A Look At ‘New’ England

Guest blogger Lee Clarke runs the rule over Wednesday night’s friendly victory over an experimental Italian side.

England 2 Italy 1 – If only this was a result from a certain major tournament two months ago.

The Three Lions defeat to The Azzuri in Kiev back in June was still fresh in the memory as England took to the pitch to face the team that had caused national heartbreak only 52 days ago.

Even if you are more interested in Premier League betting, you would have noticed that the two sides looked completely different from the Euro 2012 quarter-final in which England were denied a last four berth thanks to a penalty shootout.

Roy Hodgson handed debuts to no fewer than five players in Berne, with the stand out performance of the debutants being second half substitute John Ruddy. The Norwich custodian looked like a 50 cap player when he took to the stage for the second half.

What was really refreshing about Wednesday night’s game was that Hodgson was not afraid to try youth. Albeit mixed with some experience, but we can cope with that.

Jack Butland began in goal becoming the youngest goalkeeper to play for England by some margin. What a summer the young Birmingham goalkeeper has had. League Two with Cheltenham, to third choice England keeper, Olympics and now this. Talk about Roy of the Rovers stuff!

Everyone following Manchester united news will agree that Michael Carrick was a pleasing addition to the starting line-up for the strangely timed friendly in Berne. Carrick played in the position so often occupied for England by the much over-rated Gareth Barry.

Barry is, for me, not fit to lace Carrick’s boots, certainly on the last season and a halves form anyway.

The former West Ham and Spurs man was incredibly easy on the eye during Wednesday night’s game and rarely looks like losing possession when in control of the ball.

Indeed England certainly look to be getting to grips with the new three man midfield which Hodgson likes to employ. Tom Cleverley was the man sitting just behind Andy Carroll against Italy and with more game time at Manchester United he will only continue to improve. You half expect this season could be make or break for the youngster however.

Kyle Walker was a cert for the right-back berth at the Euros before injury ruled out the Tottenham star, he again proved his worth with a solid display, so too did Phil Jagielka. Always a steady performer it was nice to see him step up to the plate on the international stage and cap a fine performance with a first half goal.

One thing is certain about England under Roy Hodgson is that we are now much more difficult to beat and opponents are no longer easily able to grasp our bland style which was so blatantly obvious under Fabio Capello.

With more game time for the Three Lions mix of youthful exuberance and experienced steel we will only continue to get better. Only time will tell just how far the ‘new’ England can go.

Hodgson Names Puzzling Squad for Italy Friendly

It’s still very disconcerting to have to play friendlies before the domestic season has begun, especially when the game is against a team that knocked us out of Euro 2012 and when some of the squad have just returned from Olympic Games duty with Team GB. Nonetheless, the campaign to qualify for the next World Cup in Brazil is underway: guest blogger Richard Smith of www.englandbettingodds.com takes a look at what might best be described as a developmental squad.

With two 2014 World Cup qualifiers against Moldova and Ukraine coming up next month, England manager, Roy Hodgson, has named a rather puzzling squad to face Italy in a friendly in Switzerland this week that would appear to be more about players proving their England futures rather than a group of new and young players becoming the nucleus of the team that will form the team’s future and World Cup aspirations.

Hodgson has recalled both Frank Lampard and Michael Carrick and both look like starting in central midfield againstItaly, despite both being in their 30s. Lampard in fact has been named as captain, which would appear to confirm the long standing fear of most England fans that the manager finds it almost impossible to select a side that does not include both Lampard and the officially appointed captain Steven Gerrard.

It seemed that Hodgson, now having got Euro 2012 out of the way, would set his stall out with a squad that had a youthful bias, interspersed with experienced players such as Gerrard who remain at an age to make it all the way through to the World Cup of 2014. However, the inclusion of Lampard and Carrick suggests that the “old guard” still feature prominently in current thinking although he has left out, somewhat mysteriously, John Terry.

