England’s World Cup 23 – Join the debate

ariesmale1978 via Flickr Creative Commons

ariesmale1978 via Flickr Creative Commons

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 Strong – 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.


  1. 8 Apr ’10 at 3:09 pm

    Clive Mendonca

    I am in regular contact with Peter Iveson who I beleive works with you. he is my Tae Kwon Do coach and at training earlier he gave me his squad, stating that he was dissapointed not to be included. It is as follows:

    GK’s- Paul Robinson, Brad Friedel, Tim Flowers

    DF- Aaron Nelsen, Michael Gray, Chris Samba, Collin Hendry

    MF- Just Tugay, hes good enough on his own

    ST – Alan Shearer and Mike Newell

    I think it will be interesting to see which predictions are closer, I have a suspicion it will be petes

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  2. 8 Apr ’10 at 4:11 pm

    Chorley Barman

    Goalkeepers – James, Hart, Green

    Defence – Johnson, Brown, Terry, Ferdinand, Cole (if fully fit – if not Lescott), Baines, Dawson

    Midfield – Milner, Barry, Carrick, Lampard, Gerrard, Joe Cole, Lennon (if fully fit if not Adam Johnson), Walcott

    Strikers – Rooney, Zamora, Defoe, Crouch, Bent

    I’d like to see Rooney and Zamora up front together in a friendly before the world cup. Also think Bent and Adam Johnson should get a chance to prove themselves.

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  3. GK: Apparently Green/James/Hart is the way to go on this… though I think that Foster is at least as good as Hart. And Carson’s not far off either. [[‘Capello: “I’m fairly happy. We’ve got Green, James who is older and experienced and Hart who is young. So I don’t think we have a problem when it comes to goalkeepers.” The news will no doubt come as a blow to Ben Foster…Also set to miss out is West Brom goalkeeper Scott Carson’]]

    Defence: Terry, Ferdinand, Johnson, Cole, Carragher, Baines, Upson, Lescott (with Neville, Bridge, Brown and Jagielka next in line, in that order) though with Carragher ‘retired’ I’d put Neville on instead.

    Midfield: Gerrard, Lampard, Barry, Cole, Milner, Lennon, Carrick (and then Walcott and maybe even Scholes before SWP)

    Forwards: Rooney, Crouch, Defoe, Bent, Heskey (and then Agbonlahor, Cole and after that Zamora – Zamora is good but not even close)

    I think that Barry sitting in a holding midfielder position with Milner and Cole on the wings and Gerrard/Lampard tucked behind Rooney would work well or a 4-4-2 with Barry-Lampard-Gerrard-Milner and Rooney just behind Defoe, allowing Defoe’s pace to get a good effort in whilst also allowing Rooney to be the ‘second’ attacker, giving him some more breathing space. Interesting selections and reasonings though and it’s actually given me a little hope at our options. On the other hand, our defence and ‘keeping is still shocking by competitor nation standards. James should be expecting anything though after a year of sitting behind a non-existent defence.

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  4. 8 Apr ’10 at 8:33 pm

    Steve Violet

    Zamora really really really deserves a chance. I personally think the Mexico friendly is a great time to see him and Rooney play together.

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  5. 8 Apr ’10 at 9:51 pm

    Brian Jansen

    @ J…..


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  6. 8 Apr ’10 at 11:51 pm

    Anyone who saw the Fulham game tonight

    Bobby Zamora’s performance was simply outstanding. A clinical finish for the goal but more importantly the ball stuck to his boots like glue all night. Head and shoulders above anything Heskey or any target man bar Drogba has produced in the Premier League this season. Surely the four writers who ignored him in their squads must now admit he deserves at least a chance?

