Summer 2008, Austria and Switzerland hosted the 13th UEFA European Football Championship. However something seemed to be missing, could it be the buzzing atmosphere that comes with international football? Nope, that was definitely there. Could it be the prescence of big name stars? Nope, with David Villa and Xavi running the show for Spain there were certainly star studded matches. So what it could be? Oh yes, England. A disastrous mixture of Steve McClaren and 11 over-hyped English men can only lead to one thing - Humiliation.
Fast forward 4 years - Welcome to Poland-Ukraine, for the 2012 UEFA Euro Football Championship. However, despite the introduction of a Woy, uh-huh Roy* Hodgson as manager, and an England side, supposedly bursting with new and old talent, expectations for the 3 Lions, were lower than usual. Could it of been the appointment of Roy Hodgson as manager, over fan, bookie and media favourite Harry Redknapp? Could it be the well known fact that teams such as Spain, Netherlands and the Germans, were in fantastic form and in their somewhat 'golden generations'. Or could years of disappointment in major tournaments, have finally broken down the England supporters seemingly endless optimism? All are possibilites but the fact of the matter is, that the lack of confidence in the English team was proved justified, once the tournament was over. For example:
- England finished their Euro campaign in the Quarter Finals, after a defeat at the hands of an Andrea Pirlo inspired Italy losing 4-2 on penalties, taking our penalty record to 1 win, and 5 losses.
- England's average possession per game was only 39%, with only Greece (38%) and Ireland (33%) below us.
- England's average total shots per game was only (2.8) with only Ukraine (2.3) Greece (2.3) and Ireland (2.0) below us.
- England's Quarter Final battle with Italy, finished with England making 320 successful passes, compared to the Italian's 815.
- Joe Hart had more touches (85) than any other England player vs Italy.
Some people will argue that England were only poor due to Roy Hodgson's last minute appointment by the FA giving him no time to prepare, or that a plague of last minute injuries on Frank Lampard, Gary Cahill, Gareth Barry and Kyle Walker damaged the squad. You could make up any excuse under the sun. but the fact of the matter still stands, the football England played at the Euro's was a hideous sight. The 'park-the-bus' tactic, used by England doomed them from the word go. In some senses, it was the worst way England could ever go, as it usually results in slugging out a 1 goal win which if compromised takes things to penalties. Enough said.
However, we are not here to moan non-stop about the past, but to discuss what changes need to be made for the future. With the olden generation does come talent and experience, but it also brings no room for changes to their playing style, a playing style which has never brought success back to the home of football. So how do you get past one generation of football, and move on to another? You bring in new blood, a whole new generation of players, not individually like they have done with players such as Walcott, Rooney and Darren Bent. You have to bring a team up from single players and form a new team and with this, comes your new style of football. You will not be able to achieve this by bringing in 1 or 2 new players, and it is idiotic to believe so. Luckily however for England, a generation of talented youngsters is emerging with the likes of Oxlade-Chamberlain, Kyle Walker, Chris Smalling, Wilshere, Cleverely and Welbeck showing their incredible ability at club level.
So without further ado, here is my England squad I would put together for the 2014 World Cup:
GK: Joe Hart
In regards to the goalkeeping position in the English team, there is no name you'd put before Joe Hart. After a season of outstanding performances for club and country, Joe Hart has showed his credentials in the 2010-11 season especially, winning the Golden Glove for most clean sheets, and looks set to develope into one of England's best ever keepers. His consistenty is invaluable and his confidence is through the roof and at 6"5 he is a big obstacle to get the ball past.
LB: Leighton Baines
With Ashley Cole being one of the best left backs in the world during his time at Chelsea, Baines' oppurtunity at international level has been limited, but due to his age Ashley Cole is unlikely to be first choice for the role in 2014 when he will be 34 years old. Because of consistently impressive performances, and playing a key role in the Everton squad, Leighton Baines is definitely an influential and effective figure in the LB role and his deadly set pieces make him invaluable in big games.
CB: Gary Cahill
After playing a key role at the heart of Bolton Wanderer's defence over his 4 year spell there, Gary Cahill made a £7,000,000 switch to Chelsea and has settled in well sharing the second CB role with David Luiz, putting in good perfomances especially alongside John Terry at club and international level. Missing out on the Euro's due to a jaw injury caused by Mertens' horrorfic foul in the build up to the tournament. Aged only 26 years old, there is plenty of time left for Cahill and despite already being an extremely talented defender, there is still room to improve before the World Cup.
