Who's in, Who's Out, and Who Should Be in? The Latest England Squad
After the debacle of South Africa, Fabio Capello and England begin the long road to restoring pride in the national side. During the tournament, England lacked creativity, pace and the ability to score goals.
With the oldest squad in the tournament, the lack of enthusiasm and youthful pace about their game showed clearly.
For the friendly against Hungary, only 10 of the 23 players that went to South Africa have retained their place.
Emile Heskey and Jamie Carragher both announced their retirement immediately after the tournament, whilst Paul Robinson and Wes Brown have retired from international football since yesterday’s squad was announced.
A number of younger players have been given the opportunity to shine against Hungary. Here, we look at each position, and look at the options that England have.
England have struggled to find a top keeper since the demise of David Seaman almost a decade ago.
Several players have since tried to make the number 1 shirt their own. Paul Robinson, David James, and Rob Green have all been the first choice at various times in recent years, but none of them have really filled fans with confidence.
Joe Hart is an obvious choice as the up-and-coming keeper in the England set-up. He was exceptional at Birmingham City last season, leading to calls for a starting place at the World Cup.
However, his inexperience at international level counted against him, possibly to England's cost.
He needs first team football this season, whether at Manchester City or elsewhere, but is the obvious choice to play in goal for England.
Ben Foster is another player who has been talked about as the solution to England's problem.
An excellent season at Watford in the 06/07 season led to calls for an international opportunity, but injuries dogged him for the next two seasons.
He had his opportunity to break into the Manchester United team at the beginning of this season, but a series of mistakes led him to be demoted to the bench.
He has the opportunity to impress now at Birmingham, and reignite his hopes for a sustained international career.
Following the retirement from international football of Paul Robinson, there is no clear candidate for the third keeper in the squad.
Rob Green has fallen out-of-favour since his high-profile error against the USA in the World Cup, whilst David James' decision to drop down a division to play for Bristol City has almost certainly ruled him out of future selection.
The other candidates would include Scott Carson (WBA), Chris Kirkland (Wigan) and Steve Harper (Newcastle)
Recommended Picks: Joe Hart (Manchester City), Ben Foster (Birmingham), Steve Harper (Newcastle)
For many years, Gary Neville was one of the most underrated stars of the England team.
Solid, dependable and having a wonderful understanding with his friend and team-mate David Beckham, the right back position was never up for debate. However, since his problems with injury, this has become more of an issue.
Glen Johnson is the current first-choice in this position. Whilst he is an excellent attacking full-back, his defensive play has often left a lot to be desired.
Against some of the smaller, lower quality sides that England play in qualifying for major tournaments, this is not much of an issue. However, against the top sides, his lack of prowess in this area can be exposed.
The problem is that there is no obvious challenger for his position. Jamie Carragher returned from international retirement to cover this position in the World Cup, but has thankfully drifted back off into retirement.
Similarly, Wes Brown has retired after not being selected for the World Cup.
Aston Villa's Luke Young was mentioned ahead of the World Cup, but it transpired that he has also retired from international football.
Micah Richards was believed to be the solution a couple of years ago, but a lack of football at Manchester City has stunted his development.
This position is a serious problem for England, particularly if Glen Johnson were to get injured.
Nathaniel Clyne looks to be a long-term challenger, but he will need to prove himself in the top division before he is to be considered for a place in the squad.
Recommended Picks: Glen Johnson (Liverpool) and Gary Neville (Manchester United)
As much as we may dislike Ashley Cole, he is one of the few truly world-class players that England possesses.
Whether it is because of his move to Chelsea (which was not about the money, promise), antics in his personal life, or simply out of jealousy over his marriage to Cheryl Tweedy, he is one of the least popular players in the country.
However, his quality on the pitch is undoubted, and he was one of the few players to emerge from the World Cup with any credit.
Stephen Warnock and Leighton Baines were the two players fighting for the second spot in the squad for South Africa, after Wayne Bridge announced his retirement from international football after the John Terry affair.
Although Baines looked in pole position to go to South Africa, a questionable performance against Mexico in the friendly and an admission of home-sickness problems led to Warnock getting the call.
Kieran Gibbs has just received his first call-up to the international squad. After a couple of promising appearance last season, injury wrecked his hopes of making a late bid for the squad, but at the age of only 20, age is on his side.
