Now as a passionate Welshman you may think that it’s rather pointless for me to be writing about the World Cup and who I would take if I was England manager, after all Wales have never been to a World Cup in my lifetime and of course we are all supposed to seriously dislike the English.
I have a secret though, ever since I watched Gazza in Italia 90 I have been a closet England football fan. I have always wanted them to do well at big tournaments and it’s a real shame they have not gone on to win anything since 1966.
This particular tournament comes along when I am very close to wiping my hands with England though. They play dour football. There is no spark and I feel that they could struggle to qualify from their group.
I put the blame for that squarely at the feet of Roy Hodgson. Roy almost ruined my beloved Liverpool and he is the boss of one of the biggest footballing nations in the World. Just like David Moyes at Manchester United it’s been debated whether or not he has ever done anything to deserve that role, but just like Moyes he has the job, so I wish him all the best, almost.
What I am going to do is pretend to be England Manager for a while and I am going to pick my 23 man squad. This will probably vary wildly from what Roy will choose for his side that goes out there in those new England shirts but here we go….
The aim is to pick the first XI for the first game of the tournament against X and then fill the squad.
Goalkeeper: Joe Hart
Right Back: Nathaniel Clyne
RCB: Steven Caulker
LCB: Gary Cahill
Left Back: Luke Shaw
DM: Steven Gerrard (capt)
CM: Jordan Henderson
CM: Jack Wilshere
RF: Raheem Sterling
CF: Daniel Sturridge
LF: Jay Rodriguez
Reserve GK: Fraser Forster, Jack Butland
Defenders: Leighton Baines, Glen Johnson, Phil Jones
Midfielders: Michael Carrick, James Ward-Prowse, Ross Barkley, Adam Lallana, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain
Forwards: Wayne Rooney, Rickie Lambert
There will be plenty of you reading this who will pick out the 1 or 2 more controversial selections and immediately stop reading. However, those choices have been made to make the team a whole lot more effective. Take Wayne Rooney for example. He is not the best English striker in the Barclays Premier League. That’s a fact.
Daniel Sturrige has out scored him this season with 20 compared to Rooney’s 15. Sturridge is also averaging a goal every 96 minutes, compared to Rooney’s 151 minutes. Finally, Sturridge also has a higher chance conversion rate of 27% to Rooney’s 20%.
Rooney doesn’t play as the main striker at Manchester United so why would you build your team around him as your main striker at international level? It’s crazy.
I won’t just try to fit him into the side, especially when there are at least 2 better options to play on either flank.
Raheem Sterling has been exceptional for Liverpool this season, he has 6 assists and has created 8 clear cut chances so far. Raheem creates a chance every 48 minutes on average.
As has Jay Rodriquez. He plays in a 4-3-3 and can play all along the front line, his performances have been excellent for Saints and he has racked up 15 league goals, 3 assists and create 8 clear cut chances also.
The midfield really picks itself. Jordan Henderson and Steven Gerrard have been fantastic for Liverpool with 16 assists between the pair of them this season not to mention the 15 goals they have netted.
It’s not just in attack that they have excelled, Gerrard has a 71% tackle success rate and has made 42 interceptions. Henderson has a 72% tackle success rate to go with his 34 interception. They are the glue that hold the Liverpool midfield together. Add Jack Wilshere to that and although injured right now, does bring something slightly different to the table and can over balance to the midfield area.
Perhaps Ross Barkley could consider himself unlucky but for me, to get him in the starting X1 means a change of formation slightly and I think this is best balance for my side.
The whole of the back 4 get the nod for me, not just for this tournament but for the next 2 at least. All four have had excellent seasons to date, Gary Cahill at Chelsea has been imperious at the back for Chelsea, making himself the No 1 Centre back at the club. With 13 clean sheets and zero defensive errors he goes into the World Cup in form and very confident. Steven Caulker, although playing for a side in relegation trouble has performed admirably, with 6 clean sheets and a 70% winning rate on his ground duals he has been Cardiff City’s best player this season. Even more impressive is his zero defensive error count.
The full backs were arguably the most difficult area to choose from, however for me Glen Johnson is lucky to get on the plane. He has been poor for Liverpool this season overall and just gets a ticket due to his experience. Nathaniel Clyne has done very well for Saints this season for me and offers plenty in both defence and attack.
Luke Shaw is the best prospect in English football for me, he has excelled this season and he should really have more than just the 1 England cap.
It’s harsh on Leighton Baines who has had another excellent season at Everton, But Shaw has more clean sheets to his name, 10 to Baines’ 9 a higher tackle success rate of 82% to Baines’ 80 and Shaw has not made any defensive errors.
It’s a tough call but as the Gaffer it’s one I’m happy to make.
So that’s my team for X and the Squad that I would take to Brazil.
I think it covers all bases, Experience, Youthful exuberance, Options, Pace and Ability.
Who would you take?