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England National Team

Predicting an England Euro 2016 Starting Lineup

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Everywhere I turn, whether a newspaper, a radio station or even twitter, I hear from all angles how the structure of English football is flawed.  Claims that England will never build on their World Cup success of 1966 unless the whole system is reformed is a common belief among fellow pessimists.  Now there is plenty of evidence to suggest that England will simply maintain their current level of mediocrity on the International stage for many years to come. For a start, the Under 21 European Championships in Israel in 2013 was a resounding failure, with England failing to progress from the group stage. Not just this, but the performances of the players who made the trip verged on embarrassing, scoring one goal and failing to earn a single point. Add the recent World Cup campaign (or should I say failure?) into the mix, and the future does not look particularly bright from the outside looking in.

The condensed quality of young players in the country is due to the fact that the percentage of home grown players playing regularly in the Premier League has been declining for many years. Although it is great to see world class players from all corners of the globe on our televisions week in week out, it is doing English Football no good in the long run.

The German Bundesliga made radical steps around the year 2000 to resolve a similar problem. To obtain a license to play in the Bundesliga and the Bundesliga 2, the German FA (DFB) made it a requirement that a club had to run an academy – known as an ‘education camp’. The leagues spend a combined €75m every year on these academies, providing a footballing education to over 5,000 players aged between 12 and 18. Players under the age of 23 now make up around 18% of all players in the Bundesliga. In 2000 when this system was introduced, only 6% of players were under 23. Maybe this would be a much more suitable proposition, as opposed to Greg Dyke’s idea of Premier League ‘B’ teams filling the lower leagues.

Despite this being England’s worst World Cup showing of all time statistically, Roy Hodgson does deserve some credit for his selection of some of the younger or more internationally inexperienced players, namely Luke Shaw, Ross Barkley, Adam Lallana and Raheem Sterling. This is something which will bode well going into future tournaments, with Euro 2016 on the horizon. Following England’s exit, plans will already be in place going ahead to Euro 2016. Therefore I thought it would be interesting to predict a possible Starting XI for England going into the tournament in France.

 

Goalkeeper: Joe Hart

Joe Hart is rightly seen as one of the best Goalkeepers in Europe. After a dip in form in the middle of last season which saw him on the bench, Hart came back to his best and finished the season as a crucial member of Manchester City’s title win. Hart will be entering his prime years of his career going into Euro 2016, and will surely remain be England’s number one for many years to come.

Right Back: Jon Flanagan

Flanagan came from nowhere it seems to become a regular in Liverpool’s surge to the Premier League title that fell just short last season. His aggressive tackling and tireless work rate, as well as his versatility in being able to play both left and right back lead to calls for Roy Hodgson to pick him for Brazil. While this major tournament may have just come too soon, Flanagan could be one of the first names on the squad list for France should he maintain his late season form.

Centre Back: John Stones

When an injury to Sylvain Distin looked to put Everton’s Top 4 ambitions on hold for the season, few could have expected John Stones to step up to the mantle quite as spectacularly as he did for the Toffees. The 20 year old looked like a seasoned veteran the way he read the game at the back, not to mention his numerous attack-starting dribbles out of defence. It is rare you see a Defender with such composure and confidence on the ball as Stones has. In two years time he could well be an England regular.

Centre Back: Gary Cahill

While Gary Cahill might have had a World Cup to forget, his performances week in week out for Chelsea are as consistent as they come. For a Defender especially, his technical ability is outstanding. Cahill is another, like Stones, who is not afraid to dribble out from the back should the opportunity present itself. He can also carry an aerial threat from set pieces, and chips in with the odd goal along the way too. Cahill would bring much needed experience to the side, being aged 30 by the time the European Championships come around.

Left Back: Luke Shaw

Left Back is a position which England has had a multitude of talent over recent years, and Luke Shaw looks like continuing that trend. The 18 year old became a regular starter in Southampton‘s blossoming side under former Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino, before becoming the most expensive teenage footballer of all time. He is very much a modern day Left Back – solid defensively but blessed with great pace and loves to get forward.  It will be interesting to see how Shaw adapts to being a small fish in a big pond at Manchester United next season.