Ashley Cole is a definite choice and one of the first names on the team-sheet. Kieran Gibbs is one to watch for the future, but with only 11 league appearances for Arsenal, it seems a little early to be throwing him into the squad.
Either Warnock or Baines deserves more of a chance, as they have proved themselves to be very good Premiership players in recent years.
Recommended Picks: Ashley Cole (Chelsea) and Leighton Baines (Everton)
There is plenty of debate concerning the centre of the England defence. This time last year, people were talking about the partnership of John Terry and Rio Ferdinand as being one of the best in international football.
Backed up by the reliable Matthew Upson, it seemed this was not a problem.
However, fast forward twelve months and it is a position of major worry. John Terry had a very poor World Cup, and his form had begun to drop even before then, following the revelations about his private life.
Rio Ferdinand was barely able to string a run of games together last season following a series of injuries, eventually missing the World Cup altogether.
Matthew Upson's reputation has hardly been enhanced by a distinctly average season.
This leaves problems at the back. Two men that should be given the chance to make the step-up are Phil Jagielka and Michael Dawson.
Jagielka was unfortunate to miss much of last season following a long-term injury suffered ahead of the 2009 FA Cup Final.
However, his performances before and since that injury have been excellent, and his form has prompted interest from Arsenal.
Michael Dawson has been tipped for the top for many years without really fulfilling his potential.
However, his form last season was impressive, winning the captaincy of Tottenham, as well as being named their player of the year. Carlos Tevez even called him the best English defender.
Gary Cahill has developed rapidly since joining Bolton from Aston Villa. Interest from Arsenal has been forthcoming, but he has remained at Bolton for now. He also has a useful knack of getting goals from his position.
Ryan Shawcross, Ledley King, and Matthew Upson would rank among the other options, but King and Upson have had their opportunities and have hardly shone. Rio Ferdinand is still injured and misses out on this squad.
Recommended Picks: Michael Dawson (Tottenham), Phil Jagielka (Everton), Gary Cahill (Bolton) and Ryan Shawcross (Stoke)
Although blessed with a number of right wingers, none of them have really seized their opportunity to cement their place in the England team since the demise of David Beckham.
Aaron Lennon, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Theo Walcott and Ashley Young have all played in that position.
Aaron Lennon had an excellent season for Tottenham last season, improving his final ball, which has often been a criticism of the winger.
He forced his way into the England team, although has been surprisingly dropped for the friendly with Hungary.
Ashley Young was magnificent during the 2008/09 season, winning the Young Player of the Year award, and becoming the only player in history to be named Player of the Month 3 times during a single calendar year.
However, he has not had a reasonable chance to shine for England, being limited to a few substitute appearances. He has also shown himself to be able to play in a free role just behind the striker.
The left-wing is a position that England have struggled with for many many years.
The likes of Emile Heskey, Joe Cole and Steven Gerrard have been played in that position, whilst natural winger Stewart Downing never really impressed.
Adam Johnson is the future of that position for England. Since signing for Manchester City in January, he proved himself to be one of the best wingers in the league, surprisingly missing out on a trip to South Africa.
Recommended Picks: Aaron Lennon (Tottenham), Ashley Young (Aston Villa), Adam Johnson (Manchester City) and Joe Cole (Liverpool)
Gareth Barry has made the holding midfield role his own over the past 24 months. However, he had a relatively poor second half of the season at Manchester City, and he was clearly not fit at the World Cup.
With the continued injury problems of Owen Hargreaves, there has been a perceived lack of competitors for this position.
Michael Carrick has had the opportunity without shining. However, the young trio of Lee Cattermole, Jack Rodwell, and Tom Huddlestone are emerging to provide a challenge.
Lee Cattermole is a physical tough-tackling midfielder, who does not make many friends on the pitch, but would add a bit of extra bite to the midfield.
Jack Rodwell has been a revelation over the past couple of seasons at Everton and looks set for a bright future in the game.
However, once Arteta and Fellaini are both fit, he may struggle to get regular first-team opportunities at Everton.
Tom Huddlestone is one of the best passers in the English game, as he has proved at Tottenham. Often criticised for a lack of mobility, he has the range of passing to create opportunities further up the pitch.
Scott Parker was the stand-out player for West Ham last season, and was a little unfortunate not to be given an opportunity to stake a claim for a place in South Africa.
Recommended Picks: Scott Parker (West Ham) and Tom Huddlestone (Tottenham)
One of the longest running debates concerning the England team is whether Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard can play together.