Also included in Hodgson’s squad are Jermaine Defoe and Andy Carroll, neither of whom look likely to be playing first team football this season as it stands. Carroll is clearly out of favour at Anfield after the club accepted an approach from West Ham to loan the striker only for the player to turn down the move and Defoe is being linked with a move away from White Hart Lane. It is interesting to note that Daniel Sturridge is included after missing Euro 2012, yet Danny Welbeck, one of his Euro 2012 preferred front men as been ignored.

There is no Rio Ferdinand and Scott Parker is out due to injury. Stewart Downing and Joleon Lescott are also missing .

On the positive side,  Hodgson has included Tom Cleverley, has recalled Adam Johnson of Manchester City, Kyle Walker of Spurs and has kept the faith with young Arsenal pair Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott. He also found a place for Ashley Young who disappointed at the Euros.

In fairness to Hodgson, the last game he would have wanted would have been a “friendly” againstItaly, who of course knocked Englandout of Euro 2012 via the penalty shoot-out just a matter of weeks ago.

However, World Cup qualification comes around very quickly and for Hodgson and England, a good start to the campaign is essential. Moldova and Ukraine should be a six point start, however, England fans witnessed what Ukraine almost did to England at Euro 2012. We all know that they were cheated out of an equaliser in Kiev and as such, will come to Wembley on September 11th looking for some sort of retribution. Moldova of course are somewhat of an unknown entity although Holland struggled to beat them in a Euro 2012 qualifier in Moldova last year winning only 1-0.

It will be very interesting to see how England perform against Italy but it will be even more interesting to see what squad Hodgson opts for come the World Cup qualifiers? The real test for Hodgson begins now…


If It’s Saturday It Must Be Belgium

The last game before Euro 2012 starts next week looks as if it could turn into pep rally than a competitive game.

It’s probably fair to say that Belgian football has been in the doldrums for the last decade: the Red Devils haven’t qualified for a major tournament for over a decade and are currently one place above Wales in the UEFA Rankings. They missed out on the playoffs by two points, despite managing to score eight more goals than Turkey in their group but they looked up against it when they only drew 1-1 in Azerbaijan a year ago and basically had to beat Germany in Dusseldorf to stand a chance of getting to the playoffs. They were 3-0 down before the hour: that was that.

However – like the Norwegians last week – there are plenty of familiar names in the current Belgian squad. Vincent Kompany was captain of the Manchester City team that won the Premier League last season, Thomas Vermaelen is the heart of Arsenal’s defence and (as I have to explain to various family members when Everton are on telly) Marouane Fellaini is the tall bloke with the big hair.

I’ve deliberately left one name out, because those of us watching tomorrow night may have our lives transformed forever if Eden Hazard plays. Even though he has yet to kick a ball in anger for Chelsea, he’s obviously the best player in the universe right now and fans across the world waited with baited breath last week to see which English club he’d chose to play for. That’s presumably what he’d like us to think, although I’m reserving judgement to see how he does against Stoke at The Britannia Stadium before using any superlatives to describe him.

Regardless of Eden Hazard, history is on our side in this game. Belgium have never beaten us in England: the only time we’ve not beaten them at home in five previous encounters was also the last time they played at Wembley in October 1964. We last played against them at Sunderland in October 1999, when goals from current TV talking heads Jamie Redknapp and Alan Shearer ensured a 2-1 victory but the game was notable for Kevin Keegan giving Frank Lampard his international debut.

England are favourites to win the game, which kicks off at 5:15pm although ‘coverage’ starts at 4:30pm on ITV. That usually means bland interviews in poorly lit changing rooms, plenty of adverts encouraging you to buy beer/televisions/party food and at least one awful pun from whoever has been rounded up to provide punditry – although I don’t think they’re likely to use ‘the Belgians have surrendered again’, it’ll probably be something based on the EU.

I’ll be back with a quick roundup after the game finishes, but you’re in for a treat next week – a substantial preview piece and something a little different that I think you’ll enjoy.

Have a good long weekend and God Save The Queen.


The new England manager is in place, the team has been chosen. At last it’s game on for England and all the other European teams. Click here to check the Betting odds for Euro 2012.

England To Play Against Another Team

At last. A game of football.

Over the past few months – well, most of this year and probably a bit beyond as well – the stories have all been about Capello leaving, ‘Arry being the people’s choice, whether John Terry will continue to be John Terry and all the other unbelievably tiresome speculation about nearly every single aspect of the England team.

