Written by David Robinson
With club football over, the attention is well and truly on the European Championships in France where England will look to improve in a major tournament under Roy Hodgson following a disappointing World Cup campaign in 2014. The Three Lions breezed through qualifying winning all 10 games but as the nation knows, this is where Hodgson and his men will find out what they are really made of. With a new feel to the squad with young players thriving in the Premier League, I pick my England XI that should face Russia in the opening match…
Goalkeeper – Joe Hart
Hart is the obvious choice in goal. His goalkeeping qualities speak for itself with world class talent but his determination and leadership skills making him pivotal for success in France.
Right Back – Kyle Walker
I’ve not been a fan of Walker’s at all until this season, while I’m not completely comfortable with him starting, a lack of alternatives means that he should be given a go with his performances maturing at Spurs this season. He’s ended up comfortably being one of the best performing full backs in the league and his high intensity needs to be transferred over to this England side.
Centre Back – Gary Cahill
More through eliminating John Stones out the team, you know what you’re getting from Cahill. No risks and first and foremost a defensive mentality which Stones cannot provide. His no nonsense approach and willingness to put his body on the line means he takes a spot for me however I still remain concerned about this position.
Centre Back – Chris Smalling
I’ve been very impressed by Chris Smalling this year. His athleticism has always been a strength but his reading of the game has improved and he is now a consistent figure in the Man Utd side. His pace and power could be vital if he needs to provide cover for bombarding full backs. He should be a certain starter in the middle of the defence.
Left Back – Danny Rose
Another Tottenham player who has grown dramatically this season, Rose has been playing with a bundle of energy and confidence that is the main reason I would like to see him start. This fearless approach and commitment to both defending and attacking could put England in good stead if the Spurs players maintain similar levels of performance.
Defensive Midfielder – Eric Dier
The only real defensive midfielder specialist we have in the squad, Dier will go about his business disrupting attacks and covering for the full backs. While I expect him to continue to be fairly limited in terms of starting attacks, I value the importance of the defensive side of the game in this instance.
Central Midfield – Jack Wilshere
With regret, Jack Wilshere has made my XI. I strongly believe someone who has played such few games this season shouldn’t be considered however midfield is where problems lie. This decision has been based on his prior success in an England shirt and his ability collect the ball deep and spray passes which compliments other midfield qualities that this team possesses. He probably has had enough time to gain match sharpness and be a key figure for this squad so here is hoping that this risk will pay off.
Central Midfield – Jordan Henderson
The Liverpool Captain gets a lot of criticism and rightfully so at times but I would be fine seeing Henderson start in this team. His work man like approach and box to box ability would give the Three Lions some combativeness in the middle allowing Dele Alli and Wilshere to be the creative forces in midfield.
Attacking Midfielder – Dele Alli
What a talent. I’m very excited to see Alli at a Major Tournament and he certainly will not be afraid of the big occasion. His blend of aggression and arrogance on the pitch matched with high quality gives you a feel that we have a top player on our hands. The Young Player of the Year has that all important flair that can both score goals and provide assists. Getting him higher up the pitch will give him even more license to express himself. He’s worryingly way ahead of Sterling and Barkley right now in the pecking order.
Striker – Marcus Rashford
The teenager has been a revelation and for me his fearless approach and red hot form means he should be getting a start. While Sturridge would be getting the nod if he was reliable in terms of fitness, Rashford edges it for me with numerous qualities to beat a man and score while Vardy is more one dimensional and could be a greater impact player of the bench. Kane could well compliment the young Manchester United striker nicely so throw him into the deep end again.
Striker – Harry Kane
A player that should be one of the first on the team sheet. Kane has managed to goals for England equally as prolifically as for Spurs. The forward can score a variety of goals and his all round game is strong meaning he can bring several dimensions to the cause. He will have to step up to the plate when the occasion comes.
Do you agree with this team? What changes would you make? Let us know in the comments below!