His status as England’s number one is not currently under threat. Being dropped by City in November seems to have served as a wake-up call and he’s certainly become noticeably less error prone since then. Rob Green’s career was effectively destroyed by an error at the 2010 World Cup. He was dropped for the next game and didn’t play again. Everyone remembers David Seaman’s error in 2002 which potentially cost England the trophy. Avoiding acrimony this summer would be a success for Hart. Along with some penalty shoot-out heroics.
Now a record-breaker in Scotland having gone longer than anyone in history without conceding a goal, Forster will be the only player based outside England in the squad come summer time. How much longer he remains outside England is up for discussion with him being linked with a host of top European clubs this summer.
It could easily be John Ruddy in this slot. Either way the third choice keeper is extremely unlikely to see any playing time throughout the tournament.
Provided he stays fit, the young Spurs full-back should experience the first of several international tournaments for him this summer. Has been a regular in the Spurs side for three years now and has now made the right back slot with the national team his own.
Back to fitness after a spell out on with a knee injury, Johnson offers a lot going forward but is quite suspect defensively. I think he’ll be second choice to Walker when it comes to picking the team.
One of the best left-backs in the world and a starter now that he’s made this spot his own ahead of Ashley Cole towards the end of the qualifiers and surely must retain it when the tournament comes around. Cole is out of the Chelsea side and would struggle to make this one on current form. Baines has continued to impress this season. He’s solid defensively, electric going forward and deadly from set-pieces. Plus he’d be a reliable penalty-taker.
Shaw is going to be a star for England for the next decade. England are not going to win the World Cup this summer so one option is to look towards building for future tournaments where they may be successful. Hodgson should do what Glen Hoddle did in 1998 with Rio Ferdinand and give him some major tournament experience early on in his career. It will stand him in good stead. By the time Euro 2016 comes around he’ll be 20 years old, surely England’s first choice left back with three years of Premier League experience and a World Cup under his belt. Makes sense to me.
In good form for Everton this season, Jagielka is a vastly experienced centre-half who should finally get to experience playing in a major tournament at long last. He’s 31 now so this may be his only chance. I expect him to be a starter on current form.
His centre-half partner at Chelsea may be missing out but Gary Cahill certainly won’t be. He’s been just as impressive as John Terry this season at the heart of a much meaner Chelsea defence and is England’s leading centre back at the moment. No disrespect to him, he’s a fine player but it is a far cry from ten years ago when they had Ferdinand, Terry, Campbell, Carragher and Ledley King vying for just two spots.
He’s versatile and that may prove his biggest strength and yet his biggest weakness at the same time. I’m not sure if Phil Jones is good enough in any position to hold down a starting spot this summer but his versatility may lead to him becoming a useful squad member, particularly coming off the bench. I can’t see him filling a starting role, injuries notwithstanding.
Having a nightmare season at club level but Smalling should still edge out the likes of Michael Dawson and Steven Caulker for a spot on the plane to Brazil this summer. England will be hoping his form takes a dramatic improvement before then, he’s been dreadful for United in recent weeks.
Steven Gerrard – Captain
He’s been a revelation for Liverpool this season as a holding midfielder. Gerrard, despite being 34 by the time the tournament rolls around, should play every minute for England in Brazil. His quality with a football remains undimmed despite his passing years. Gerrard will this summer offer a glimpse of what might have been should Fabio Capello have been able to talk Paul Scholes out of international retirement in 2010. He will thrive in the deeper midfield role.
He has quietly gone about his work this year, playing a crucial role in Everton’s upturn in fortunes under Roberto Martinez. Barry hasn’t appeared for England since before Euro 2012 but may find himself in line for a recall. I think he’d be perfect back-up for Gerrard. They don’t have another quality holding midfield player.
Wilshire is a gifted footballer with a mean streak to him that any good central midfielder needs. He’ll probably find himself partnering Gerrard in the centre of midfield in Manaus against Italy. Injuries have restricted him to just 14 England appearances so far in his career. Despite being only 22, Wilshire carries a serious presence about him on a football pitch. The kind of player opposition fans love to hate, but the kind you want him on your side in a battle.
