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?
Today is day two of the Severn Sport trilogy and the mouthpiece for today belongs to yours truly, the man who loves collaborating lists, Ryan Butler. I often talk a good game in terms of my knowledge and football ability (I once scored a back heel….I’m serious) but one thing I fancy myself doing is being able to pick squads. As you will see from my squad below I try to pick realistic squads, not just put in the flavour of the month or the popular choices because lets face it no matter who Roy Hodgson picks for the summer there will always be a group of people who disagree. So Roy, if you are reading this (I say if, of course he is reading. Yes Roy what are you saying?) then I have your squad all figured out. You don’t have to pick the exact first starting XI against Russia but the 23 I’m naming have to go.
I agree with points Kelsey made yesterday and has made on previous episodes of the podcast (this week’s episode “The Superbowl Special” is available to listen to on the website) when he talks about how not only is it hard to pick a starting keeper but in fact how easy it is to name the three keepers that will go. Quite clearly it is going to be Stoke City’s Jack Butland. Southampton’s man mountain Frazer Forster and Manchester City’s potential quadruple winning (dear god I hope not) stopper Joe Hart.
I first saw Jack Butland play when on loan at Cheltenham Town from Birmingham a few years ago. He played in a match against Port Vale and he was cocky, he was arrogant, he had an attitude. All attributes you want from an England player. Off the field he seems to be level headed when faced with the media but on the field he gives off the certain swagger that you want from your top players. This kid is good and he knows it. For me he already has a boarding pass with his name on it.
As does Joe Hart. Hart is England’s number one for a reason. When he performs he is up there with the Manuel Neuer’s and the David De Gea’s of this world and can be the difference between winning and losing trophies. It helps with England that you have a keeper who knows how to save a penalty too. In my opinion Hart not only goes, he starts.
Forster completes the shot stopping trio of machines. He was unbelievable for an unbelievable Southampton team last year. And I think that this season’s struggles are more than linked to the injury troubles Forster has gone through this term. But in recent games he has made his comeback and Southampton have gone to Old Trafford and won as well as drawing 0-0 at the Emirates. Two clean sheets and 4 points more than they were expected to get. All aboard Mr Forster.
Goalkeepers (Italics denote starter): Joe Hart, Jack Butland, Frazer Forster
In terms of defenders I question Kelsey’s thought processes. Yes, it is a hard decision on players but I don’t understand how he will take 2 right backs, 2 left backs and 4 centre backs who can all play in the wing back positions. I agree with his first two, the starting pair in my eyes of Chris Smalling and John Stones. Lets start with the £50 million rated Stones. Recently criticised due to Everton’s dodgy patch and to be honest some complacency but he is still the real deal. He answered the critics by helping Everton beat Newcastle 3-0 in midweek, notching up another clean sheet. Probably the best naturally gifted defender with the ball at his feet that England have had since Rio Ferdinand. Stones will be sat with Smalling on the plane to help build their partnership even more. Smalling is arguably the best defender in the Premier League this season. If you look at Man Utd’s disaster of a season, it would have been 100 times worse with Smalling, Blind and De Gea. He has finally stayed fit long enough to lay a marker and show people just how good he is. At Old Trafford he steps into massive footsteps left by Ferdinand, by Vidic and most importantly by Jonny Evans. Quite simply, Smalling is proving what I have said all along about him. A quality defender.
I would also take the Tottenham trio of Kyle Walker, Danny Rose & Eric Dier to France. Being honest Tottenham are the true dark horses to win the league this season. They boast the best defence in the league and are sweeping aside all of those in front of them. I have spoken at length previously for Severn Sport about the two triangles behind that but we have to look at these three players as well. As long as Walker stays fit he goes for me. Defensively sound with pace and attacking flair to be quite handy in the final third. Eric Dier has been a revelation this season and has the versatility to play at either full back position, centre back and has even played in central midfield for Spurs this season. A handy player when it comes to tournament squads. My surprise pick is Danny Rose. The man who has played at every level for England from u17 upwards apart from the senior squad, but also played in the Great Britain Olympic team from London 2012. He offers speed, agility and he can hit a ball. I think if you look at what England have to choose from he is in the top two left backs England have (taking into account Luke Shaw being injured).
