Wayne Rooney and 15 Others Who Must Step Up to Lead England to Euro 2012 Glory
Manchester United and England striker Wayne Rooney has been in the news for all the wrong reasons lately. With his contract at Old Trafford settled, Rooney can now put his full concentration back on the football pitch.
Rooney has been in the middle of some of the worst form of his career, but he is one of the best strikers in the world when he is in good form, and is the biggest threat both Manchester United and England have.
The popular saying in England is "the best 11 players don't make the best team." The so called "Golden Generation" of English football players has failed to win anything in international football and the English fans have now grown tired of them.
The team hit rock bottom when they failed to qualify for Euro 2008. The English FA hired Italian manager Fabio Capello for the 2010 World Cup. After going into the 2010 World Cup in South Africa with high expectations, the team again fell on its face.
England is looking for a strong recovery and is looking to get their fans back behind their backs. The only way to do this will be to have a strong showing at Euro 2012.
The biggest burden of pressure will once again fall on the shoulders of Wayne Rooney, but it is not a one person job. Here are 15 others who will have to step up to lead England to Euro 2012 glory.
Wayne Rooney is usually the most valuable player for any team he plays for. Don't believe me? During the Rooney and Ronaldo era at Old Trafford Manchester United won 65 percent of the matches they played in when Cristiano Ronaldo did not start.
When Rooney didn't start that number dropped to 56 percent. During the 2007/08 season that saw them win both the Premier League and Champions League, United never won their first match after a Rooney injury.
The same goes for England, when Rooney goes, England goes.
For those that have watched Wayne Rooney's career closely, he has now played long enough that we know exactly what he is. He is a streaky striker. When he is on form, he goes through runs where he scores goals at an alarming rate, when he isn't on form, he goes through long periods of dryness where he can't seem to find the back of the net.
Often these periods coincide with periods of injury for Rooney, especially for England, when he missed the start of the 2006 World Cup with a foot injury, and was slowed by an ankle injury in South Africa.
Rooney is the best striker England has to offer, and really the only one who puts fear into opposing teams. While Rooney desperately needs to find his form this season, that will come. England though, needs to hope that when Euro 2012 roles around, they have a healthy Wayne Rooney, who is in the middle of a great goal scoring run.
15. Rio Ferdinand
England captain Rio Ferdinand missed the 2010 World Cup after a training ground injury when he collided with striker Emile Heskey. Over the last two years Ferdinand has missed several matches for both club and country due to various injuries.
Ferdinand is still dealing with an ailing back and many writers have begun calling for the defender to retire from England to allow him to concentrate solely on Manchester United.
Ferdinand has said he will not retire from England, but unfortunately, in the best interests of England the time has come.
Right now a healthy Ferdinand is still one of the best options England has. Therefore if he is available he will continue to be selected by manager Fabio Capello.
By 2012 top choice England center backs Ferdinand and John Terry will be old and will leave England with a big problem in the middle due to lack of pace. The two will simply be too old to compete with Europe's best in the summer of 2012.
For England to have the most success, Ferdinand needs to step up, by stepping down and retiring now, allowing younger players to step in and gain international experience during qualifying ahead of Euro 2012.
14. Ashley Cole
Many people consider Ashley Cole to be the best left back in the world. While Cole will be 31 by the time Euro 2012 comes around, England have no new left back on the horizon.
Cole has been possibly the only bright spot on the England back line in recent times, and he will need to continue that.
Cole is still playing at a very high level for both Chelsea and England. With no English left back establishing himself as a competitor for the left back slot, Cole is England's guy.
Despite England trying to get younger, barring injury Cole will be the starting left back for England in 2012. While usually you don't need to hope for anything from Ashley Cole because you know what he will give you, the reality is Cole will be getting old when the tournament kicks off.
England is going to need Ashley Cole to work hard to retain the form he has shown all through is career, and not show signs of age during the tournament.
13. Joleon Lescott
Joleon Lescott burst onto the scene following a move from Wolves to Everton. The defender established himself as a high quality defender at Goodison Park and put his name into the England mix.
However since making a big money move to Manchester City at the beginning of the 2009 campaign, Lescott has seen his performance dip for both club and country.
Lescott was being counted on by England to be a potential long term replacement for Rio Ferdinand in central defense. Since moving away from Everton, Lescott's name has been heard less and less.
Lescott's time at Eastlands has been marred by constant injury and poor play. Many agree that he has failed to live up to the large sum of money that City paid to pry him away from Everton.
The injuries and poor play have taken their toll for England as well, as Lescott's call ups to the international team have become few and far between.