Apart from what’s actually happening on the field. In a bizarre turn of events, it seems that England are going to be playing several games of football over the next month or so, an exciting development for fans and pundits alike. The trouble is that the first game is against a team that we’ve had some problems with over the years: we’ve not beaten Norway at Wembley since 1980 but even more worrying is the last time we beat them in Norway was in a friendly before the 1966 World Cup.

The Norwegians haven’t qualified for any of the major tournaments for over a decade, but they were unlucky not to reach the playoffs for Euro 2012, having an inferior goal difference to Portugal – who they beat in Oslo during the qualifiers thanks to a goal from Portsmouth’s Erik Huseklepp. Their current FIFA ranking is higher than both of the hosts in the upcoming tournament as well as the Czech Republic so they aren’t a bad choice for a friendly game – with five English based players in the squad they’ll be familiar with our team and if there’s such a thing as a Scandinavian ‘style’ then I suppose this game is good practice in playing against it.

One thing that could be an advantage for the Norwegians is that the majority of their players are based at home and play in the top tier of the domestic competition, which kicked off in March: the reigning champions are Molde FK, who are managed by former Manchester United striker Ole-Gunnar Solksjaer. He was strongly linked with the Aston Villa job last week but saw sense and turned it down 😉

The danger men for the Norwegians are familiar names to England fans: Jon-Arne Riise, Morten Gamst Pederson and the aforementioned Erik Huseklepp but keep an eye out for Moa Abdellaoue (Hannover 96), the latest of a number of Norwegian players who have chosen to move to the Bundesliga. He’s got a decent strike rate in Germany (26 goals in 68 appearances) for a team that’s not exactly a powerhouse over there and could cause the back four some problems.

Apart from Robert Green and Andy Carroll, it’s not clear who will be in Roy Hodgson’s first England team, but with call ups for Martin Kelly (who won’t be travelling on to Eastern Europe) and Jack Butland (who will – John Ruddy’s broken finger will keep him out of the tournament) we might be seeing an experimental side. That’s not necessarily a bad thing in a friendly but hardly ideal a few weeks before a major tournament – so this is a classic wait and see game: a victory would be a bonus, but not losing would be just as good.

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Results Show England Can Become European Champions – Even Without Rooney!

Well, I’ve got to admit that I wasn’t expecting England to beat Spain – earlier on today my brother in law sent me a text saying ‘Xabi Alonso 132 passes, Scott Parker 37 passes’ which made me laugh but before I replied with ‘Frank Lampard 1, Spain 0’ I decided to be a bit more magnanimous.

The Spanish press seemed to think we’d turned into the Italians (if that’s the case, it’s taken Fab nearly four years to complete his mission) which considering the Italian record over the last four decades isn’t the worst thing that could happen. Although the win came in a friendly, it’s the first time that we’ve beaten Spain at Wembley for years and is definitely a morale booster even though it’s hard to assess what victory might mean in the long term.

One of the more positive things that has been overlooked in the aftermath of the win over the reigning world champions is that we seem to have worked out how to keep clean sheets again – both Spain and Gary Speed’s resurgent Wales side failed to score at Wembley (thanks to Rob Earnshaw there) – and it’ll be a positive note to end the year on if we can stop Sweden scoring. It’s unlikely, but I’ll come to why that might be the case in a minute.

Sweden are a different kettle of herrings to Spain: the last time we beat them in England was in May 1968 (a month after we last beat Spain at Wembley and a week before Manchester United beat Benfica in the European Cup Final) and since then we’ve drawn all four games played here. So although it’s probably fair to say that we won’t lose, a win isn’t exactly a foregone conclusion. Our all time home record against Sweden is 2-4-1 which means another stalemate is a real possibility: that outcome looks even more likely when you remember that we’ve not managed to keep three clean sheets at home for four years and tomorrow’s opponents have scored in five of their seven visits to England.

