In my first entry, in what seems like forever, I am going to have a closer look at the England goalkeepers and defenders who should be on the plane with Roy Hodgson and his back room staff in June, when the England squad fly to France for the 2016 European Championships.
This years Premier League has arguably been the most open and exciting season in recent history. Who’d have though that Leicester City would be top with 6 games left? There is a distinct possibility that three of the biggest British clubs in Newcastle, Sunderland and Aston Villa will be playing in the second tier for the 2016/17 season.
The unpredictability of this season has allowed a lot of players throw their name into the hat for France when in previous seasons it would be the usual top 4 with a few names in there because they have “experience”. Personally, I understand the “experience” aspect when approaching major tournaments, which is why some players I have included (and left out!) may be a surprise to some.
Joe Hart, Fraser Forster and Tom Heaton
Joe Hart hasn’t been as consistent as perhaps he has in previous seasons. Replaced by Manchester City number two Willy Cabellero mid-way through the season showed that Manuel Pellegrini expected more. However, since his comeback and barring a couple of injuries, he is beginning to discover his best form again. There is no doubt he’s England most obvious choice to start against Russia on June 11th.
Before the injury to Jack Butland during the England vs Germany game, I believe he was a serious rival to Joe Hart for the number one jersey.
Luckily, England’s strength in depth is evident and Southampton’s Fraser Forster is a more than adequate back up and since his return from injury, he has only conceded 9 goals in 12 games, with a clean sheet in half of those.
The third goalkeeper I would choose is Burnley’s Tom Heaton, although he has played the season leading up to the Euros in the Championship, it is clear to see that he is Premier League standard. His 16 clean sheets thus far in Burnley’s push to bounce back from relegation emphasise his quality and his deserving place in the squad.
Nathaniel Clyne, Danny Rose, Kyle Walker, John Stones, Gary Cahill, Chris Smalling, Phil Jagielka
These defenders probably pick themselves. Had Leighton Baines and Luke Shaw not been injured for the majority of the season, there maybe could have been cases made for them due to Baines’ experience and Luke Shaw’s positive start before a nasty broken leg against PSV.
Nathaniel Clyne and Danny Rose have got to be first choice for me. Liverpool’s Clyne has been a bright spark in a rather flat and disjointed Liverpool side going through transition under Jurgen Klopp. Clyne, the former Southampton full back, seems to have the balance between going forward and staying back just right and with nearly 250 domestic league games under his belt at just 25, he has experience and age on his side.
Tottenham’s Danny Rose had a bright start to his Tottenham career (we all remember that goal against Arsenal, right?), further experience gained on loan at Bristol City and Sunderland allowed him to cement his spot in Tottenham’s first team. He has played 19 games so far this season and with just the one defensive error leading to a goal, it is clear that he has had a huge impact of getting his North London team to second in the Premier League.
With my choice of centre backs, I have gone for a mix of youth and experience. John Stones, if you believe the pundits, is destined for the very top and I have to agree. I believe his and Chris Smalling’s attributes complement each other very well and it’s clear they shall be England’s central defensive partnership for years to come.
Has this tournament come slightly too soon though? We saw in the Holland match at Wembey, Stones made an error which nearly led to a goal which surely put doubts in Roy Hodgson mind. That’s where Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka come in. Cahill has had so much success at club level with Chelsea that it would be silly not to consider him, plus over 40 England caps shows he has what it takes to compete at the highest level. Everton talisman Phil Jagielka is, in my view, will be more useful at Euro 2016 in a mentoring capacity. Jagielka will turn 34 in August and his best days are clearly behind him, however he has played in and prepared for major tournaments. He will be able to motivate the younger members of the squad and could be a vital addition to Roy Hodgson’s squad if used correctly.