Lescott needs to stay off the training table and regain the form he showed at Everton. If he can do this, he can become a very valuable asset for England in the immediate future.
12. Ben Foster
Ben Foster's career has been defined by lack of opportunities and inconsistent play. Many people thought, that if given the chance to play at Manchester United, he would end up being England's No. 1 goalkeeper for the 2010 World Cup.
Foster got his chance to be the No. 1 at Old Trafford at the start of the 2009 season when current No. 1 Edwin Van Der Sar was out injured. Unfortunately, Foster made several mistakes that saw him get relegated back to the bench. He was rarely given a chance after that, costing him a shot at the World Cup.
Foster has now moved to Birmingham City where he is the first choice keeper. He now has the chance to play himself back into England consideration.
England should be counting their blessings after Foster's move, since the goalkeeper spot remains a constant question. You can't go into Euro 2012 with just one goalkeeper and it is still unclear who else the Three Lions can take.
David James was already too old for South Africa but he still went. Robert Green may have played himself out of England contention forever.
The doors are all open for Foster to step in and claim a permanent spot in the English side. Capello has given him several looks already and is sure to give him some more. What England needs is for Foster realize his potential, and play at that level consistently.
11. The Tottenham Strikers: Peter Crouch and Jermaine Defoe
Perhaps the greatest looking awkward best friend/striking duo ever in the history of football. Crouch and Defoe are teammates for both England and Tottenham Hotspur.
Crouch moved back to Spurs before the 2009 season and formed a great partnership with Defoe. Together the two of them led Spurs to a fourth place finish and a spot in the Champions League.
Though the two had great success, they have both found it difficult to replicate that success at the international level. Many critics have spoken on how Defoe has only found the net against weaker teams, both at club and international level, and against World Cup caliber teams he has struggled.
Crouch has had more international success then Defoe but has still struggled to form a fearful partnership with Wayne Rooney.
Wayne Rooney is the first choice striker for England, so it is up to someone else to step up and form a partnership with him.
Both Crouch and Defoe have different strengths to complement Rooney, but both need to show their best displays more often.
For Euro 2012 England will need one of these two strikers to step in and distinguish themselves as a great attacking partner with Rooney.
10. Phil Jagielka
Another stalwart from Goodison Park, Jagielka has become a tremendous defender for Everton. He has risen through the ranks with England, starting with the under-21 team and has played for the "B" team as well.
Jagielka got his first senior call ups following the 2008 Premier League season. However the past two years have seen Jagielka be sidelined with major injuries.
While he was not included in the England team that went to South Africa, Jagielka has been included in every team since the World Cup.
Jagielka has had some mixed performances in international football recently, but he has drawn praise from the England manager. Jagielka's play has now earned him a spot on the list of player who will receive call ups for every match if they are healthy.
England are relying on Jagielka to keep playing and keep improving. With Jagielka's play on the rise, and older players John Terry and Rio Ferdinand showing signs of age, there is a strong chance England will be calling on Phil Jagielka to be the anchor of their defense in Euro 2012.
9. Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard
They are the two most controversial players for English football fans. They could both very well be the two best central midfield players in England football history.
If you were to compile a list of the best midfielders to ever play in the Premier League, it is very reasonable to expect both of them to be among the top three players. But the two of them cannot seem to play together on the same field and they constantly draw the ire of English football fans.
Steven Gerrard was hated because he could not create the magic for England that he created for Liverpool. He seemed to capture their hearts when he scored against the United States in the World Cup, but was back in the doghouse when he was the captain who led England to their poor finish.
By the end of the Steve McLaren era, Lampard was being boo'd off the pitch and fans never wanted to see him in the team again.
In came Fabio Capello and at first he seemed to fix that problem. Since they both loved to attack, it was unrealistic to keep them both in center midfield, as it would leave the back exposed. Capello deployed on of them, usually Gerrard down the left side, allowing him to attack and Lampard to attack from the middle. It seemed to be the tactics that worked best, until it stopped working in the World Cup.
By Euro 2012 these players will be past their primes. A holding midfielder always needs to be in the England team, that player is usually Gareth Barry, but could be Michael Carrick and possibly even Owen Hargreaves if he ever returns from injury. But England can no longer afford to play both Gerrard and Lampard at the same time.
Egotistically, they both feel the problem can be worked out, and they both feel that they should still be playing all the time. But England needs two players on the wing who are both actually wing players.
For England to achieve the most success in Euro 2012 they will need both Gerrard and Lampard to accept the fact that only one of them can play at a time, and that the other one will have to be on the bench. If they both keep demanding that they both be on the field, England's problems, and lack of wins, will continue.