Additionally, it’s not that hard to see why we’ve had so much trouble beating them over the years – Sweden has produced some outstanding players who have had success in the UK over the last two decades, although for every Anders Limpar, Freddy Ljungberg and Henrik Larsson there’s a Thomas Brolin. Four of the current squad are playing in Britain, although only Jonas Olsson of West Brom and Sebastian Larsson of Sunderland played in Friday’s 2-0 defeat in Denmark: Olaf Mellberg and Johan Elmander will also be familiar to most fans. And then there’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic: another reason why a clean sheet might be a challenge.

Sweden’s qualification record for major tournaments is eerily similar to ours – they’ve qualified for five of the last six European Championships and three of the last five World Cups; they’ve also reached the final of the World Cup that they hosted, although they lost to Brazil. Sweden avoided the Euro 2012 playoffs having qualified for the Euros as best ‘runners up’; they also ended the Dutch record of having been unbeaten in 17 qualifiers for both the World Cup and European Championships. However, the overall the impression is that although the Swedes are formidable at home, they aren’t as impressive on the road: having won all their home qualifiers, they were thrashed 4-1 in Holland and were beaten by a last minute goal in Budapest – which also shows how much the Hungarians have improved recently.

On to the first legs of the Euro play offs and barring unprecedented and monumental disasters for Croatia and Ireland then it looks as if they’ll be joining us in Poland and the Ukraine next summer.

Croatia were a goal up within five minutes on Friday night and had beaten Turkey by half time; having suffered World Cup playoff heartache a couple of years ago, things couldn’t have gone any better for Ireland in Tallinn: two red cards for Estonia, four goals for Ireland and one foot in Poland or the Ukraine next summer. Tomas Sivok’s injury time goal for the Czech Republic looks as if it ended any chance of Montenegro qualifying for the finals and although Portugal drew in Bosnia & Herzegovina, Cristiano Ronaldo and company are favourites to qualify.

Enjoy The Playoffs, The Friendlies Will Be Painful

Before we take a look at tomorrow’s friendly against Spain, it’s worth a quick review of tonight’s playoffs for the last four places in Euro 2012.

The first thing that jumps out is the quality of the teams in the playoffs. Since Euro ’96 Croatia, the Czech Republic, Portugal and Turkey have all reached the knockout stages of at least one of the subsequent competitions with Portugal reaching the final in 2004. Or to put it another way: our record in the Euros since 1996 is the same as Croatia’s.

Ireland last qualified for the Euros in 1988 (and possibly the less said about that particular tournament the better) but what really stands out about the playoffs is that Bosnia and Herzegovina, Estonia and Montenegro deserve a chance to qualify.

This is easily Bosnia and Herzegovina’s best ever team: Edin Dzeko, Stoke goalkeeper Asmir Begovic and Rangers defender Sasa Papac are the players best known to British fans but with only one member of the current squad playing in the local league it’s fair to say that the ‘Dragons’ are a cosmopolitan bunch.

Montenegro are a team we’ve covered in the past so we’ll leave them alone for the time except to mention that their progress since 2007 has been frankly astonishing – according to the latest FIFA rankings there’s nothing between them and the Czechs.

As well as being arguably the weakest team currently left in the tournament, the Estonians are probably the least well known – Middlesbrough striker Tarmo Kink is hardly a household name outside Teeside – and although I’ve come across midfielder Sander Puri and striker Jarmo Ahjupera in my parallel career as a football punter, we’re generally looking at the obscure end of anyone’s knowledge of European football.

Good luck to Ireland, although you just know what’s going to happen if they qualify.

On to our game against Spain tomorrow, which has been dominated by alleged racial abuse by John Terry, the usual cretinous behaviour in Zurich (by both FIFA and the EDL) and the usual pointless speculation about Capello’s successor.

I’m not in the mood to dwell on the off field issues, especially as there are so many reasons to be pessimistic about our chances tomorrow.

We’ve lost three of our last four home games against Spain (the only win since April 1968 was in a friendly at Villa Park in February 2001) and we haven’t beaten the reigning World Cup winners at home since a 3-1 win over Argentina in May 1980. The last time we faced a team that had won the World Cup at Wembley was in February 1999 and we lost 2-0 to France: I watched the game in a pub in central Bristol in front a table full of French students who enjoyed it immensely.