The other top left back is Leighton Baines. Though he hasn’t done an awful lot for Everton this year due to injury mainly, Roy will still take him due to his experience and delivery. He can change a game going forward whilst holding his own at the back, though he may need some protection I think he will be more than nifty in France.
The last two defenders on the list are central defenders Gary Cahill & Phil Jones. Due to their big game experience and in terms of the latter versatility. The Manchester United defender Jones can play right back so along with Dier will give England more than capable back up for Walker if fitness issues effect his performances. In terms of Cahill there has been reports of his future and not being happy at Chelsea (to be honest I don’t think anyone is!) but he has big match experience which is vital for major tournaments and shouldn’t be overlooked or underestimated.
Defenders: John Stones, Chris Smalling, Leighton Baines, Gary Cahill, Phil Jones, Eric Dier, Danny Rose, Kyle Walker
Midfield proves to be a harder pick for me than the defence. Quite simply because it will depend on how you want to play and how you want to set up against the rest of Europe’s elite. So what I did was pick the definite picks and go from there. The first names on the list are Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling, Everton’s Ross Barkley and Tottenham’s Dele Alli. Being honest, barring injuries these three will be going to France. So the quicker we face up to that fact the better. All three have been great for their clubs at different points throughout the season (Alli probably the most consistent). But who should join them? The next two obvious choices are Arsenal’s Theo Walcott and Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson. Two of the more experience heads in the England set up who will provide much needed bulk and knowledge to the youthful exuberance that the squad will undoubtedly be full of.
This is where it got a bit tricky. And at this point I made a bold decision. By picking Walcott he will class as a midfielder/forward player who has capabilities and attributes to play in either role for the Three Lions depending on how the game is going and the needs and wants of Roy Hodgson, meaning that I will pick three strikers (you can probably guess who) thus freeing up an extra space in the midfield. The next two spaces will be taken by two of Roy’s favourite players to pick, Manchester City’s Fabian Delph & Newcastle United’s new signing Andros Townsend. Two players who have served Hodgson well over the years and have been frequent features in England squads throughout Hodgson’s regime. All this despite the fact they have played limited club football lately. Should they have strong finishes to the season then I don’t see why Hodgson won’t once again pick his Mr Reliables.
This leaves two spaces in the midfield. To be taken by Liverpool’s journeyman and efficient James Milner as well as Arsenal’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Two players who are admired through the football community for different reasons. Milner due to how hard he works and Oxlade-Chamberlain through his flair and innate ability to change a game and spark a team to life. Although they may be seen as squad players they have the ability to stake a claim for the starting spots.
Midfielders: Raheem Sterling, Dele Alli, Jordan Henderson, Andros Townsend, Fabian Delph, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott, Ross Barkley, James Milner
The strikers are as easy as one, two, three. Easier than the keepers. For me its Wayne Rooney, Harry Kane & Leicester City’s magic man Jamie Vardy. Before I should say that if Sturridge was to have a strong end of the season I would sacrifice a midfielder for him with no questions asked. But as of right now these three are the other 3 in the top 4 Premier League strikers (the other being Aguero, obviously). Rooney is currently 7 goals in his last 7 games, Kane has scored more goals in the last calendar year in the Premier League than anybody else and Jamie Vardy is living in a fairytale of a year, what are the chances in it ending with him helping fire England to the Euro Championship in the summer…..ok, well a man can dream can’t he? However I would also point out that in terms of the first starting XI it would be Rooney as captain and one other. For right now it would be Harry Kane due to his England pedigree (something I strongly believe in).
Forwards: Wayne Rooney, Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy
So for those of you who have noticed the players in Italics you will be aware that these are the players that will start in my team for the opening game of England’s tournament against Russia. Below is the team in full to conclude my Euro 2016 squad.
Come back tomorrow as Matt concludes the trio of Euro squads as picked by Severn Sport. In the meantime have a listen to this week’s episode of the Severn Sport podcast.