How the Merseyside Connection Can Spearhead England 2014 World Cup Hopes
As the London press wound down praising Roy Hodgson to the heavens for masterminding England's way past the testing double-header of an underwhelming Poland and a Montenegro side who were beaten 5-2 at home by Moldova, one facet of the nation's team was apparent: This England side is heavily influenced by the two teams from Merseyside.
Both, at present, are somewhat in stages of renewal, having changed managers over the past 15 months, but both are also around the top end of the fledgling league table and playing—at times—exciting, attacking football.
And both contribute significantly to the make-up of an England squad.
Four of England's starters against Poland are currently plying their trade on Merseyside: Leighton Baines and Phil Jagielka in defence for Everton, Steven Gerrard as captain of club and country in midfield, and Daniel Sturridge as Liverpool striker.
One more from each team was on the bench, youthful prospects both in Ross Barkley and Raheem Sterling.
While those two will have to have exceptional seasons to make the reduced squad of 23 and the eventual plane to Brazil next summer, the four starters are almost guaranteed a place in Hodgson's eventual list.
Three will start, and Baines will at the very least run Ashley Cole close for the left-back spot.
And Merseyside's influence on the national team doesn't end there.
Right-back Glen Johnson is currently injured but remains an integral part of the back four when fit, while midfielders Leon Osman and Jordan Henderson remain outside possibilities of making the squad, though both will likely need an injury or two to those ahead of them to come into the reckoning.
Still further yet Merseyside's reach extends.
Captain Gerrard might have scored the goal which ultimately ended any lingering nerves against Poland, but the first goal came right out of Everton's half of the city.
Baines' cross found the head of Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney, born in Liverpool and raised a Blue. Rooney, in fact, already had 10 international goals to his name by the time he left Everton for United.
Finally, another striker with a shot at the World Cup squad was also born in Liverpool: Southampton's Rickie Lambert, who thus far has totalled three games and two goals at international level, having started his career with England earlier this year at the age of 31.
Johnson, Jagielka, Baines; Gerrard, Henderson, Osman, Sterling, Barkley; Rooney, Lambert and Sturridge.
Vote for England's best player with Liverpool ties
Merseyside are, in fact, just a goalkeeper away from fielding an entire—if hilariously lopsided—England starting XI, made up of players either from the city of Liverpool or currently playing in it.
In fact, we'll stick Rooney in goal and be done with it.
Not all of those 11 names will make the final cut for the World Cup in Brazil, that much is inevitable.
In fact, if they do, English players will be suffering one of the worst injury runs since the days when everybody seemed to break their metatarsal at once.
Six at least, though, are near-certainties and the odds would be on another two or three of them having a fighting chance.
The current crop might be some distance from being able to challenge for the trophy over in Brazil next year, but any success they do have is likely to have a large contribution from the Merseyside influence this time around.
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