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  7. 9 Apr ’10 at 12:32 am

    Rooney's Right Foot

    GK: James, Green, Hart (Foster not played enough to warrant a place)
    DF: Johnson, Ferdinand, Terry, Cole, Brown, Baines, Upson/Shawcross
    MF: Walcott, Gerrard, Lampard, Young, Milner, Cole, Barry, Carrick (though his recent performances havn’t been deserving of a place), *Hargreaves (replacing Carrick or Barry if he makes a successful comeback but a very outside chance)
    ST: Rooney, Crouch, Defoe, Bent, Zamora (Backups: Agbonlahor, C Cole)

    Taking Neville is a definite no, he’s shown form for club but would definitely struggle with the pace of world class wingers. Wouldn’t be able to play 4 games in a row to the standard required.
    Should try and get some youth in there as well as experience, hence inclusion of Shawcross, Young, Milner, Walcott (and possibly Agbonlahor). Many of the older players tend to rely on their reputation and don’t always put in the effort required.

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  8. GK-Green,James,Hart
    DF-Glenn Johnson,Ferdinand,Terry,Ashley Cole,Gary Neville,Cahill,Lescott,Baines
    MF-Lennon,Lampard,Barry,Gerrard,Walcott,Milner,Rodwell,Adam Johnson
    Reserves-Richards,Shawcross,Huddlestone,Ashley Young,Agbonlahor,Downing,Gibbs

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  9. How can Darren Bent not be included? He has 23 goals this season, Emile Heskey and Carlton Cole shouldnt even be in Talks of the England Squad, Goals win Games, and Bent is a Goal Scorer, Heskey is Awfull and Too Old, Carlton Cole dosent Score Enough

    ST= Rooney, Defoe, Bent, Crouch + maybe Zamora (Going off Form)

    Stop with the Heskey Inclusions! The guy is Wack and dosent score goals, Goals win games, Bent has to go because he is the 3rd Top goal scorer in the PL

    Anyone disagree then message me back, But Capello would be stupid not to take Darren Bent

    23 goals? Cole and Heskey how many have they got? 7

    Debate Over

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  10. But on the other hand, Bent hasn’t played for England since November and only Rooney, Defoe and Crouch (out of the attackers) have scored for England since last August.

    Oh and here’s a test, guys; see if you can name the most recent England Squad! http://www.sporcle.com/games/kypzethdurron/englandsquad I only missed one… And it reminded me that I missed out Shawcross who would be top of my reserves or maybe on the team instead of Baines – oops!

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  11. Surely Paul Robinson must be in the mix for England again! He has been in great form this season, much less of a risk than James (who will lose England the world cup)

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  12. ^that man a medal!

    Robinson should be England’s number 1, hes been excellent all season for us, and has big game experience that Hart and Green don’t

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  13. You can’t take Robinson. He’s got nothing on James, and this “big game experience” that you speak about doesn’t count for anything when in those games he proved he wasn’t good enough for international level. James is the best English goalkeeper, end of!

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  14. Paul Robinson is much more reliable than James, he doesnt have moments of rashness like James does when he comes for crosses

    When did he prove he wasnt good enough at international level? he made one ‘mistake’ against Croatia and thats been held against him ever since

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  15. But in reality it’s not all about individual mistakes. I’m aware of course that James has made his fair share of errors in the past but I still think he’s the best keeper on offer, except perhaps Hart, but his time will come. Also the squads picked by the writers here were attempts to second-guess Capello and seeing as he hasn’t picked Robinson in a squad yet it seems he won’t go.

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  16. have none of you noticed that Green has quietly secured the no.1 jersey over the past year. i think you’ll find he starts in between the sticks.

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  17. Who’d have thought? The boss himself commenting on our article; brilliant. You’re probably right though, Fabio. I can definitely see Green starting but I think the real Capello is still undecided. Green has done nothing particularly wrong for England but neither has he done anything particularly special. The door is still open to James if he can prove his form at the back-end of the season.

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  18. Hi guys,

    I’d like to officially announce I’m coming out of retirement for the World Cup.

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  19. Seaman (he has a big throw) James (big throw) Banks (tall, might be useful on long throws)

    Ruddock, Dicks, Chopper Harris, Stuart Pearce (those swarthy foreign nancies won’t like these four kicking seven bells out of them when they try and ‘control’ it or ‘dribble’)

    Batty, Ince, Bowyer, Greg Halford (three hardcases and a good technical long throw)

    Leo Fortune West, Frank Bruno.