8. Darren Bent
He may be England's most in-form striker and many people found it outrageous that Bent was left out of the team that went to South Africa following a season where he scored 25 goals for Sunderland.
Bent has made his way through the England ranks as he has played for the under-16, under-17, under-19, and under-21 teams as well as the senior side.
Bent scored his first senior international goal for England during a Euro 2012 qualifier against Switzerland in September. Aside from his international goal, Bent has kept up his great goal scoring form for Sunderland this season.
No other England striker is scoring at the rate that Bent is scoring for his club, and many of them have a better supporting cast around them.
Once again it comes down to how well Bent can form a partnership with Wayne Rooney. If the two can prove to be able to work together, England can have a very dominant attacking force if Rooney and Bent are on their goalscoring form.
7. Michael Dawson
Michael Dawson is very lucky. Dawson was the man who got the late trip to South Africa when captain Rio Ferdinand went down injured. Though he didn't play in the World Cup, the move showed that England has a lot of faith that Dawson would be the next long term central defender for England.
Dawson was given that chance to show what he could do in England's first Euro 2012 qualifier against Bulgaria. However Dawson fell awkwardly in the second half, injuring his knee. Initial fears were that he would be out for an extended period of time, but scans after the injury showed that the injury was not as serious as initially though.
His club team, Tottenham Hotspur, are hoping he could be back as early as November 2nd.
Missing a year could have cost Dawson a chance to establish himself as a top defender for England, as it would have taken him longer then a year to regain his form. Dawson will now have time to work his knee back to full strength, and give him a chance at rejoining England for the qualifiers at the start of 2011.
If Dawson can regain his form, and continue to improve, he can become good enough to be in England's starting XI even if Ferdinand and Terry are still there.
6. Shaun Wright-Phillips
England are hoping that Shaun Wright-Phillips can find consistency with his career. The winger started his career at Manchester City before making a big money move to Chelsea in July 2005. Wright-Phillips had an up and down career at Stamford Bridge, where he struggled to make first team appearances.
After falling out with manager Luis Scolari, Wright-Phillips moved back to Eastlands at the start of the 2008 season. However with the emergence of Adam Johnson, Wright-Phillips has once again found himself in and out of the team.
Wright-Phillips made his England debut in 2004. Since then he has scored five times in 29 appearances. Despite seeing regular action during qualifying for the 2006 World Cup, a dip in form caused Wright-Phillips to miss making the World Cup team.
With David Beckham moving on from English football, England have been looking for a replacement on the right wing. Compared to the other candidates, Wright-Phillips has the most experience in an England shirt.
When England made the decision to turn to younger players, many tipped Wright-Phillips to be the one to step in and nail down the right wing spot. So far his performances have been inconsistent, and he is once again in danger of losing his place.
England needs Wright-Phillips to step up, as to ensure that they have more then one option on each wing in case of injury.
5. Aaron Lennon
Many people have high expectations for Aaron Lennon. The Tottenham winger has become a major factor in Tottenham's rise up the table in the Premier League.
The speedy winger is also trying to earn his place in England's starting XI and many believe that he will eventually become the full time successor to David Beckham on the right wing.
In his early English career Lennon has shown good chemistry with his fellow Tottenham teammates, but has struggled to build chemistry with the other players.
While Lennon is capable of scoring goals, England needs him to become more of a goal scoring threat. Lennon has great pace, but he needs to be able to use both of his feet, so he doesn't just become a run down the right wing and put a cross into the middle type of player.
If Lennon improves his ability with both feet, he can become a dynamic threat that would make England very dangerous.
4. The Holding Midfielder:
It is very well known that Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard cannot play together in midfield. A holding midfielder needs to be used. Since the Steve McLaren era that player has been Gareth Barry.
Barry may not be one of the best 11 players on the England team, but when he plays it makes England a better team.
But what happens if Barry gets injured and cannot play, like the injury that almost forced him to miss the World Cup in South Africa. England needs more options.
Right now the only options England have is the Manchester United duo of Michael Carrick and Owen Hargreaves. Carrick has been a great midfielder since moving to United from Tottenham but lately he has fallen out of favor with United boss Sir Alex Ferguson.
Since then, his first team appearances have become much fewer.
Owen Hargreaves has always been a world class midfielder. The problem is he has barely played over the past two seasons due to injuries in both knees. Every time Hargreaves is set to make a comeback, he suffers yet another set back.
Whether Owen Hargreaves ever comes back and regains the form he once had is one of the biggest mysteries in international football. If he can't come back, right now England must hope that Gareth Barry remains fit.