Looking back at our last win over Spain, it’s interesting to see how the career paths of the players from both sides have developed. Five of the starting England XI are still playing (David James, Rio Ferdinand, David Beckham, Michael Owen and Nicky Barmby), one of the subs (Frank Lampard) will be captain tomorrow and Chris Powell will be taking charge of Charlton Athletic in their FA Cup game at FC Halifax on Sunday lunchtime.

On the other hand, only Iker Casillas remains a Spanish international, even though Manuel Pablo and Raul are still playing. Three starters in the Spanish XI that lost at Villa Park are now managers: Abelardo manages CD Tullia in the fourth tier of Spanish football, Luis Enrique is in charge of Roma and Pep Guardiola…well, if you don’t know what he’s up to these days then you probably shouldn’t be reading this.

All being well, I’ll be back either tomorrow night or on Sunday with a look at what happened this wekeend.

What Next For Frank Lampard?

Due to the recent ‘events’ in London and elsewhere, the England v Holland friendly tomorrow evening has been postponed – we’d received a preview article from William Taylor and although the game’s off, William’s points are worth reading.

The emergence of Jack Wilshere on the international scene has cast doubt over the future of Frank Lampard’s England career.

Currently sitting on 86 caps, Lampard must surely have one eye on trying to reach the prestigious milestone of 100, most recently achieved by David Beckham.

However, Beckham is a case point. In the cut throat world of international football, you suddenly realise that it is all a young man’s game.

Once you hit 30, people begin to question you place in the team.

There is no doubt that Lampard has been an invaluable member of the national side, but like many other English players of his generation, the lack of silverware with the Three Lions will be a negative that hangs over his name.

Lampard’s immediate future is not of great concern, though. He is expected to feature in the friendly against Holland next Wednesday, and it would take a bold decision not to include him in the European Championships, having been heavily involved in qualification.

He and Steven Gerrard will be considered the stalwarts of the England midfield – although at 33 Lampard is two years older than his Liverpool compatriot.

Furthermore, many would argue that Gerrard’s impact on the national side has been greater than Lampard’s, in recent years.

It all points to Jack Wilshere ultimately succeeding the Chelsea player as the midfield partner to Gerrard in a quintessentially English 4-4-2 formation.

Lampard knows that there will be a time when he will simply have to accept that he can no longer be a part of the international picture.

It was a decision that Paul Scholes made a few seasons back, and it meant that the former Manchester United play-maker was able to extend his club career right up until the end of the season just gone.

“There will be a time when maybe for your own benefit and your own career as a player that you come out of it, like the Paul Scholeses of this world,” Lampard confessed.

“Whether that’s ever an option I don’t know but at the minute I want to give everything. It will be difficult but it’s great to see young players coming through, like Wilshere and McEachran.

“If I can be involved I’ll be happy. If not, I’ll be happy I was there.”

Football betting pundits note how Lampard could perhaps view Euro 2012 as his swansong. He can have one last go at winning trophies with England and then call it a day.

Barry Handed England Captaincy

Pete South takes a look at some of tonight’s possible team changes before our first ever meeting with Ghana.

Manchester City’s Gareth Barry has been handed the England captaincy for the Friendly game against Ghana on Tuesday.

John Terry was controversially re-named as captain for the comfortable 2-0 victory over Wales on Saturday, but was released from his duties along with four other players involved in the upcoming Champions League quarter finals.

Barry was dropped for that game, with his replacement Scott Parker impressing in his absence, but the former Aston Villa midfielder will return to a much changed England side. England boss Fabio Capello believes he has made the right choice, despite coming in for some criticism for changing captain once more.

“Barry is a really good player, a good captain and he’s also the player with the most England caps in the squad now.” He commented.

Capello insists he is keen to avoid overkill as some of his squad potentially faced playing four games in ten days, but climbed down from his claim after the Wales match that he would make 11 changes for the Ghana game.

Some of the players have played a lot,” he said. “They should only play three games in eight days – I think four games in 10 days is too much. I respect the clubs and the players.”