CB: Chris Smalling
Despite playing for a non-league side less than 4 years ago, Chris Smalling played a key role at the heart of an injur stricken Manchester United defence last season, putting in fantastic performances whilst filling out the huge gap left by Nemanja Vidic's absence. The only thing that stopped his incredible run of form for club was a groin injury that cut his season short. Aged only 22 years old, he shows a wealth of experience and talent already and can only improve from the fantastic player he already is. Because of John Terry and Lescott's established places in the England squad, opportunities were limited for Smalling, but with Terry's recent retirement and Lescott nearing the age of 31 he could easily establish himself as first choice CB.
RB: Kyle Walker
One of Englands brightest prospects, Kyle Walker played a crucial role in Tottenahams incredible run of form at the beggining of the 2011-12 season, proving Harry Redknapps confidence in him was truly justified. Putting in incredible performances week in, week out didn't go unnoticed though, with Walker winning the PFA Young Player of the Year Award in April, beating players such as Sergio Aguero, Gareth Bale and Danny Welbeck to the award. His performances carried on to impress throughout the season when he was also selected in the PFA Team of the Year over fellow country men Glen Johnson and Micah Richards. Unfortunately due to a late injury in the 2011-12 season, Walker missed the Euro's and was replaced by Johnson, who performed poorly proving that there was no better choice than Walker for the RB role.
LCM: Jack Wilshere
Making his Arsenal debut at just 16 years old Wilshere, is Arsenal's youngest ever debutant overtaking Fabregas' record. Despite only having a career spanning 4 years, Wilshere has already picked up the PFA Young Player of the Year Award, been selected for the PFA Team of the Year and was voted Arsenal player of the year in the 2010-11 season by the clubs fans for his outstanding performances over the campaign. Missing the entire 2011-12 season due to a horrific ankle injury, he is soon due to make a highly anticipated return to the first team, highlighting how much of an influencial figure he is in the Arsenal side, at such a young age. Showing a level of elegance and talent compared to Barcelona icon Xavi, Wilshere truly is one of England's brightest prospects and offers the creative and passing ability that a new England side would thrive off.
RCM: Tom Cleverley
After spending multiple season on loan, Paul Scholes' sudden retirement left a space in midfield wide open for Cleverley, one which he capably filled out earning much praise from boss Alex Ferguson and becoming a fan favourite. After impressing during a pre-season friendly against Barcelona, in which he was praised as United's best player in the game Cleverley has since made multiple appearances for club and country. A key figure in United's future he could become a midfield maestro alongside fellow youngster Wilshere. And at the young age of 23 there is much room for development and growth for the already talented individual.
LAM: Raheem Sterling
24th March 2012, Sterling bursts onto the premier league scene becoming Liverpool's second youngest player to ever play for the club. Replacing the out of form Stewart Downing, not much was expected of the youngster, but they couldn't be more wrong. Sterling has proved himself to be an extremely exciting prospect, playing in key matches against Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and against Sunderland in which he got 1 assist and was named Man of the Match. Despite being at the baby age of 17 years old, Sterling shows incredible consistency and talent already and confidence not seen in most young players. A very exciting asset for the 3 Lions.
CF: Wayne Rooney
Despite his controversial past, with seemingly endless anger management issues and form issues at international level, no one can deny as far as engines go there aren't many better than Rooney. His endless stamina, hunger for goals and simple love for the game makes him one of the deadliest men in the world with a ball at his feet. Despite some dodgy performances for United since RVP's arrival he has established himself again in the 3-0 destruction of Newcastle and 5-0 annihilation of San Marino. The reason I would line him up in the centre foward role is because his tendency to track back and defend makes him a liability when it comes to counter attacking so in this role he can attack and defend with the midfield, instead of waiting on the last man. The recent announcement of him being second captain to Gerrard who is unlikely to be a key figure at the World Cup, Rooney looks most likely to lead England out of the tunnel, a role in which should bring the absoloute best out of him.
RAM: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Yet another star homegrown through the Southampton youth systems, Chamberlain followed his Southampton successor Walcott to Arsenal to develope and reach his extremely high potential under the watchful eye of Arsene Wenger. Joining Arsenal in 2011 he scored his first goal in his second game for the club, and went onto also score in his Champions League debut for the club against Olympiacos. One of the most exciting and talented young players in the premier league without a doubt. His thirst for goals, work rate, confidence, and footballing brain is matched by very few at his age and looks set to become an Arsenal icon.
ST: Danny Welbeck
After having a successful season alongside Rooney in the ST role, Welbeck showed his raw talent that earned him a place in the United squad over big names such as Hernandez and Berbatov. He scored 10 goals in the season and established a clear understanding between himself and Rooney, one that can be transferred into the English team easily. At only 21 years old, Welbeck has years of developing left to to expend onto his already fantastic attacking ability. He is a single minded attacking minded striker who fills out the ST role better than Rooney who tends to fall back to often compared to Welbecks blistering pace and poaching approach.