With all the talent representing the English Premier League at European Championships and World Cups, it is easy to forget about the players left behind on international weeks–to play what must be, just about, 5-a-side’s at training.
Amazingly, some of the players left to twiddle their thumbs on international weeks are actually many Premier League clubs best players–who have never been called upon to do their duty for their country.
I have plumped for a 4-5-1 or the modern day 4-3-3 in possession (yes I know, I could be a Premier League managing great) made up of an exciting, industrious selection of top flight talent.
Goalkeeper–Brian Jensen (Burnley)
Burnley’s No. 1 is affectionately known as “the beast” and is in his second season in the EPL (the first being with West Bromwich Albion in 2002/03). And he has made quite an impact second time round, including a penalty save in a 1-0 win over Manchester United and the 34-year-old Dane has fought off stiff competition, if you could call it that, from Arsenal’s Spaniard Manuel Almunia to be this 11’s first choice keeper.
Right-back–Rafael da Silva (Manchester United)
The young Brazilian may only have 23 league appearances to his name but the lad is class and was the only right-back ever in my mind for this team. Shortlisted for the young player of the year award last year, the 19-year-old has struggled with injuries this season but continues to impress when available for Manchester United.
This will likely be the only season the fullback will ever be available for an uncapped 11 with his native Brazil facing a challenge from Portugal for his international allegiance and are likely to cap him sooner rather than never.
Left-back–Fabio Aurelio (Liverpool)
Another Brazilian at left-back, but it was nearly not to be the case, after the 30-year-old was called into two Brazilian squads during 2009. Unfortunately, injury prevented him from making his long awaited debut, but the former Valencia man remains a terrific performer at club level and wins his place ahead of England hopeful Leighton Baines of Everton and Blackburn’s left sided Swede, Martin Olsson.
Yes, he's the player who scored the stunning over-head kick in a League Cup tie against Aston Villa earlier this season.
Centre-back–Roger Johnson (Birmingham City)
Johnson spent nearly a decade in lower division football with Wycombe Wanderers and Cardiff City before sealing his move to the EPL last summer. The 26-year-old cost Alex McLeish’s Birmingham £5 million, but it looks like money well spent, with the Englishman starting every one of his impressive side’s EPL games so far this season.
He wins his slot in the team ahead of Aston Villa pair Curtis Davies and Carlos Cuellar.
Centre-back–Gary Cahill (Bolton Wanderers)
This team is littered with players who have had international call ups yet failed to feature for their country, and 24-year-old Gary Cahill is one of them. The former Aston Villa star has shone brightly at Bolton Wanderers and despite his England call up, the tall defender could one day play for the Republic of Ireland thanks to the grandparent rule, should last season’s Bolton player of the year choose to do so of course.
Frenchman Sylvain Distin and Stoke City’s Ryan Shawcross were other notable mentions for the centre-back positions.
Holding midfielder–Denilson (Arsenal)
Arsenal’s 21-year-old midfield star is a former captain of the Brazil under-20 squad and an ever present in Arsene Wenger’s side when fit. Like Rafael, it is surely just a matter of time before Denilson plays international football but could not be ignored for this uncapped 11 due to his starring role at one of the league’s biggest clubs.
Centre midfield–Mikel Arteta (Everton)
Spaniard Mikel Arteta has fallen foul of a golden generation of Spanish midfielders including Cesc Fabregas and Xavi, but many including myself feel the fact he has not been recognized at international level is a travesty and is the best player in English football not to have been capped by his country. His long spell in England could soon see the 27-year-old qualify to play for one of the home nations and I wonder which way David Moyes would usher him?
Centre midfield–Matthew Taylor (Bolton Wanderers)
The choices for the final midfield slot were endless but Matthew Taylor wins his place on sheer work load and the fact the 28-year-old certainly is not shot-shy in a make believe team which would need goals from midfield. In fact, he has 18 goals in 73 matches for Bolton in the Premier League and is used to playing with one striker at club level. Players such as Fabrice Muamba, Lee Cattermole, and Jonathon Greening miss out but in reality there was only one central midfield role to play for.
Right wing–Leon Osman (Everton)
Often overlooked as a vital cog in the Everton machine, Osman has amassed nearly 200 Premier League appearances in the top flight during a spell of relative success for David Moyes’ team. The 28-year-old can pop up anywhere in midfield and has a penchant for scoring vital goals after drifting into dangerous positions unchecked, causing opposition defences to ask serious questions of themselves.
He has the work ethic for this side which could not rely on one or two players and would bring vital experience from the ultimate hardworking football club.
Left wing–Matthew Etherington (Stoke City)
Always a threat when on form, and boy has he been on form this season, Matthew Etherington steals this spot ahead of Manchester City new boy Adam Johnson. The 28-year-old has had a troubled career floating in and out of form and even admitting to a gambling addiction, but this team is playing football and Etherington is a joy to watch as one of the few remaining out and out wingers in the modern day Premier League.
And the fact he is closing in on 400 senior appearances before his 30th birthday is testament to how valuable he has been seen by his clubs over the years, and why should I think any different?
Striker–Kevin Davies (Bolton Wanderers)
As Captain and lone striker for my side, I have chosen Kevin Davies of Bolton. The 32-year-old is by no means a top goal scorer but it is his ability to lead the line and link a team together which makes him a great player.
It seems the imposing forward has been close to an England cap his whole career and even to this day is still being linked with a surprise World Cup call-up, thanks mainly to last year, where at 31, he had the best season of his career.
Just 15 matches shy of his 600th senior appearance, he would be the perfect choice to lead the English Premier League’s best uncapped 11.