    Thats my picks, if you disagree with me you are part of an FA conspiracy against small clubs, northerners and assault.

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  20. Paul Robinson can only dive to one side. Fact

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  21. I disagree with Pulis – Pearce has performed poorly in previous World Cups >.> Penalty fail.

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  22. 14 Apr ’10 at 1:08 am

    George Bouras

    I will no doubt be derided for this but with Ashley Cole expected to have just recovered from injury by the end of the season, Bridge currently ruling himself out, Glen Johnson recently returning for Liverpool and Wes Brown out of action for a while to come, these four seemingly our first choice and first-reserve full-backs, I’d pick Phil Neville.

    And he can do a better job in midfield than Carrick, and this is coming from a United fan.

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  23. 14 Apr ’10 at 7:29 pm

    Chorley Barman

    Mr Pulis – i think you’ve got some good ideas but you forgot this man…


    I’d also probably go with Windass and Sir Les up front as i feel Bruno and Fortune-West are lacking in big match experience.

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  24. George, funny you should say that. I was at Villa v Everton tonight and it dawned on me that Neville has to be on that plane. You are absolutely right, he can comfortably cover LB or RB or, as you say, could do a job in midfield. On a few separate notes from tonight; Baines comfortably outperformed Warnock, Milner is superb and Agbonlahor should be nowhere near the England squad!

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  25. 16 Apr ’10 at 12:46 pm

    Chorley Barman

    Sorry, for a moment there i thought people were actually suggesting we take Phil Neville? The man is past it. “It” in his case being a complete liability of a player who only made a career as he was in a team full of far more talented individuals.

    If we take Brown or Lescott they can cover a full back position each. As far as defensive mids go we have Barry, Carrick and we could take Huddlestone if needed. Milner can also cover full back. There is no way on earth Phil Neville should be considered. If you want a utility man take James Perch at forest! Seriously, he’s miles better than Neville!

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  26. Thankyou Chorley, I can see your angle with the ferdinand/windass axis, however my concern centres around Sir Les’ ‘nice-guy’ rep. I mean picture the scene, youve got messi and tevez doing nancy stuff and greg halfords had to go off with angina, who out of those two is going to make that match-turning assault? can either of those two be relied on to really break someones leg or stamp on their alans if england really needed it? I was considering Stan Collymore for the squad given his history of domestic abuse but how that will translate onto the football pitch I dont know.

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  27. 16 Apr ’10 at 2:40 pm

    Chorley Barman

    Sir Les is certainly in the nice guy mould but Windass has previous, including the infamous incident in which he was shown 3 cards in one game. He certainly wouldn’t have any reservations about dropping the nut on someone if his country called.

    The ruthless psychopath seems to be an area which Capello has overlooked though. Chris Morgan at Sheffield United would be an obvious shout. I personally feel that the addition of Neil Warnock to the backroom staff would help in this department as he has a proven track record of turning average, timid players into the most brutal thugs.

    Anyone know when Marlon King gets out?

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  28. 17 Apr ’10 at 11:10 pm

    Benoit Assou-Ekotto

    Dawson has to at least get to into the England squad on the back of recent performances. He’s miles better than Matthew Upson.

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  29. I’m up for the World Cup.

    Dreamz Can Come True!

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  30. 24 Apr ’10 at 9:28 pm

    Luke Brownbridge

    Sol Campbell and Ledley King have performed better in the last few weeks than any of the four centre backs that Capello will likely take to South Africa this summer. King might be a risk due to his injury problems but surely at least one of them would be a better squad player – with an impact both on and off the field – than either Upson, who has been dreadful lately, or Lescott.

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  31. 4 May ’10 at 8:20 pm

    North Korea for the World Cup

    Are the four centre-backs really that certain? It’s also interesting that, despite a lacklustre season, four out of five of the Nouse sports writers put Joe Cole in their squad, despite a pretty lacklustre season.

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