With under two months until Fabio Capello has to name his final 23 man England squad for the World Cup, we in the Nouse office have been debating vehemently who we would like to see on the plane to South Africa. With selections ranging from Gary Neville to Adam Johnson, Phil Jagielka to Bobby Zamora, and with one of us even predicting a shock return for Wayne Bridge, each one of our regular contributors has picked an individual list of those players that he feels will make a difference this June.
So read our selections and feel free to suggest your own. Who knows? Fabio might be reading.
Leigh Clarke – Sports Editor
Goalkeepers: Robert Green, David James, Joe Hart
Defenders: Ashley Cole, Glen Johnson, Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, Leighton Baines, Matthew Upson, Joleon Lescott, Gary Neville
Midfielders: Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Gareth Barry, Aaron Lennon, Theo Walcott, James Milner, Adam Johnson
Forwards: Wayne Rooney, Emile Heskey, Darren Bent, Jermain Defoe, Peter Crouch
In 2006 we were largely let down by a lack of options going forward so England should take five strikers to South Africa this summer. Furthermore, to take four would be to not include Darren Bent who, on this season’s form, has to be included. The other four pick themselves – I’m certainly not buying into all this talk of Bobby Zamora.
Perhaps my most controversial choice is Gary Neville at right-back. To be honest, I don’t think either he or Wes Brown have been outstanding this season but Neville has improved his game recently and will, through his experience, bring more to the squad than just his skills on the pitch. Leighton Baines has impressed this year and I feel that he would be pushing for a place even if Wayne Bridge had not declared himself unavailable. The four centre-backs are an easy decision.
In midfield I’ve decided to ‘do a Sven’ and opt for a wildcard choice. With Lampard, Barry and Gerrard all certain to travel there is no need to take Michael Carrick. Therefore I believe there is space for a luxury player and was initially torn between Joe Cole and Adam Johnson. I have gone for the latter as he has looked an exciting prospect at City and has that unknown quality that might provide the difference in difficult games. A 23 man squad, with a midfield as strong as England’s, has room for one gamble.
Milner has to go to South Africa on current form and might even push for a place in the first eleven. Lennon and Walcott will beat off all competition on the right hand side with the former taking the starting position if he is fit.
The goalkeepers are another easy choice for Fabio, but I’d have the improving Robert Green starting over David James.
Adam Shergold – Sports Editor
Goalkeepers: David James, Robert Green, Joe Hart
Defenders: Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, Glen Johnson, Ashley Cole, Wes Brown, Matthew Upson, Wayne Bridge
Midfielders: Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Gareth Barry, Theo Walcott, Joe Cole, Aaron Lennon, James Milner, Michael Carrick
Forwards: Wayne Rooney, Jermain Defoe, Peter Crouch, Darren Bent, Emile Heskey
Although I’m cautious of getting carried away about England’s World Cup chances, Fabio Capello is blessed with a formidable spine of Terry, Ferdinand, Ashley Cole, Gerrard, Lampard and Rooney, a sextet of world-class players whose exclusion from the 23 would be tantamount to treason.
The challenge is putting flesh on the bones and creating adequate balance and depth across all positions to sustain England’s chances through a gruelling month-long tournament. You might wonder why Wayne Bridge is in my squad but Capello has made it abundantly clear that the door is still propped open for the Manchester City left-back. Although plagued with injuries and personal turmoil this season, I expect a concerted campaign from team-mates and management alike to persuade Bridge not to pass up this opportunity of a lifetime. It will be hard to resist and, with a strict disciplinarian like Capello at the helm, I can’t see the squad being divided by his presence.
I have omitted Gary Neville as cover for Glen Johnson because he looks increasingly susceptible to anyone with half-a-yard of pace. The more versatile Wes Brown should be on the plane instead, offering back-up at both right-back and, heaven forefend, centre-back.
The injury to David Beckham has simplified the right-side conundrum and although Aaron Lennon has yet to have his England ‘coming of age’ like Theo Walcott in Zagreb, he has done enough this season at Tottenham to justify his inclusion ahead of the perennially frustrating Shaun Wright-Phillips.
Up front, I am a huge fan of Peter Crouch – he’s awkward for defenders to deal with and remarkably prolific for England – and the lanky Spurs striker should go to South Africa with team-mate Defoe, a hopefully fully-firing Rooney, Heskey and Darren Bent, who has hit some tremendous form at just the right time.
Henry Cowen – Deputy Sports Editor
Goalkeepers: David James, Robert Green, Joe Hart
Defenders: Glen Johnson, John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, Ashley Cole, Wes Brown, Joleon Lescott, Matthew Upson, Leighton Baines
Midfielders: Aaron Lennon, Frank Lampard, Gareth Barry, Steven Gerrard, Theo Walcott, James Milner, Michael Carrick, Joe Cole
Forwards: Wayne Rooney, Emile Heskey, Jermain Defoe, Peter Crouch
I’ve always fancied myself as a the second Brian Clough, just ask Rotherham fans, they will tell you of the sterling work I did for them on Football Manager 2010. Apparently though that doesn’t classify as “real life” so here’s my attempt at a genuine squad. I am attempting to pick the squad that I think Capello will pick, although this happens to align with my choices most of the time.
