This summer marks the European Football Championships taking place in France. England will be there again, but who should be on the plane (or Eurostar) across the Channel?
Welcome to the first in a three part series, where the Severn Sport team pick their own England squads because, obviously, we know better than Roy Hodgson.
I was saying to the Ryan and Matt just this morning that this is easily the hardest England squad to pick in recent memory, there are so many worthy candidates and so many crocked by injuries due to return in the end of season run in who will be looking to stake their claim for a place in the squad. I certainly don’t envy Roy.
Now despite what I have just said I am going to completely contradict myself and say this is the easiest position to pick. Joe Hart earns a place on the British Airways 1030 departure to Paris because, well, he is head and shoulders above the rest (sorry).
He is England’s number one and he has all the experience in the world. Premier League winner, Champions League, World Cup, Euro 2012, Under 21 Euros, Hart has it all and is one of the first names on the plane.
Jack Butland and Fraser Forster are the other two shot-stoppers making the squad as they have been in scintillating form. Butland has been the best ‘keeper in the Premier League this season and Forster, despite a season ravaged by injury, has played four games in 2016 and saved 100% of shots he has faced, including a backs against the wall performance by Southampton against Arsenal on Tuesday night. If that doesn’t show his class I don’t know what does.
Goalkeepers: Joe Hart, Jack Butland, Fraser Forster
Now this is where it all gets tricky, for me. There are so many candidates who have shown why they merit a place in Roy’s squad and picking eight of them is difficult to say the least.
John Stones and Chris Smalling have become two of the best centre backs in the Premier League this season and Stones is the best ball playing central defender England have had since Rio Ferdinand. Since his inclusion in the provisional 2014 World Cup squad, Stones has grown as a player and developed every aspect of his game. Smalling is the new Nemanja Vidic in my opinion, a menace in the air and strong in the tackle. He can score goals as well, so he is a good option to throw up front if we are chasing a game.
Next up, Aaron Cresswell and Kyle Walker should be on the plane, Cresswell has really kicked on this season and has been one of the most consistent performers for West Ham since joining from Ipswich Town in 2014, and Walker has finally shown why he can be a top class full back with his performances for Tottenham this season.
That is your starting back four, as for the remaining four backup defenders, I would plump for Eric Dier, Ryan Bertrand, Phil Jones and Nathaniel Clyne. Dier is incredibly versatile – he can play full back, centre back or in midfield. Bertrand has been consistent for Southampton both last and this season. Jones is in there for his experience at domestic and international level, and he can also play in several positions. Clyne because he was good for Southampton last season and hasn’t been too bad for Liverpool this year but he isn’t going to get in ahead of Kyle Walker, nobody should in my opinion.
Defenders: John Stones, Chris Smalling, Aaron Cresswell, Kyle Walker, Eric Dier, Ryan Bertrand, Phil Jones, Nathaniel Clyne
Again, this is difficult. You have eight players vying for four positions and unlike the defence, which I am absolutely sure on, I am not certain on my starting midfield. Let’s start with the four central midfielders shall we?
First up, future England captain Jordan Henderson will be joined on the plane by the in-form Ross Barkley. They will then welcome James Ward-Prowse and Dele Alli to the ranks. Now I must stress this is the team I would take, not the team Roy should take. Henderson is a big influence in the centre of the park, as he provides a bit more of an anchor as opposed to the more attacking, creative mind of Ross Barkley.
As for Ward-Prowse and Alli, they are both young and future England stars, so taking them to this tournament is a good way to get them ready for future tournaments, and I genuinely think they will both be key players for us in Russia in 2018 if we qualify for the World Cup.
Width is a good component for any football team, being able to spread the play and get crosses in is a seriously underrated part of the modern game. To that end, Raheem Sterling and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will be joined at the Euros by James Milner and Theo Walcott.
The pace and directness of Sterling and Oxlade-Chamberlain frightens defences across the world, let alone up and down the Premier League. Milner is in there for his energy and commitment, and he is versatile too, being able to play central or at full back. Then you have Walcott who is still lightning fast and can finish, a dangerous combo.
Midfielders: Jordan Henderson, Ross Barkley, James Ward-Prowse, Dele Alli, Raheem Sterling, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, James Milner, Theo Walcott
Not as difficult as the midfielders but still a difficult choice to pick four of England’s best strikers. Obviously, the captain Wayne Rooney is in there for his big match experience. History shows he always performs well at the Euros, not so much so World Cups.
He is joined by the saviour of English football Harry Kane who has been in red hot form the past two seasons. Speaking of form, Jamie Vardy will be in France too. His record breaking goal-scoring run for Leicester and his pace will make him a threat for all defences.
Picking the fourth front man was very difficult, but I have gone for Andy Carroll. As an asset, Carroll is a great option to have. He is your Plan B right there; if England are chasing the game, get it in to the big man and see what he can do. If he stays fit, I would take him in a hearbeat.
Forwards: Wayne Rooney (capt), Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy, Andy Carroll
There you go then, that’s my England squad for the upcoming Euros, but as for the team, well Roy should take it game by game and for that first match against Russia, I would set the team up this way:
———————- Hart ———————-
— Walker — Stones — Smalling – Cresswell –
—————– Henderson —————–
— Sterling ————– Oxlade-Chamberlain –
————— Rooney (capt) —————-
——— Kane ———— Vardy ————–
A diamond 4-4-2 formation should see England through comfortably, as for the other matches, who knows?
Ryan and Matt will be picking their England squads in the next two days, so wait for those but in the meantime, listen to the team discuss the matter on the latest episode of the Sports Podcast.
Kelsey De Maria