Hodgson Must Pair Rooney and Sturridge for England, with Barkley in Midfield

Glenn HoddleFeatured ColumnistOctober 7, 2013

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England have yet to beat Ukraine, Montenegro or Poland in their World Cup group, but if Roy Hodgson wants to take the nation to Brazil, now is the time to start taking down the contenders.

Things are set up nicely for England with two Wembley ties against Montenegro and Poland. But England have to go for it.

Daniel Sturridge and Wayne Rooney must lead the England line, and I’d also give a full competitive debut to Everton’s outstanding prospect Ross Barkley.

How Hoddle's England Would Line Up
How Hoddle's England Would Line Up

I'd like to see Jack Wilshere and Barkley take control of England’s central midfield, with captain Steven Gerrard sitting behind them, protecting the defence. I'd give Barkley his opportunity. These might be vital World Cup matches with our qualification at stake, but we are at home at Wembley and we should trust young legs.

It would be quite an exciting prospect—Wilshere and Barkley together in central midfield. Barkley has good movement and has ability, and it's time to bring on our young talent whenever we can.

I would use Ashley Cole and Kyle Walker as wing-backs, with three centre halves, Michael Dawson, Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka. Roy Hodgson prefers the stable diet of 4-4-2, with Rooney giving that flexibility when he drops deep. Either way, we have to go for it with two main strikers. 

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 29:  Daniel Sturridge of England in action during the International Friendly match between England and the Republic of Ireland at Wembley Stadium on May 29, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)
Scott Heavey/Getty Images

Sturridge and Rooney are far and away the top two candidates. Rooney is able to drop deep into midfield when necessary. I’ve been saying for some time that Sturridge has the ability, but he’s now realised something had to change in his game or his personality to facilitate that step forward.

The goal Luis Suarez scored against Sunderland wouldn’t have happened a year ago if Sturridge went for the goal himself. But he looked up and picked out Suarez. He has realised his weaknesses and has worked to eradicate them, becoming a far better player as a consequence.

Rooney is focused on what he does best—scoring and creating goals—just in time to push England across the line and qualify for the Word Cup Finals in Brazil. I am sure he will do good for his country, but first he had to overcome big issues with his club. 

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 03:  England manager Roy Hodgson speaks during a press conference following the announcement of the England U21 and Senior squads at Wembley Stadium on October 3, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Harry Engels/Getty Images)
Harry Engels/Getty Images

Rooney was captain in Manchester United’s last game, and he will be the first name on Hodgson's England team sheet. He needs to be trusted and cannot play his very best unless he is.

As for Hodgson, he got a lot of stick for the way England played in Ukraine, but I was delighted that we navigated a draw, which has put England back in the driving seat for the final two Wembley ties. Ask a Formula One driver where he would want to be before a race, and his answer would be in the pole position.

If they come unstuck they will only have themselves to blame.

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