After the umpteenth woeful soccer international tournament this summer in Brazil, the English media had a field day. No one and nothing survived the public’s and journalists’ scathing attacks in the papers, radio, television and internet; the Amazonian climate, the foreign players’ influx into the Premier league, Roy Hodgson’s methods, foreign managers, WAGs, the lack of proper training facilities, injuries, luck, the FA, the lack of a proper reserves’ league, the British Government.
Only when the Premier League kicked off in August did the criticism dampen. Fancy new imports were bought from foreign leagues by the big clubs Alexis Sanchez, Cesc Fabregas, Diego Costa, Fernando, Lazar Markovic, Mario Balotelli and David Ospina were all preferred to the local talent on offer.
Nevertheless, six months into the season, things shouldn’t be seen as all doom and gloom for the national team. New talent is emerging and here is a rather strong side of 11 English players to prove it. None of these players played a single minute in Brazil.
A world-beating XI? Well, no.
However, the future may not be as bleak as it seemed in mid-July.
I’ve written about Forster in the past and I admit to being a great fan of the Saints’ keeper. He was actually part of the England 23-man squad that went to Brazil for the World Cup, but failed to make an appearance as Roy Hodgson preferred to stick with Joe Hart and Ben Foster.
Nevertheless, Forster’s clean sheet record is remarkable. Having beaten the Scottish League’s highest number of consecutive clean sheets whilst at Celtic, the 26-year-old has continued the trick below the border. He has kept 12 clean sheets in 26 matches as Southampton continue to defy the odds. As the big man himself put it, “If you keep it 0-0, with the quality we’ve got, it just needs one chance for three points.”
Another Southampton player that features in this squad, emphasising that all’s well and good at St. Mary’s despite Mauricio Pocchettino’s departure. England has been lacking a real quality right-back ever since Gary Nevile retired from international soccer with Luke Young, Glen Johnson and Kyle Walker performing at a level nowhere near to that of the Manchester United legend.
Hopefully, here is the one who will change that. With Calum Chambers moving to Arsenal, Clyne has made the Saints’ right-back spot his own having started 24 of their 26 Premier league games. That’s already four more than last season when Chambers’ sudden rise prevented a long-term stay in the first XI.
Like Walker and Johnson, Clyne contributes a great deal offensively having scored two league goals. However, unlike the aforementioned two, the 23-year-old is quite reliable defensively too. He manages 1.9 interceptions per game – that’s more than Manchester City right-back Pablo Zabaleta (1.7) – and is only behind Lucas Leiva in successful tackles managed per game (3.8 vs 4.1).
A proper England right-back? One can only hope.
26 in March, Tomkins is yet to earn a single England cap. During his Premier League career, Chris Smalling, Matthew Upson and Ryan Shawcross have all represented their country.
The West Ham youth product has exceptional aerial ability as he averages just under five aerial duels won per game. Only Peter Crouch, Federico Fazio, Christian Benteke and Andy Carroll boast a better record. With West Ham exceeding expectations this season, surely an England call up beckons?
Dier’s inclusion in Tottenham Hotspurs’ starting XI at the start of the season was a shock to many. Still, two goals in his first two games helped endear the former Everton and Sporting Lisbon player to the White Hart lane faithful. Tottenham’s draw against West Ham on Sunday represented Dier’s 13th start in the Premier League and no one is surprised anymore to see him partner Jan Vertonghen at the heart of the Spurs defence.
Dier is one of a rare breed of English players who spent most of his teenage years playing in a foreign country. He made a name for himself playing for Sporting Lisbon in a league deemed inferior to the fancy Premier league. In January, the Cheltenham-born defender celebrated his 21st birthday. The future is indeed bright.
Aged just 22, Bertrand started what could well end up being his biggest game in his career against Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League final. Although great things were expected of Bertrand in London, Ashley Cole remained the undoubted number one left-back for most of his stay with the Blues. Cesar Azpilicueta’s brilliance as a make-shift left back and the acquisition of Felipe Luis were the final nails in the Stamford Bridge coffin for Bertrand as he made his move to Southampton permanent in January.
The 25-year-old Bertrand finally has a home where he can impress on a regular basis after seven loan spells while at Chelsea. With Luke Shaw failing to impress in Manchester, Kieran Gibbs injury prone and Leighton Baines turning 30 in December, now is the chance for Bertrand to knock on Roy Hodgson’s door.
