ENGLAND manager Roy Hodgson announces his 23-player squad for next month’s World Cup in Brazil today, so I’ll pip him to the post by naming my list which is:
GOALKEEPERS: Hart, Foster, Ruddy. DEFENDERS: Johnson, Cahill, Jagielka, Jones, Baines, Shaw, Lescott. MIDFIELDERS: Gerrard, Barry, Lallana, Wilshere, Milner, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Henderson. FORWARDS: Rooney, Sturridge, Sterling, Welbeck, Barkley, Lambert.
I doubt if Barry will get the nod, but I firmly believe he would be a key element, in the holding role alongside Gerrard, the two of them giving us a firm base while allowing the younger players to do the running. Joleon Lescott has not been a favourite of Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini, but he is a dependable defender – and he is left-sided, an important factor when it comes to balance in the back line.
Manchester United’s Phil Jones can play right-back or centre-back and we must wait to see if he is fit. If not, I would draft in his club-mate Chris Smalling, but with the concern that he hasn’t come on as much as expected. For me, Smalling lacks the presence required to be a commanding centre-back. However, it isn’t a position in which England are overly blessed with contenders.
Our opening match is against Italy, whose coach, Cesare Pandelli, says there isn’t a single English player who would make his team. Well, here is my team for England’s curtain-raiser, and let’s hope several members of it make Sgnr Pandelli eat his words: Hart; Johnson, Cahill, Jagielka, Baines; Milner, Gerrard, Henderson/Barry, Lallana; Sturridge, Rooney.