In goal I think James offers the best first choice option. Green hasn’t produced in an England shirt and Hart’s career could be ruined by one mistake here. Wes Brown may be a poor footballer but he does a job and his ability to cover centre-back as well as right-back is useful. Similarly Lescott can cover left-back if John Terry cheats on Leighton Baine’s girlfriend as well. The first choice players pick themselves, although Upson’s role would have to be questioned when one looks at West Ham’s form of late.
In midfield, I have again picked to cover all possibilities. The first four go without saying, assuming Lennon is back and fighting fit. Walcott’s pace, as displayed against Barcelona is a great threat and he has to be introduced to games when defences are beginning to tire. Milner covers every position across the midfield and has been playing superbly this season, Carrick is a solid and dependable option and Joe Cole brings some magic, as demonstrated by his back-heel at Old Trafford, that nobody else offers. It’s a competitive area in the midfield and players like Young, Hargreaves and Wright-Phillips will be pushing hard.
Up front, unlike my colleagues, I’ve gone for four players. I don’t think Capello will take five strikers. Rooney and Heskey are clearly Capello’s preferred choices and behind them Crouch and Defoe seem like the obvious two. Here is where I differ from Signor Capello. I would take Bent, but it’s not going to happen. Similarly the campaign to take Zamora will not amount to anything. It will be interesting to see which one of us is closest to the truth when the real squad is named.
Jake Farrell – Sports Correspondent
Goalkeepers: David James, Robert Green , Joe Hart
Defenders: Glen Johnson, John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, Ashley Cole, Phil Jagielka, Joleon Lescott, Leighton Baines, Matthew Upson
Midfielders: Aaron Lennon, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Gareth Barry, Theo Walcott, James Milner, Michael Carrick, Joe Cole
Forwards: Wayne Rooney, Emile Heskey, Jermain Defoe, Peter Crouch
As England manager Fabio Capello has been afforded a respect by the British media usually reserved for those honoured at the Pride of Britain awards. Since the tabloid press effectively sacked Graham “The Turnip” Taylor managers have been figures of derision, cumbersome idiots that impede the progress of our so called golden generation. The squad I think Capello will pick partly represents that prevailing view of “Fab” as the greatest advocator of a meritocracy since Lenin and partly reflects the necessity to pick the personnel that will perform best as a team .
The striking department is where the most competition for places lies and perhaps where the most ingrained favouritism will be displayed. Wayne Rooney is a given along with Emile Heskey who, despite a terrible season in which he has featured sporadically, will be on the plane purely down to the fact that Capello sees him as the perfect foil for England’s most important player. In reserve I think the Spurs pairing of Defoe and Crouch will get the nod, again due to their ability to fit in Capello’s little and large front two vision. Darren Bent especially will feel hard done by to miss out having had a good year.
In midfield I can’t envisage too many surprises although Gareth Barry may be pushed for his place by James Milner after a lacklustre season. I expect, and hope, that Capello will take the fit again Joe Cole who combines an ingenuity sorely absent from most other midfield options and the experience of two major tournaments. If there is to be a Theo Walcottesque surprise package to this years squad it will be Adam Johnson who, regardless of whether he makes it this year, looks an exhilarating future prospect.
In defence I expect Everton left back Leighton Baines to be on call as deputy to Ashley Cole and the mediocre Matthew Upson and Joleon Lescott will be there as central back up in the absence of the brilliant but injury prone Ledley King and Jonathan Woodgate. A selection that will really seal Capello’s credentials as a man who picks on form is that of the versatile Phil Jagielka as cover at right back instead of the increasingly awful Wes Brown.
The machinations of the squad players will hopefully be irrelevant should England’s first choices stay fit but they signal Capellos intent and set the mood for the trip. Should he get it right it could bring England one step closer to the tournament victory that has eluded them for so long
Huw Harrow – Sports Correspondent
Goalkeepers:David James, Joe Hart, Robert Green
Defenders:Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, Ashley Cole, Glen Johnson, Leighton Baines, Matthew Upson, Phil Jagielka
Midfielders:Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Gareth Barry, Joe Cole, Aaron Lennon, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Scott Parker, James Milner
Forwards:Wayne Rooney, Jermain Defoe, Peter Crouch, Bobby Zamora, Darren Bent
It must bode well for England’s chances that picking the core of this squad is actually a fairly straightforward process. The three goalkeepers appear almost set in stone, as does the first choice back four. In Wayne Bridge’s absence, Leighton Baines should be the man to cover left back and I have also opted for his Everton teammate Phil Jagielka ahead of Joleon Lescott. Due to the paucity of options at right back I have gone with an extra midfielder with the versatile James Milner able to cover if need be.
Aside from that devastating spell against Barcelona, Theo Walcott has not done enough to earn a place on the wing in my view; Aaron Lennon and Shaun Wright-Phillips will battle it out for that position, though I would very much have liked to have been able to select David Beckham. Should he stay fit Joe Cole is a must, if only for his potential as an impact sub, Adam Johnson is unlucky to miss out. I have rewarded the outstanding form of Scott Parker, who has at times been practically a one man team for West Ham this season, at the expense of Michael Carrick.
I maintain the view that Bobby Zamora is the man best equipped to carry out the target man role and have no hesitation in naming him amongst the five strikers. Jermain Defoe and Peter Crouch provide very different options off the bench and the consistent goal scoring of Darren Bent in a struggling Sunderland side warrants his inclusion.