I’m an American, but only the most self-deluded fans here think we’re going to be a world power in the near future…though if Altidore progresses like he can, and we find a left back who doesn’t absolutely suck and we play like we did against Mexico in the Gold Cup, and we get a few lucky breaks…
Anyway, my point is, that I spend most of my time on the international level rooting for England. I like their players and I like the country. And since winning Euro 2008 looks like a lost cause (and if it forces the FA to drastically rethink how they approach the national team, it’ll be worth it), it’s never too early to start thinking about the World Cup in South Africa.
So, I’d like to share with you what I hope the Three Lions will look like in 2010:
Richards Terry Ferdinand Baines
Walcott Gerrard Hargreaves Young
Subs: Carson, Lampard, Barry, Lescott, Derbyshire, Lennon
Rest of Squad: Andy Johnson, Crouch, Agbonlahor, Carrick, Woodgate, Steven Taylor, Downing, Bentley/J. Cole, Shorey/Ashley Cole, SWP
Now let me try to address what I think are the most obvious questions about this team:
Lampard on the bench? I think most people should understand this one, but I’ll explain it anyway. It’s not that he’s not good enough for England, just that he’s not as good as Steven Gerrard. Think about it this way: if we had Cech and Buffon, even though you could make a strong argument that they would be our two best players, we couldn’t play both in goal, and we wouldn’t play Cech at center-half just to get him on the field. In the same way, we can’t play two attacking central midfielders, and if you’re going to play one of them as a holding player, you might as well play Hargreaves instead because he does that job better. Not to mention that Lamps will be 32 (I think) by then, and who knows how good he’ll still be. His primary purpose in this team will be to come on when we’re chasing a game and fill in for Stevie-G if he gets injured.
Walcott on the wing? This is probably my most controversial pick. I think Walcott has as much potential as any English player other than Rooney, so my hope is that he reaches a lot of that potential by 2010. I know, long term, his best position may be as a second striker type, but there’s no way he can play up front with Rooney. So the wing it is. And if he’s not good enough by then, both Lennon and Agbonlahor will be.
Baines at Left Back? There are a lot of choices here. None of them are great, and none of them are bad. Ultimately, my thinking came down to this: I think Cole will have lost a step, Baines is significantly younger and basically already as good as Shorey, and I’d like Lescott on the bench because of his versatility.
Bent is the best we can do? Yes, I think he is. Of the English strikers who have the necessary characteristics to partner Rooney (i.e. can play as a target man), I think he is the best today and also has the most potential. That’s with apologies to Matt Derbyshire, who I think will be great but is more suited to changing a game by coming on as a sub.
Carrick isn’t even a sub? I had a hard time leaving him off because I think he’s very good (the Germany game notwithstanding), but we can’t have two players who only play central midfield on the sub’s bench. Barry can play the holding role and also LB and LM.
Will Terry still be good enough in his early 30s? Who knows? To be honest, he’s not that great for England now. But he’s a leader, I’ll give him that. He will probably still deserve a place in the team, and if not, Woodgate or Lescott (who I think is excellent) can take over.
Now, the BIG question:
Will this team play any defense?
Walcott and Ashley Young are as much forwards as they are midfielders, and Steven Gerrard is an attacking midfielder who thrives when playing without many defensive responsibilities. That being said, I still think it will work. Our back four are good, Gerrard does track back, Young and Walcott play in midfield for their club teams, and you can drop Rooney even with the wingers so he’s almost another midfielder. It can work. And since when has an England team ever been too exciting and attack-minded?
At worst, they’ll be whole lot more fun to root for than our current squad.