Many managers have tried, and many have failed. Two of the best midfielders in the world at club level, they have often failed to reach the same heights at international level.
They are both top-quality players and it would be difficult to leave them out. However, they cannot both play in the same team, and Capello should give up trying to build the team around the two, when it is clearly not possible.
James Milner had a magnificent season last season, winning the Young Player of the Year award.
He is set to complete a big-money move to Manchester City, but whether he will get the required first-team action there to continue his developed is questionable.
Jack Wilshere is one of the most promising young players in England. His time will undoubtedly come, but he is only 18, and needs to play more regular first-team football to prove himself.
Recommended Picks: Steven Gerrard (Liverpool) and Frank Lampard (Chelsea)
Wayne Rooney, despite a poor World Cup, is still a world-class striker. He has the ability to do things that many other players could only dream about, and finally proved himself as a top goalscorer last season as well.
However, his partner has proved difficult to find. The much-maligned Emile Heskey has retired from international football, whilst Michael Owen will need to secure regular first-team football and impress in order to have an opportunity to close in on Bobby Charlton's all-time goalscoring record for England.
Jermain Defoe was the only England striker to score in South Africa, but has failed to make the squad for the Hungary friendly.
Darren Bent has scored regularly throughout his career at club-level, but has been overlooked at international level. Whether he could score regularly at that level is still to be seen.
Carlton Cole and Bobby Zamora have both gained call-ups on the back of good seasons, but they will have to prove that they are not just one-season wonders.
Zamora has never shown in the past that he is international level, whilst Carlton Cole has regularly been on the verge of the squad without showing he is ready to make the step-up.
Peter Crouch has an excellent scoring record at international level and is a surprise omission from the latest squad.
There are not many other alternatives beyond Gabriel Agbonlahor.
Recommended Picks: Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Peter Crouch (Tottenham), Gabriel Agbonlahor (Aston Villa) and Darren Bent (Sunderland)
So, that is 23 players picked for the squad so far. However, generally, we see a 26-man squad for most competitive internationals, leaving three more spots available.
James Milner fills the first spot. One of the only impressive players for England in South Africa, he was in excellent form last season, and can cover on the wing, in the centre of midfield and at right-back if the need arises.
Theo Walcott is another obvious pick. The shock omission for South Africa, he has incredible pace, but needs to work on his final product.
If he can get regular first-team football at Arsenal, he should develop rapidly into a dangerous player for club and country.
The final pick is somewhat of a surprise. Jack Wilshere has impressed for Bolton at the end of last season, and at Arsenal in pre-season.
He is already one of the most technically gifted players in England, and has the potential to be a truly world-class player.
So, the final squad of 26 players looks as follows:
Goalkeepers: Joe Hart (Manchester City), Ben Foster (Birmingham) and Steve Harper (Newcastle)
Defenders: Glen Johnson (Liverpool), Gary Neville (Manchester United), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), Leighton Baines (Everton), Michael Dawson (Tottenham), Phil Jagielka (Everton), Gary Cahill (Bolton) and Ryan Shawcross (Stoke)
Midfielders: Scott Parker (West Ham), Tom Huddlestone (Tottenham), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Aaron Lennon (Tottenham), Ashley Young (Aston Villa), Adam Johnson (Manchester City), Joe Cole (Liverpool), James Milner (Aston Villa), Theo Walcott (Arsenal) and Jack Wilshere (Arsenal)
Strikers: Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Peter Crouch (Tottenham), Darren Bent (Sunderland) and Gabriel Agbonlahor (Aston Villa)
This leads to a starting XI as follows in a 4-2-3-1 formation:
Joe Hart, Glen Johnson, Phil Jagielka, Michael Dawson, Ashley Cole, Tom Huddlestone, Steven Gerrard (c), Theo Walcott, Ashley Young, Adam Johnson, Wayne Rooney
This team has a solid defence, whilst the pairing of Huddlestone and Gerrard will have the opportunity to dictate the play from a deeper midfield role.
The two players in this position would also help to provide a shield for the back four.
The attacking trio of Johnson, Walcott and Young has incredible pace and trickery: two attributes that defenders hate to play against. They all enjoy running with the ball and getting into the penalty area, which would provide support for Wayne Rooney up front.
Rooney has the ability to hold the ball up, or create something either for himself or one of the other attacking players.