Eurospot: Picking England's 23

On Wednesday, Roy Hodgson carries out his first hallowed duty as England manager and names his squad to travel to Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine.

Eurosport

His late arrival in the job and subsequent lack of any kind of meaningful preparation means the identity of the 23 men he will pick to board the plane is rather unclear at present.

Certainly Hodgson has one huge decision to make: whether or not to include former captain John Terry. Reports suggest the new manager has concluded he cannot include Terry in the same squad as Rio Ferdinand, whose brother the defender stands accused of racially abusing. He has pleaded not guilty ahead of a trial which will take place on July 9, nine days after the conclusion of the tournament.

Bearing that big issue in mind, Eurospot has picked the 23 players it would take to the finals. (This selection was made prior to news of Kyle Walker's unavailability due to injury)

GOALKEEPERS

Joe Hart (17 caps): Recently described by his predecessor David James as the best goalkeeper in Europe, Hart is one of England’s few world-class players and was an ever-present during qualifying. The Premier League winning Manchester City keeper made the PFA Team of the Year and his place in the England team is unassailable.

Scott Carson (4 caps): A relative rarity in that he is an English keeper playing regular top-flight football, Carson has started all of Bursaspor's 34 league games after joining the Turkish club last summer and though his England career is far from stellar - a horror show against Croatia springs to mind - he just about merits a place in the squad.

Rob Green (11 caps): The best of a bad remaining bunch. Frank Fielding, Scott Loach and David Stockdale are all too green at this level and John Ruddy is similarly inexperienced although odds have remarkably shortened on his selection. None are particularly promising enough to be considered worth taking for the experience, so Green it is, by default more than anything else.

DEFENDERS

Kyle Walker (2 caps): Right-back duties were largely assumed by Glen Johnson during qualification but he fails to make Eurospot’s squad, largely due to the excellent form of the PFA Young Player of the Year, who has demonstrated this season at Tottenham that he is a player of deep potential, his pace being a particularly potent weapon.

Micah Richards (13 caps, 1 goal): Also contributing to Johnson’s shock omission is Richards, a player who has had a fantastic campaign with Manchester City. The right-back became England’s youngest ever defender at the age of 18 in 2006 before a prolonged spell in the wilderness, but he has certainly merited his recent return to the international picture.

Phil Jones (4 caps): His form may have tailed off slightly for Manchester United in recent months but there is little doubt that Jones is the future of the England side and going to the Euros will only aid his development. Versatile enough to operate at centre-back or right-back, Jones's place is made secure by the absence due to injury of Old Trafford team-mate Chris Smalling.

Rio Ferdinand (81 caps, 3 goals): Having twice lost the captaincy and with a court case hanging over him, Terry is clearly more trouble than he is worth so our vote in the possible head-to-head battle goes to Ferdinand, who brings vast experience and a classy touch to the centre of defence. Though he has had his fitness problems in recent seasons, Ferdinand is one of England’s most accomplished defenders and deserves the chance to finally appear at the European Championships.

Joleon Lescott (14 caps): A colossus in the Manchester City defence this season, Lescott demands a place in the England starting XI on the strength of recent performances and is a more than able deputy for Terry. His style would complement Ferdinand’s nicely and at 29 he is at his peak as a defender.

Gary Cahill (8 caps, 2 goals): Cahill deputised for Ferdinand during qualifying and carved out a productive partnership with Terry before earning a move from Bolton to Chelsea in January. He was immense in the defeat of Barcelona and, fitness permitting, is a certain pick for the national squad.

Leighton Baines (7 caps): Fabio Capello’s decision to take Stephen Warnock to the 2010 World Cup instead of the Everton left-back looks laughable in retrospect. Baines is arguably the most consistently impressive performer outside of the Premier League’s established powers and his impeccable delivery and enviable stamina make him a genuine challenger for a place in the starting XI.

Ashley Cole (93 caps): There is a suspicion his form isn’t what it used to be, but you would be hard pressed to find a more experienced and talented left-back on the globe. Cole made eight appearances during qualification and, barring a miracle, the man who has just won the FA Cup for a record seventh time will start the first group game against France.

MIDFIELDERS

James Milner (24 caps): Not many England fans are likely to name Milner as their favourite international player, but his versatility makes him a real asset and the Manchester City midfielder rarely disappoints with displays of extreme application and effort. A very useful player to have on the bench and gets the nod ahead of City team-mate Gareth Barry, whose international form over the past two years has been poor.