While Harry Kane has been stealing all the headlines at White Hart Lane, another Tottenham academy product is slowly making a first team spot his own. Ryan Mason doesn’t usually offer much spectacular in a game but he does the simple things well and efficiently. Alongside Nabil Bentaleb, Mason forms one half of a very youthful and energetic midfield partnership.
Prior to this season, the 23-year-old had never featured in a Premier League game having had five loan spells. In 2012, Mason was loaned to the French club Lorient after previous spells in the English lower divisions. His experience in France was nothing short of disastrous with the loan being terminated seven months after the move was agreed, with Mason not having appeared once for the Lorient first team.
And now an England call beckons. Oh how times change.
It’s hard to believe that Ward-Prowse is only 20 years of age having made more than 80 senior appearances in a Saints shirt. 12 starts during the current campaign have led to six assists, along with an 88% pass completion rate.
Such is his skill that more senior players don’t hesitate in allowing him to deliver set pieces. His average of 1.9 key passes per game is the same as that of Steven Gerrard and the ever improving James Milner. Surely one to watch for the not-so-distant future.
Delph’s form over the past two seasons has been just about the only positive note to come out of Villa Park. The former Leeds United youngster has been, albeit prematurely, compared to Gerrard due to his driving runs from midfield and there’s no denying that Villa have a true gem in their ranks.
Alongside Christian Benteke, Delph offers some rare quality for Tim Sherwood’s side. Due to injury setbacks, the 25-year-old has missed 10 Premier League matches during the current campaign – Villa have won just one of those matches. The other 16 resulted in four wins (increasing the win percentage with Delph in the team to 25% when compared to 10% when he’s missing).
The 30-year-old has been going through a renaissance in London in the past few months as Sam Allardyce has entrusted the head of a diamond midfield role to the former Liverpool flop.
Downing doesn’t represent England’s future, however, his upturn in form does deserve recognition. The former Middlesbrough midfielder’s stay in Merseyside was a failure but his revival in London has to be admired, especially when considering all the stick he had been getting for months. While the likes of Shaun Wright-Phillips and Scott Sinclair faded after flopping a big move, Downing has only gone on to become stronger.
All that there’s to say about Kane (or Hurri-Kane!) has been said over the past couple of weeks. From being the understudy to the woeful Roberto Soldado and Emanuel Adebayor at the start of the season, Kane has developed into one of Europe’s hottest properties.
His last minute goal during the weekend was his 14 in the Premier League. He has started just 16 league matches. He has contributed three assists too. He’s also managed five goals in Europe from four starts.
Kane is only 21. Enough said.
Before Kane exploded onto the scene, Austin was being touted as the future of England’s attack. At times, it seems that the striker is leading a one-man mission to keep QPR in the Premier League having scored more than 50% of their goals (14 out of 27).
The 25-year-old has taken his goalscoring exploits from the Championship to another level this season and there should be no doubting that he won’t be able to perform just as well on the international stage.
A pure goalscorer. England has been lacking a consistent one for ages!
200+ Channels With Sports & News
- Starting price: $33/mo. for fubo Latino Package
- Watch Premier League, World Cup, Euro 2024 & more
- Includes NBC, USA, FOX, ESPN, CBSSN & more
Live & On Demand TV Streaming
- Price: $69.99/mo. for Entertainment package
- Watch World Cup, Euro 2024 & MLS
- Includes ESPN, ESPN2, FS1 + local channels
Many Sports & ESPN Originals
- Price: $6.99/mo. (or get ESPN+, Hulu & Disney+ for $13.99/mo.)
- Features Bundesliga, LaLiga, Championship, & more
- Also includes daily ESPN FC news & highlights show
2,000+ soccer games per year
- Price: $4.99/mo
- Features Champions League, Serie A, Europa League & NWSL
- Includes CBS, Star Trek & CBS Sports HQ
175 Premier League Games & PL TV
- Starting price: $4.99/mo. for Peacock Premium
- Watch 175 exclusive EPL games per season
- Includes Premier League TV channel plus movies, TV shows & more
- Who is the greatest soccer player of all time?
- Spurs make £150m investment as Conte eyes transfer splash
- Real Madrid will keep winning without Mbappe, says Casemiro
- New CEO aims to make Bundesliga world’s ‘most digital league’
- UK government in talks with ‘international partners’ over Chelsea sale
- West Ham’s Bowen named in England squad for Nations League
- Bayern sign right-back Mazraoui from Ajax
- BBC apologises to fans after ‘Manchester United are rubbish’ gaffe
- Former Bayern boss Kovac to coach Wolfsburg
- Ancelotti ‘respects’ Mbappe decision, says Real Madrid focused on final