“Joe Hart will play in goal, we will have Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka at centre-back and Leighton Baines will play at left-back. Barry will be the captain and Carroll will play up front.” He added.

Overall, Capello will make “about seven changes” to the line-up the helped England move back to the top of their European Championships qualifying group over the weekend, with only the services of Jack Wilshere, Joe Hart, Ashley Young and Scott Parker likely to be retained.
The Italian manager came in for criticism for his botched handling of the captaincy issue, and is still yet to speak to Rio Ferdinand about his decision to take the captain’s arm band from the Manchester United Shirt wearer and give it to Terry, who was initially stripped of the job because of accusations over an affair with a team-mate’s ex-fiancée.

Capello then faced a further grilling after vice-captain Stephen Gerrard revealed the former Real Madrid coach had spoken to him by phone over the captaincy issue, while insisting it would be inappropriate to contact Ferdinand in the same way.

“Rio was captain, so I must meet him. Steve is only vice-captain,” he said. I hope I will speak with Rio next week.”

Will this be the England Squad for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil?

Guest blogger Richard Smith takes a look into the future…don’t forget, coverage is on ITV1 tonight and kick off is 7:15pm.

It’s the first International fixture of 2011 this week and with all eyes firmly fixed on qualifying for next year’s European Championships, it is sure to be a pivotal year for all concerned with the England setup. Namely Fabio Capello, who has already announced that he is stepping down after (or before if the Three Lions fail to qualify) the Euros but also many of the senior players who are coming to the end of their international careers.

Euro 2012 will almost certainly be the last international tournament that many of the established England players will participate in, with the likes of Rio Ferdinand, Ashely Cole, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Peter Crouch all likely to call it a day, therefore it is interesting to wonder, even at this early stage, what the likely squad and team will be assuming of course they qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

One player who will almost certainly still be around will be Wayne Rooney, who by then may even be the captain of the team. Rooney will be 29 in 2014 the same age as Pele was when he stole the show for Brazil in the 1970 World Cup in Mexico. Rooney is certainly including in the following suggested 23 man squad:


Joe Hart – Manchester City. Hart will be an experienced 27 year old by 2014 and is already regarded as one of the leading keepers in the world and a player who should be at the top for some time.

Ben Foster – Birmingham City. Not in the current squad but playing well for Birmingham following his move from Manchester United. Foster will not be everyone’s choice but has an advantage over his rivals by playing regularly in the Premier League.

Frank Fielding – Blackburn. Recently called up by Fabio Capello to the full squad and made his debut against Hungary last August. Only 22 at the moment, he is certainly one to keep your eye on in the between now and 2014.


Gary Cahill – Bolton. Has been receiving the plaudits for a couple of years now, Cahill will be one of several central defenders who are seen as natural replacements for either John Terry or Rio Ferdinand. Has 1 senior cap and is 25 years old but is likely to more on from Bolton will will also aid his international progress.

Micah Richards – Manchester City. Maturing as a player of substance at Eastlands, Richards always had a great talent but it was just his ‘bad boy’ image that let him down. He should be a top class defender by the next World Cup with his private life seemingly back on track.

Kieran Gibbs – Arsenal. A richly talented left back who has made several appearances for the ‘Gunners’ already. Aged just 21 he would seem to be a natural replacement for Ashley Cole.

Chris Smalling – Manchester United. Another hugely talented defender who can play in central defence or as full back. United paid £10m for him from Fulham when he was just 20 years old which gives some indication of his talent. He is playing more and more for United and has a bright forture and could be a possible captain further down the line.

Kyle Walker – Spurs. Currently on loan at Aston Villa, this exceptional right back will challenge Richards for that role in the team. Has been called up by Capello for the first time for the friendly in Denmark.

Michael Dawson – Spurs. He will be a very experienced central defender by the time of the next World Cup. He is one of those expected to replace John Terry once the Chelsea man has hung up his international boots.

Phil Jagielka – Everton. Another player who will offer the England team reliability and experience at the back. He has earned seven caps under Capello and although not necessarily everyone’s choice, it would make sense to have a player like him available.


