Who Are the Stars of England’s Next Generation?
By Jason Mathias.
Following the abject displays of England at the World Cup, many have called for a complete overhaul of the squad, integrating younger players and forming the nucleus of the team for the next 10 years. The current squad of apparent failures is the oldest ever picked for a World Cup by an England manager, with an average age of a Zimmer frame-pending 28.7. For the likes of James, Terry, Ferdinand, Lampard and Gerrard, it was surely their last World Cup. And while it would be madness to abolish them from all squads from now on, it is the perfect time to start giving some youth a chance. Coming in with all these experienced players around now can only be beneficial to them.
England’s Under 21 team made the final of the European Championships last summer (before being thrashed by the Germans, of course) with Joe Hart and James Milner the only two to make the World Cup squad. And this year the Under 17s were crowned European champions after defeating Spain. So the talent must be there. But which of these kids can we expect to see making an impact in the coming years?
Jack Wilshere, 18 – Arsenal
Possibly the stand out of England’s youth at the moment, Wilshere was touted for a Walcott-like surprise call-up to the squad earlier in the season after impressing on loan at Bolton and during pre-season with Arsenal. He seems to have something most English footballers don’t – technique. He was name-checked by Fabio Capello this week as someone he is interested in.
Jack Rodwell, 19 – Everton
Rodwell was a regular in the Everton midfield last season and showed maturity beyond his years. Again shows good ability on the ball and has been touted for an eventual move to Manchester United as the successor to Rio Ferdinand.
Adam Johnson, 22 – Manchester City
Made it to the provisional World Cup squad and Capello may look back now and regret his decision to leave the tricky winger at home. His ability to surprise and beat his man may well have made a difference to England’s rigid play. As long as he manages to stay in the Manchester City team, he will surely be involved from now on.
Kieran Gibbs, 20 – Arsenal
The converted winger began to make strides in the Arsenal team last season when Gael Clichy was injured and was a starter in the Under 21s route to the final. He will be secretly hoping for more injuries to Clichy to give him a chance to get in the England squad, especially as quality back-up for Ashley Cole is severely lacking.
Phil Jones, 18 – Blackburn
Still very inexperienced, but Jones has by all accounts been very impressive in his 9 appearances for Blackburn so far, showing qualities that have led many to liken him to John Terry. This season will be big for him in seeing if he really has what it takes at Premier League level.
Chris Smalling, 20 – Manchester United
Signed by United this summer, the centre-back was both impressive and somewhat ropey for Fulham last season. Let’s hope he manages to deal with the pressure of being at United and fulfil the potential he must have for Sir Alex to take the plunge and buy him. Going from Non-League to Old Trafford in 3 years shows there is something there.
Connor Wickham, 17 – Ipswich
The big striker starred for the Under 17s, scoring the winning goal in the final and has already made an impact on the Championship, making him a target for many Premier League sides. Tags of the new Wayne Rooney have been following him around because of his powerful style.
Josh McEachran, 17 – Chelsea
The star of England’s Under 17 win, McEachran showed fantastic technique and passing ability and was also the standout of Chelsea’s Youth Cup victory. Don’t expect to hear much about him for a couple of years, but the early signs are promising.
So in addition to some of the younger members of the current England squad, what could the England team look like come Brazil in 2014? Here’s my guess (I am quite prepared for this to be completely wrong).
GK: Joe Hart
RB: Glen Johnson CB: Michael Dawson CB: Chris Smalling LB: Kieran Gibbs
RM: James Milner CM: Jack Rodwell CM: Tom Huddlestone LM: Adam Johnson
AM: Jack Wilshere
ST: Wayne Rooney (C)
What do you think? Is there anyone else you see as a star of the future? Let us know by leaving your comment below.
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