So Roy Hodgson will be naming his preliminary squad for this summer’s Euro 2012 tournament tomorrow at 8am ET/1pm BST. Here’s a comprehensive list of all the likely players considered, as well as who I think should be in the final 23 man squad for Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine:
Three keepers have to be named, and there’s no debate as to who will be between the posts against France on June 11 (barring injury). After Joe Hart, the rest are really a rather mediocre bunch, but I would take John Ruddy and Ben Foster, with Foster as second choice and Ruddy third choice. However, with Foster refusing to come out of international retirement, a surprise but suitable replacement — to give him experience — would be Jack Butland.
These are three keepers with relatively little international experience, but I don’t see the value in naming either Robert Green or Scott Carson, whose minimal experience is tempered by the fact that they both made high-profile blunders in big matches for England in the past, and currently aren’t goalkeeping at the top levels in Europe anyway.
GK(3): Hart (Manchester City), Ruddy (Norwich City), Butland (Birmingham).
An interesting dilemma here. Generally the standard is to name eight defenders, so each of the four positions has a backup. To me, the fullbacks are fairly easy to name, and will be the strength of England’s defense. The central defenders, on the other hand, are up in the air. So let’s get the fullbacks out of the way: Ashley Cole, Leighton Baines, Glen Johnson and Phil Jones. Cole is still one of the premier left backs in the world. Baines is an excellent back-up, as well as a great set-piece taker, and could be very useful as a substitute should there be any danger of a penalty shootout should England make the knockout stages. On the right side, Johnson and Jones should be safe bets for England given the news that Kyle Walker and Micah Richards have been ruled out.
As for the central defenders, a few words on the John Terry situation. He was relieved of his captaincy (for the second time) on the 3rd of February, following the allegations he racially abused Anton Ferdinand of QPR. He will stand trial for using racist language in July, after the tournament has ended. Unfortunately, Rio’s body seems to be failing him the last couple years, and hasn’t been nearly the dominant force he has been in the past. Terry, on the other hand, especially since Roberto di Matteo took over as Chelsea manager, has been excellent. So while he won’t win any popularity contests, John Terry should be named to the squad. Starting alongside him should be Joleon Lescott, an unheralded star for Manchester City this season, despite his major gaffe over the weekend against QPR. First backup should be Phil Jagielka of Everton, always solid and dependable. Lastly I would name Gary Cahill. However he’s struggled with fitness since joining Chelsea in January.
DF(8): Cole (Chelsea), Baines (Everton), Johnson (Liverpool), Jones (Manchester United), Terry (Chelsea), Lescott (Manchester City), Jagielka (Everton), Cahill (Chelsea)
Many have been calling for a youth movement in midfield for a couple of years, disappointed with the results of England squads led for most of the last ten years by Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard. The two brightest prospects to assume their roles are Jack Wilshere and Tom Cleverley. However one is out injured and the other is just back, and not match fit. But what if the answer is using players who were always there, yet have never gotten a proper chance as a member of the starting eleven? Michael Carrick, now 30 years old, and with only 22 caps to his name, is a perfect example. He’s had a great season, and deserves a shot (finally) as an England starter. Gareth Barry has continued to be a cog in Manchester City’s midfield despite the amount of superstar players they continue to bring in, and should start alongside Carrick. Frank Lampard still has a role to play, though. Frozen out much of the time by Andre Villas-Boas, Lampard has shown he’s never forgotten where the goal is in the second half of the season. He deserves a place in the starting eleven as well, sitting in front of Carrick and Barry. As for reserve central midfielders, Scott Parker and James Milner fit the bill. Milner can cover across all midfield positions, while Parker has been excellent for the last two seasons, and should go to Poland/Ukraine if fit. However, since I believe he won’t be fully fit, Gerrard should be included. Paul Scholes, despite recent rumblings that he would be open to a return, should stay home. At 37 years old and retired from international football for eight years, it just doesn’t make sense.
CM(5): Carrick (Manchester United), Barry (Manchester City), Lampard (Chelsea), Gerrard (Liverpool), Milner (Manchester City)
For the wing/striking spots, versatility is required. You may have noticed I only named five players to cover the three central midfield spots, and have seven left to name for the front three spots. This is for two good reasons: One, Wayne Rooney is out suspended for the first two matches; Two, the central midfield spots are a relative strength compared to all of the question marks up front, where there are no easy decisions. Rooney obviously is on the plane. For wide attacking options, Adam Johnson, Ashley Young, Aaron Lennon, and Daniel Sturridge should all be named. Johnson and Lennon are the best examples of pure wingers England have, with Lennon having the best England pedigree, having performed well whenever called upon. Ashley Young has played solidly enough in his first season with Manchester United, while Sturridge is needed as one of the few England players who consistently scores coming off a main striker.
For target men, I would name Andy Carroll. Crouch is not a player anyone gets excited about, yet he always scores goals for England. He’s actually been better for Stoke this season than either of his previous two years with Tottenham. However, reports coming out of England say that he’s not in the squad. Carroll, on the other hand, makes it solely based on how he’s played in just he last couple of weeks. He finally looks like he’s getting back to his Newcastle form, and while certainly not good enough to be a starter, is better than the other options available.
Just like at the World Cup two years ago, the glaring omission here is Theo Walcott. I just don’t see how one can include him over the four wide players I mentioned. He is also just coming back from a month out from injury (he played most of the second half as a sub over the weekend). But Walcott’s inconsistencies unfortunately overshadow any brief brilliant displays he has. Hopefully this time Nike doesn’t use him for any commercial spots leading up to the tournament!
Another omission is Arsenal’s other young attacker, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. While one for the future, the fact is, he’s still only scored in one Premier League match. Too soon for him. As for other strikers in the running, Bobby Zamora would have made it over Carroll based on his Fulham form, but has only scored two goals for QPR since his move in January. Jermain Defoe would be another option, but just isn’t versatile enough to fit in, and there isn’t space for such a limited player. Danny Welbeck is the one player I might consider replacing Carroll with, but seems to me to fit well in the Manchester United system, and can’t necessarily be counted upon to lead the line with players he doesn’t know. Without Rooney for two matches, bringing Welbeck is too much of a risk. Darren Bent, though out for three months, has said he’ll be ready in June when the tournament starts. Bent might be in consideration only when in good goal scoring form, but much like Defoe, he provides little else. You’re not holding a spot open for an un-match fit Darren Bent.
AM/ST (7): Rooney (Manchester United), Johnson (Manchester City), Young (Manchester United), Lennon (Tottenham Hotspur), Sturridge (Chelsea), Welbeck (Manchester United), Carroll (Liverpool)
So there you have it. Looking at the 23-man squad, there’s not much there to get overly exited about, as it looks relatively similar to the team England brought to South Africa two years ago. But if Hodgson picks the right formation and players in it, I think there’s a slight chance England can pull off a few surprises.
What do you think?