position, or playing out wide. Need to give him a role and get him to stick to it. Starter.
Sturridge – In red hot form for Liverpool. Has scored more goals this season than Danny Welbeck has scored in his entire professional career (I believe). Starter.
Walcott – Proved last season that he can score goals. He’s got pace, he’s direct, he’s got to go. Impact substitute.
Lambert – Lambert will fill the ‘target-man’ role that England so dearly love to have (even though they are no good at playing the long ball’). No Carroll or Crouch, they aren’t scoring any goals or really doing anything of note. Lambert can score goals and is a set-piece specialist.
Those are my 23 at the moment. Of course, things can change, injuries or loss of form can open the door for others.
Jay Rodriguez could easily sneak in there, as could Wilshere, Smalling and Ruddy as another option between the sticks.
England fans and players need to forget any hopes they have of getting any further than the quarter-finals. If they get that far, that will be a very successful tournament. A lot of the players that I have picked are young and look set to have long international careers ahead of them, and experiencing a world cup can only do them good, as long as the fans and the English media lay off them.
Seriously, let’s get a little bit interactive here people. Let me know your thoughts.
* I reserve my right to change this selection later on.