Centre Midfield: Jack Wilshere

Jack Wilshere, the2011 PFA Young Player of the Year, has done so much already in his career, despite being slightly blighted by injury. Arsenals youngest ever league player (aged 16 years, 253 days) has now made 20 appearances for England, and comfortably over 100 appearances for Arsenal too.  Praise for Wilshere (and criticism in more recent times) has come from all corners. Steven Gerrard has said that without adding pressure, he expects Jack to become one of the best players in the world. Arsene Wenger summed up Wilshere’s style, saying: “Jack has Spanish technique with an English heart.” Now 22, Wilshere will be hoping to stay injury free ahead of the new season, and prove some long standing critics wrong on the way.

Centre Midfielder: Ross Barkley

Ross Barkley is a bit of a freak in the nicest possible way. He is huge, standing at just under 6 ft 3, excellent with both feet, can see a pass – and play a pass, and possesses hulk-like strength. Barkley was expected to make his league debut in 2010, however, a collision with Andre Wisdom resulted in a compound fracture of his leg, halting his breakthrough. Upon return to team training, Tim Cahill described Barkley as the most talented footballer he had ever worked with. We were lucky enough to see glimpses of what Barkley can do in an England shirt in Brazil, but it remains to be seen whether he can now nail down a regular berth in the national team.

Centre Midfield: Jordan Henderson

Few could have predicted the fate of Jordan Henderson before the start of last season. The forgotten man’s fantastic season with Liverpool resulted in a World Cup starting spot in midfield alongside Steven Gerrard, just like at club level. Henderson will have gained some invaluable experience from one of England’s finest ever players in Gerrard, but it remains to be seen whether he can carry out the role on his own, with the England Captain’s International future still in question.

Wing: Raheem Sterling

After his real breakthrough season, few argued with Brendan Rodgers when he said Raheem Sterling is the best young player in Europe. The 19 year old was a key figure in Liverpool’s great season, and like Henderson, earned a World Cup start. Despite an England defeat, Sterling was arguably the best player on the park bar Andrea Pirlo in England’s World Cup opener against Italy. It will be interesting to see how Sterling follows up such a season – and I for one am excited to see how he fares in the Champions League too.

Wing: Theo Walcott

Despite the performances of Raheem Sterling, the forgotten man Theo Walcott was certainly a big miss for England out in Brazil. While he was criticised in the past for lacking a final ball, Walcott finished the 2012-13 season with 21 goals and 15 assists in all competitions. An injury hit following season was topped by a devastating Cruciate Ligament tear against Spurs which put him out of the World Cup. I think I speak for all fans when I say I hope to see Walcott back to full fitness sooner rather than later – and working his way back into the England frame too.

Striker: Daniel Sturridge

In a season where Chelsea desperately lacked a goal scorer, ironically it was Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge who stepped up to show his old club why they made a mistake in letting him go in January 2013. 22 goals this season added to 11 the previous season means Sturridge has an outstanding record of 35 goals in 49 Liverpool appearances. Roy Hodgson made Sturridge England’s number 9 for the World Cup too, starting all three games out in Brazil, scoring one goal. Champions League football this season will give Sturridge the platform he so desires to mix it with the world’s best.

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19 Year Old Manchester United fan from Northern Ireland with a keen interest in European Football. Lover of (almost) all sports. Aspiring football writer and trainee football coach. Keen follower of Borussia Dortmund since 2008. Can be found on twitter @CameronStrutt95.

England National Team

“No surprise”: Twitter reacts to rumours of Newcastle’s Jonjo Shelvey’s England return

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Photo: Getty Images.

When news broke that Newcastle United midfielder Jonjo Shelvey could be in line for an England recall, fans around the country reacted in a variety of ways, both of joy and dread, that the former Liverpool man could be on the plane to Russia.

The Times say that his form, combined with fitness concerns over Jack Wilshere and Adam Lallana, have put him in the frame, and England boss Gareth Southgate is set watch as his Magpies team face Everton on Monday.

The 26-year-old has been key to Rafa Benitez’s side this season as they have re-established themselves back in the top flight of English football.

(Photo credit should read PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Shelvey has already got six England caps to his name, the most recent coming in November 2015 against France, and he could now earn a return two and a half years later.

His sparkling form has caught the eye as all three goals he has been involved with this season (one goal and two assists) have come in his last four appearances.

Here’s how Twitter reacted to the news…

Many believed it was about time…

Plenty made comparisons to the alternatives, with two in particular coming up a few times…

He’s made some eat their words…

Yet not all agreed…

After three years in the international wilderness, Jonjo Shelvey will need to maintain his current form if he is to enter into the fight to earn himself a ticket on the plane to Russia as a surprise inclusion in Gareth Southgate’s squad to face Belgium, Panama and Tunisia in World Cup Group G.

