Roy Hodgson’s appointment as England manager on the 1st May 2012 was a surprise to many football people, who felt Harry Redknapp was the man to succeed Fabio Capello. I personally think Hodgson is a very good choice for the job as he does boast a wealth of knowledge from around Europe and further afield, and has managed international teams in the past, so has already felt the transition from club management to the international coaching role. The first time he will be under the spotlight will be for the friendly matches against Norway away on 26th May and at home to Belgium on the 2nd June. Although he may well be judged before he has even taken charge of his country against Norway, as he announces his squad for Euro 2012 on Wednesday 16th May 2012, but has until 29th May to make any last alterations. So who will make the 23 man squad to go to Poland and Ukraine in June? I have compiled a list of players I think will be and others who may not be many football people’s obvious choice but in my opinion deserve some serious consideration.
The first choice and maybe easiest to pick is Joe Hart. He has had another fantastic season with Manchester City making key saves when called upon in games he may not have had much to do and is easily in my view the first choice keeper for England. After that there are a few possibilities for the other two places, the first being Paul Robinson of Blackburn if he came out of retirement (which there has been talk), has been one of their better players this season and with being the captain of the team, would be an experienced choice with 41 caps. Another option for one of the keeper’s jerseys is John Ruddy of Norwich who in my view has been brilliant in goal for them this season. Making a number of top draw saves and proving his early promise that prompted Everton to pay £250,000 in 2005 has not been completely unjustified as he looks a good solid keeper. I would not begrudge him making the squad and maybe his international debut in the warm up games before the Euro’s. Sadly one keeper who does not want to be included is Ben Foster who I think has been great for West Bromwich Albion this season with 10 clean sheets to his name. Who else is there? Is Rob Green at West Ham going to be called up again as a back up to Hart? Or does Roy look down the route of youth and take a young 3rd choice keeper with him? Maybe Ben Amos (22) of Manchester United, Jack Butland (19) of Birmingham City or Luke Steele (21) who has at least got regular first team experience in the Championship with Middlesbrough this season.
Ok so I think Hodgson will choose eight players for the defensive options where there are a number of potential choices. Manchester City pair of Micah Richards and Joleon Lescott will be given some serious consideration as they have both been solid again and featured regularly for Mancini’s men this season. From the red half of Manchester, United have the experienced Rio Ferdinand. The 33 year old has never been to a European Championships for various reasons making this his last opportunity to be involved which could be decided by his fitness. Also there is the youthful Phil Jones who has proved he has the ability to be a top player and has enormous energy and drive with and without the ball with his running. At Chelsea there are three players who could be included in defence, John Terry who has been at the heart of England’s central defence for a number of years and even though there are those who would question his inclusion in the squad for off the pitch reasons he has been one of the most committed defensive players to wear the England shirt. Ashley Cole has been very good for the blues this campaign and has been first choice left back for a number of years for England and will be going in my view. The third possibility is Gary Cahill, who is a good defender as he proved at Bolton and also has an eye for goal, but consistency is the key and he has not had that at Chelsea since his move. Tottenham have two candidates who could be considered, but I think it would have been three if Michael Dawson had been fit and played all season. Ledley King is a superb central defender and has been solid for Spurs over the last 6-7 years but sadly with his knee problem preventing him from playing more than a game a week will sadly reduce his chances. Spurs other option is the exciting Kyle Walker. The attacking full-back has played in all but one Premiership game for Tottenham and would be a great choice to go to the Euro’s. Another player who is currently first choice right back, is Glen Johnson of Liverpool and has a good chance of being on the Plane, even though his season has not been great domestically. Everton offer a couple of options with central defender Phil Jagielka who has proved his ability at international level with an impressive performance against Spain in the friendly in November of last year. Leighton Baines has proved a good understudy to Ashley Cole at left back and has shown this with another good season with the Blues.
Again, I think eight players will go from midfield and there are a number of options to choose from, with Manchester United offering Michael Carrick in the centre of the park and Ashley Young out wide, both showing good form for the Red Devils. Would a return for Paul Scholes be a foolish shout? Stephen Gerrard is a certainty for me to be selected in the squad to provide the midfield backbone, while Stuart Downing has not proved enough at Liverpool this season that he can attack defenders enough and put in decent crosses. At Manchester City Gareth Barry would be a fair choice to be in the squad as he has performed well this season and with the doubt over Scott Parker it increases this likelihood, while Adam Johnson for me has the same problem as Downing in lacking the desire and ability to provide decent crosses from wide areas. I have also been disappointed with James Milner this season; he has the ability but has been in the shadows in the title winning squad for City. But he can play on either flank and has an outside chance to go. Will this be the last major tournament for Frank Lampard at Chelsea? With central midfield options a little light it looks probable he will be selected. Scott Parker has to go if he can prove his fitness ahead of the European Championships and Spurs other candidate is Aaron Lennon, who shows in patches the pace he can provide but as with many of the wide players England have crossing ability is questionable. Arsenal have Theo Walcott who for me does not have enough skill to get around players, he is just pure pace in behind a defence and would a call up for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain be wide of the mark, who is raw but has impressed for the Gunners when used this season.
The big debate will be who is going to lead the line for England this summer. Wayne Rooney will be selected even though he is suspended for the opening to games, so it will be who will get the other places to get England off to the best possible start. Tottenham’s Jermain Defoe has proved at club level he has the ability to score goals, with his England record of 15 goals in 46 International appearances is a reasonably good safe bet to go. Danny Welbeck is a player who has shown in the last couple of years for Manchester United that he could be a fantastic player, but is he to inexperienced to be considered a starter in the opening two games in Poland and Ukraine? Another forward option is Daniel Sturridge of Chelsea. He has played much more this season and proved he can play in a team that has Torres, Drogba and Mata wanting the forward positions. Darren Bent is being talked about for the Euro’s but I’m not convinced he should go, with missing a chunk of the season and no real form to show ahead of the tournament. Of the big men and that ‘plan B’ for England it’s between Peter Crouch of Stoke who has an impressive record for England and Andy Carroll of Liverpool who did show in the last few games of the season for the Reds that desire, work rate and threat in and around the box, but is it enough to warrant a place? If form and goals are features Hodgson will consider, does Grant Holt of Norwich get a look in? One other candidate which would be a long shot is Michael Owen, who is still one of the best finishers for me and if England need a goal with 20-30 minutes to go he is someone who will take a chance if presented, but if Bent doesn’t go with no form then the same should apply to Michael.
Keepers – Hart, Robinson, Ruddy;
Defenders – A. Cole, Terry, Jones, Walker, Baines, G. Johnson, Richards, Cahill;
Midfielders – Parker (if fit), A. Young, Gerrard, Barry, Lampard, Lennon, Carrick, Oxlade-Chamberlain;
Strikers – Rooney, Defoe, Crouch, Welbeck