Scott Parker (11 caps): Whether he retains the captaincy or not is another matter, but the Spurs midfielder will certainly be in the starting XI if he can shake off an Achilles injury having shone in a deep role ever since a qualifying victory against Wales in Cardiff in March 2011. Having initially failed to convince a succession of England managers, Parker deserves credit for finally carving out a regular role.

Frank Lampard (90 caps, 23 goals): He looked to be decidedly on the wane under the management of Fabio Capello and Andre Villas-Boas earlier this season, but a change of boss at both international and club level has helped to rejuvenate the 33-year-old. His recent performances for Chelsea have been much improved and his experience should be a real asset when sitting alongside Parker.

Steven Gerrard (90 caps, 19 goals): The thought of him playing alongside Lampard is enough to bring any England fan out in a cold sweat, yet in a 4-2-3-1 formation – if Hodgson picks up the baton passed on by Capello – Gerrard could play off the striker like he used to do with Fernando Torres at Liverpool. Hugely experienced and capable of bending a game to his will, Gerrard is an essential member of the squad.

Paul Scholes (66 caps, 14 goals): This is very much a piece of wishful thinking and there is no firm indication that Scholes is ready to renege on his decision to enter international retirement in 2004, but if he is to end his United career, at the second time of asking, at the end of the season, why should the national side not have one final attempt to try and coax back a player hailed by Xavi and Zinedine Zidane as the finest of his generation? If this attempt fails, then Michael Carrick is the fall-back option.

Theo Walcott (22 caps, 3 goals): You can count the number of his truly excellent international displays on one finger – his hat-trick game in Croatia – but Walcott has improved with Arsenal this season and has enjoyed his joint-most prolific campaign in terms of goals and assists. Though he continues to frustrate on a regular basis, his pace can unsettle even the most experienced defenders and he remains a great asset on the counter-attack.

Ashley Young (19 caps, 5 goals): England’s joint top scorer during qualification, Young is now firmly ahead of Stewart Downing as first choice for the left flank, with the Liverpool winger failing to make our squad entirely after a wretched season on Merseyside. Young’s dramatic tendencies have been highlighted of late but he is also an extremely dangerous player and capable of spectacular goals.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (0 caps): Our wild card. Sacrificing the experience of Barry could be a risk, and Oxlade-Chamberlain has been back on the bench at Arsenal of late, but what other English midfielder has bossed a team like AC Milan this season? That performance at Emirates Stadium saw the 18-year-old excel in an unfamiliar central role, but he can also provide back-up for Ashley Young at left midfield and gives unpredictability from the bench.

FORWARDS

Daniel Sturridge (2 caps): Though he has been marginalised since Roberto Di Matteo replaced Villas-Boas at Chelsea, the forward’s contribution to the first half of the season should not be overlooked and his versatility gives England an option on the right or through the centre. Innately selfish and indulgent, Sturridge needs to mature to become a genuine international player but he should be given the chance to start doing so this summer. A big player for England’s future.

Danny Welbeck (4 caps): The absence of Wayne Rooney for the opening two games of England’s campaign, coupled with the fitness doubts surrounding Darren Bent, have suddenly made Welbeck the favourite to start, despite his lack of experience. The 21-year-old has kept Dimitar Berbatov and Javier Hernandez out of the United team for long spells this season and his clever movement, expert use of the ball and excellent technique make him a very modern centre-forward.

Wayne Rooney (73 caps, 28 goals): Despite his silly two-match suspension, there is no question that Rooney will be heading to the Euros and will come straight back into the starting XI for the final group game against Ukraine. Rooney is certainly England’s best player and, having enjoyed his best ever Premier League season in terms of goals and assists, will play a big role if they do progress into the knockout stages. Can play as the lone striker or as a No. 10.

Darren Bent (12 caps, 4 goals): His injury makes him a major doubt at present – Bent has not played since late February due to ankle ligament damage – but if he is only 80 per cent fit then England must take the player who has looked most at home in the centre-forward position than any other over the past two years. Bent scored three goals in four games in qualifying and his presence in the front line for the first two games would be a huge lift with Rooney’s absence to cater for. If he is not fit, then Andy Carroll's late-season form may just be enough.

View photo

.

View Comments (0)