3. Theo Walcott
Theo Walcott has one of the most unique and controversial careers in international football. When Walcott was 17 he was included in Sven Goran-Eriksson's 23-man World Cup team.
Despite being one of only two fully fit strikers on the team, Walcott did not play during the tournament. He has since taken up a new position on the wing, and is in competition to establish himself as a first choice winger.
When new manager Steve McLaren came in, McLaren sent him back to the under-21 team.
Walcott's international career has seen many ups and downs since then.
Under manager Fabio Capello, in March 2010 in a friendly match against Egypt, Walcott made his first international start in nine months. He was however, unimpressive and was replaced by Shaun Wright-Phillips after just 57 minutes. Walcott was then left off the World Cup team.
Walcott's last appearance for England saw him get stretchered off after just 10 minutes.
At the start of the 2010 Premier League season, Walcott got off to a very fast start for Arsenal. At 21 years old, Walcott may now be starting to realize his potential. He will only get better over the next two years, and he will be 23 when Euro 2012 comes around.
If Theo Walcott steps up over the next two years, England can have a serious chance at making a run for the championship.
2. Joe Hart
Joe Hart has the inside track on being England's number one goalkeeper for Euro 2012, despite having made only six career international appearances.
Hart was on the 23-man squad that went to South Africa, and despite many writers and fans thinking he was the best keeper England had on the squad, manager Fabio Capello chose Robert Green for the first match, and David James for the next three, leaving Hart out each time.
Hart played the 2009/10 Premier League season on loan at Birmingham City. While there, he was named the Premier League's top goalkeeper for the season.
When Hart returned to Manchester City for the start of the 2010 season, he beat out Shay Given, the man who had forced Hart to go out on loan, for the number one goalkeeping job.
Since the World Cup, Hart has been the starting goalkeeper in every England match. As Hart continues to play, he has continued to improve.
If Hart can continue to improve at this rate, he has the ability to become a world class goalkeeper, and give England the long-term stability at goalkeeper that they have been looking for.
1. Adam Johnson
Adam Johnson became a late contender to make England's 2010 World Cup team. After making a January transfer from Middlesborough to Manchester City, Johnson began gaining national exposure.
Johnson managed to crack the preliminary 30 man squad, but was ultimately left off the plane to South Africa.
Johnson made his England debut in May, when he came on as a substitute against Mexico at Wembley. Following the World Cup Johnson has started to establish himself as a force. He has scored twice already in Euro 2012 qualifiers.
Johnson can play on either wing, making him a valuable option for England. Furthermore he is proving to be a good exciting young player.
With fans starting to grow tired of England's "Golden Generation" failing to win, many feel that it is time for England to move towards new younger players and give the team a new identity. Adam Johnson is the player that these fans have had in mind.
Adam Johnson is quickly becoming a dangerous winger. If he continues to improve it is reasonable to say that by Euro 2012 he will be England's second best player, behind Wayne Rooney.
If England want to have success at Euro 2012 the most important player that they need to step up over the next two years is winger Adam Johnson.
Of this group Wilshire has the best chance of making an impact for England at Euro 2012. Wilshere was sent on loan to Bolton in January of 2010 where he got regular first team football.
England manager Fabio Capello hinted that Wilshere could be included in his World Cup team but that was a mere pipe dream. Wilshere made his England debut as a substitute during a friendly against Hungary in August.
Since returning to Arsenal for the start of the 2010 season, Wilshere has been given regular first team football. As he keeps improving he could become the box-to-box center midfielder that England so desperately craves.
Many people expect the 19-year-old midfielder from Everton to bloom into a star. He has already been linked with transfer rumors to Manchester United among other clubs. Rodwell has arleady shown an instinct for the big moment, when he came on as a substitute to score against United in Everton's win over the club last season.
Internationally Rodwell has captained England's under-16 side to a Victory Shield win in 2006. He stared playing for the under-21 squad when he was 18 years old.
Rodwell's early career has been marred by injury, which will make it very difficult for him to be considered for the Euro 2012 team. But if he continues his improvement, many people expect him to become the permanent defensive midfielder for England by the 2014 World Cup.
Cleverley spent the 2009/10 season on loan at Watford where he claimed Watford's player of the year honors. He returned to his parent club Manchester United for their summer tour and was very impressive scoring two goals in four games. He has since been loaned out again to Wigan with the promise of being given regular first team football.
Cleverley has appeared for both England's under-20 team and under-21 team. As a player who could play anywhere in the midfield, if he can build on the form he showed over the summer, Cleverley could play his way into late England contention as a valuable asset.