Another player whom if the squad is selected on form, as it should be, will find himself on the plane. Henderson has been fantastic this season, finally justifying his hefty transfer fee with some top drawer performances. If his good form continues, he’ll be making a late push for a starting spot.
Right now, Adam Lallana is one of the best attacking midfielders in the Premier League. Were he at Arsenal or Manchester United or Chelsea , there wouldn’t be a question over Lallana’s place in the squad. As he is a Southampton player, he does find himself at risk of missing the final cut as Hodgson may pluck for players at bigger clubs. Carrick, Cleverley and Lampard all spring to mind. It would be extremely harsh on the lad to miss out. He’s been consistently good all season and has proved he’s not just a flash in the pan. He’s the real deal.
See Luke Shaw above. One for the future. Feel terrible bumping Adam Johnson from the list for him but he’s a better prospect. Barkley started the season well and earned his first call-up in August. He has been able to maintain a decent level of performance this season for Everton and would be deserving of a spot in the squad.
Does not look out of place alongside Suarez and Sturridge in that Liverpool team, Sterling has responded well to being dropped last season. He’s reclaimed his place in the Liverpool side and kept it with a string of impressive performances. He’s still only 19 so this will be yet another chance to give a youngster a taste of a major tournament with a view to him benefiting in his prime a few years later.
Slightly older at 20, ‘The Ox’ has looked impressive since returning from injury recently and given the demise of his club-mate Theo Walcott, he must surely be a certainty for a seat on the plane to Brazil. He can play on the left or right wing but since his return from injury, he has been deployed through the middle at times by Wenger and done well. Another option for Hodgson to look at.
Rooney got injured in the run up to both the 2006 and 2010 World Cups and his lack of match fitness was horribly evident on both occasions. He’ll be desperate to make amends this time around and score his very first World Cup goal. Man United’s lack of any meaningful games over the next few months should help him remain injury free.
Quite simply, England’s best hope for goals this summer. He may yet steal the Premier League’s golden boot off his team-mate Luis Suarez which would be a huge achievement for a man deemed not good enough for Chelsea or Manchester City. His progression in the last twelve months has been remarkable and he now stands, deservedly as one of the top strikers in Europe.
If he makes the squad, the rags to riches story of Rickie Lambert will be told a million and one times this summer. From working in a beet factory and playing amateur football at aged 19 to going to a World Cup in Brazil at the age of 32. And he’ll be there on merit. The Southampton striker had been rejuvenated under Pochettino in the past fourteen months. He’s not just a goal-scorer, he’s got wonderful technique and his link-up play is excellent, particularly with Lallana and Rodriguez, whom he may be lining up alongside this summer too.
He tends to attract considerable less media attention than his Southampton team-mates Lambert and Lallana but Rodrgiuez is no less a player than any of them. He’s not as effective as an out-an-out striker, more of an inverted winger/inside forward, cutting in from the left. Rodriguez’s form this season certainly merits a call-up to the squad.
The Back-Up Brigade
The two biggest names missing from this are obviously the Chelsea pair of Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole. It might seem a little harsh to leave out such a loyal servant in Lampard but the fact is he is not playing regularly enough for Chelsea this season to merit his inclusion over the likes of Jordan Henderson or Gareth Barry, both of whom are impressing week in and week out for their clubs. Ditto Ashley Cole. It makes no sense to me having him occupy a slot that could go towards giving Luke Shaw some invaluable tournament experience.
That said, I’m living in dreamland and I fully expect Hodgson to select both based purely on who they are. That is how it goes with England. Reputation triumphs over logic every time.
Players unlucky to miss out whom will be placed on my back-up list are Adam Johnson who has been in excellent form for Sunderland as of late, Andy Carroll who simply has not played enough games for West Ham, Kevin Nolan who it seems will never get his chance, Joleon Lescott, Curtis Davies Steven Caulker, Danny Welbeck, Kieran Gibbs, Jon Flanagan, James Milner, Tom Huddlestone and Michael Carrick.