Aaron Lennon – Spurs. Very exciting right sided player who has improved out of all proportion over the last two years. Very quick, tricky and who can score goals, he will be a certainty for Brazil.

James Milner – Manchester City. Extremely versatile midfielder who can play out wide or in the middle. He is very highly thought of, has World Cup Finals experience and will be at his peak in Brazil at the age of 27.

Theo Walcott – Arsenal. Another right sided player who offers searing pace with great perception. Missed out in South Africa, should not miss out in Brazil.

Jack Wilshere – Arsenal. Has been a revelation for Arsenal this season in his central midfield role, where he can either anchor or push forward. Has tremendous passing ability and can only get better.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – Southampton. Already being tipped to be on the books of a big club by the start on next season, this exciting 17 year old has the ability to be an absolute sensation. Has broken into the Under 21 squad and is the talking player in League One at the moment but not for long with a move to the Premier League surely not too far away.

Jack Rodwell – Everton. Another top class player in the making, Rodwell is now starting to command a regular place in the Everton midfield, having first made his debut as a 16 year old. Regarded as a defensive midfielder, Rodwell is not with goal scoring ability as well and is a certain star of the future.

Adam Johnson – Manchester City. A top class player who will play for England for a very long time to come. He will be at his absolute peak come 2014 and will be one of the most important England players.

Jordan Henderson – Sunderland. Another highly regarded progressive player who made his full England debut against France in November. Hugely talented and a very powerful player he will be a huge asset to the England’s central midfield.


Wayne Rooney – Manchester United. Could well be captain by the time the team take off for Brazil in 2014. Not having the best period of his football life currently, but Rooney is sheer class and will be a big threat to any defence in Brazil.

Andy Carroll – Liverpool. Could well partner Rooney up front, Carroll has great height, determination, ability and will improve greatly over the next few years now he’s at Liverpool.

Gabriel Agbonlahor – Aston Villa. This very speedy striker has been tipped for several years now to become a huge player for England. So far that has not materialised but he should get more chances  to impress in the near future.

Daniel Sturridge – Chelsea. Currently on loan with Bolton, who he scored for on his debut, this 21 year old has not had too many chances to impress as yet at Stamford Bridge, but when he has had the opportunities he has grabbed them. Yet to fully emerge as a top striker, but he is on his way!

Predictable Drop-outs For Ill-timed Friendly

Guest blogger Thomas Rooney takes a look at tomorrow’s friendly against Denmark – if we’d opted into the Nations Cup, at least it would have been competitive.

The difficulties in juggling club management and international management are once again in the spotlight this week with England set to play a pretty pointless friendly in Denmark.

Coming as it is between two sets of Premier League games and a week before the resumption of the Champions League it is little surprise there has been a flurry of drop outs.

Steven Gerrard, Peter Crouch and Ben Foster have all been released from the squad because of injuries, with Rio Ferdinand already out. In total 24 players from the four England age-group sides have been released this week.

For Fabio Capello he somehow has to get his message across the remaining players in a matter of days, before playing the friendly and waving the squad back off to their respective squads once more.

It must be terribly difficult for an international manager to try and build any team spirit or plan any tactics in such a short space of time. I agree they need these games to experiment, but to shoehorn them in almost as an afterthought benefits no-one. It doesn’t appeal to fans either. Obviously people will be keeping an eye on the live match score , but they won’t be getting overly excited about it.

He must also be fielding several calls from Premier League managers asking that their players don’t play more than 45 minutes of the friendly in order to keep them fit for future domestic games. And god forbid one of them get injured as a demand for compensation will soon arrive at the doors of the FA from the player’s Premier League club.

International football at the moment is being treated like an irritable distraction. In order for it to work it needs to be given the space and time it deserves. I agree with the idea that two dedicated international windows should be set in the season, where the squad can gather for two, even three weeks and play all their qualifiers or friendly games. England will play nine games in total this season, that surely can be split into two windows of five and four matches? It would make things much more exciting for those following the football live scores .

It will give Capello vital time to work with his players and perhaps avoid the awkward club v country tussle that we are seeing now.

It seems like common sense to me – but that is exactly why I can’t see it being implemented any time soon.