I hosted a radio phone-in a couple of weeks ago in which I campaigned for three Southampton players to be called into the England squad—Jay Rodriguez, Adam Lallana and Nathan Clyne.
Clyne missed out, but Rodriguez and Lallana have been named in Roy Hodgson's 28-man roster for the upcoming friendlies against Chile and Germany. Hodgson got that decision spot on. Credit to the England manager, who seems emboldened by qualification and in the mood to make things happen.
Rodriguez would be a great substitute to have at the World Cup next summer. He's quick, unpredictable and brings real quality up front.
Lallana would be in my England starting XI. He's been doing the business for five years with Southampton and is now their club captain. He's improved under an excellent coach in Mauricio Pochettino and deserves his chance at international level.
If I picked my England team for the first game of the group stages in Brazil today, this would be it:
The one name that will stand out will be that of John Terry, who of course retired from England duty last September in the lead up to his FA hearing to face racism charges—report as per BBC Sport.
It might surprise you to learn I want Terry back in the England team.
While I've campaigned tirelessly against racism in football, I also think people deserve a second chance. Terry has a golden chance to ask for forgiveness and play in another World Cup here. I really hope he's not too stubborn to take it.
He needs to come out and apologise for the incident with Anton Ferdinand first. If he does that, and starts talking to the press about how he wants to give back to England and help this fine group of young players in Brazil next summer, I think Hodgson would take him back.
As for the rest of the England squad—especially the Manchester United ones who are connected to Anton's cause through Rio Ferdinand—I don't imagine any problems at all. Most players are selfish and all they'll want is the best player for the job alongside them at the World Cup. Terry is that player.
Terry might not be the player he was six years ago, but his partnership with Gary Cahill is the best available to England right now (or not available as the case stands). I heard a stat recently that Terry and Cahill average 2.6 points a game when they start together for Chelsea. You can't argue with that.
The Cahill-Phil Jagielka duo has looked suspect at times, while neither Phil Jones nor Chris Smalling offer the kind of proven experience you need from a central defender at a big tournament.
England must have an experienced spine. They have Wayne Rooney leading the line, Steven Gerrard in midfield and Joe Hart in goal. The missing piece is Terry in at central defence. I only hope he's not too cocky to realise there's a way back for him.
Elsewhere, some might argue for playing Ashley Cole as well as Leighton Baines on the left. I can't see Hodgson doing that, because he needs that forward-minded wide player to bring a nuanced attacking threat. Cole can't bring it.
As for Lallana, he starts ahead of Michael Carrick or Tom Cleverley for me. Many will argue with that choice, but I think it's the right one.
I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on my England team in the comments below.
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