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England National Team

Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold must have Gareth Southgate paying attention

The teenage defender had Leroy Sane shackled throughout the Champions League tie between Liverpool and Manchester City.

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More often or not when England head to a World Cup a player emerges late on in a season and finds their way into the 23-man squad for the tournament. After last night, one man who should certainly be catching Gareth Southgate’s eye is Liverpool right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold.

This season not many full-backs have managed to contain the threat posed by Manchester City winger Leroy Sane. The pacey German has got the better of the best this campaign and Liverpool fans undoubtedly feared him ahead of the Champions League tie last night. They needn’t have done so. Liverpool romped to a 3-0 victory and the performance of Alexander-Arnold left Sane shackled and frustrated.

Liverpool’s English midfielder Trent Alexander-Arnold (L) vies with Manchester City’s German midfielder Leroy Sane during the UEFA Champions League first leg quarter-final football match between Liverpool and Manchester City, at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, north west England on April 4, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Anthony Devlin (Photo credit should read ANTHONY DEVLIN/AFP/Getty Images)

His speed and expert reading of the game left Sane forlorn as Liverpool fans purred over yet another incredible performance from their 19-year-old defender.

Not only was he immense defensively, but when asked to attack he is a potent threat who widens the pitch with his positional play and technical ability.

If you were none the wiser, and asked which right-back on display was the England starter, Kyle Walker would not have been your choice.

It begs the question, should Alexander-Arnold be in contention for the England squad?

Gareth Southgate is blessed at right-back. Not only does he have Walker but also Kieran Trippier at Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United’s Ashley Young to consider. But his recent use of Walker as a centre-back in a defensive trio gives hope to the Liverpool teenager.

LONDON, ENGLAND – MARCH 31: The number 66 of Trent Alexander-Arnold of Liverpool during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Liverpool at Selhurst Park on March 31, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

He is a perfect option as a right wing-back and after last night it is evident he can play against the best.

If the 19-year-old remains in the Liverpool starting XI for the rest of the season and throughout a Champions League run it will be extremely hard for Southgate not to take notice.

The Liverpool talent might just sneak his way into the World Cup reckoning for this summer.

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England National Team

Leeds United fans react to Lewis Cook’s England debut

The Leeds academy product is now plying his trade with Bournemouth.

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Photo: Getty Images

England finished their international break with a 1-1 draw against Italy at Wembley last night. The game was a great opportunity for many to stamp their claim on a World Cup spot. James Tarkowski picked up his first England cap, Jack Butland got a chance in goal and Lewis Cook of Bournemouth came on for his England debut.

It was a bittersweet moment for Leeds United fans. Cook, of course, came through the ranks at Thorp Arch. The midfielder from York was at Leeds from the age of seven. In 2016 he departed Elland Road, joining the Cherries. It came after years of mismanagement of the West Yorkshire side and Cook’s career was better off served elsewhere.

That has proven the case. After struggling with injury for periods of last season he has established himself in the Bournemouth starting XI under Eddie Howe.

(Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

For Leeds fans, they knew what he was capable of. The shining star of their youth team during the Neil Redfearn era, his departure was a tough one for Leeds fans to take.

The fact Leeds only received a fee reported to be in an initial region of £6 million by the Yorkshire Evening Post hurts more. Although that figure can rise to £10 million, fans are disappointed such a fee was not already gathered by selling one of their top talents.

As Cook, who also captained England to under-20 World Cup success in the summer, came on the feeling from Leeds fans was one of pride. Here was one of their own, making it on the biggest stage. To add to the good feeling, his grandfather won £17,000 after betting on Cook to make his England debut when the Leeds alumni was just 18.

(Photo by Daniel Smith/Getty Images)

Many a Leeds fan, however, made the same prediction and that is what hurts the most. If Cook had remained at Leeds would he be making his England debut, who knows? Would Leeds still be in the Championship given his ability and how close they came last season? Again, who knows?

But overall Leeds fans on Twitter were just pleased to see him get his senior cap. With England playing Costa Rica in a World Cup warm-up at Elland Road in June, maybe Cook can play in white at his spiritual home yet again.

As for those that sold him? Leeds fans were less praising…

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