By Danny Caro
October 15, 2009
There are little under eight months until the first ball is kicked at the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa.
With a near-perfect record to boast from their qualifying campaign, the England manager has plenty of time to fine-tune their squad.
There are some shoe-ins, such as captain John Terry, Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney, some probables and also some possibles.
Manager Fabio Capello has turned an under-achieving group into a bunch of world-beaters.
At the highest level of sport, only fine margins separate the winners from the rest.
My final 23 contains seven defenders and nine midfielders. Most managers go with eight of each but versatility is the name of the game in my squad with the likes of Joleon Lescott, Gareth Barry, James Milner and Theo Walcott capable of playing in more than one position.
Traditionally, England’s hopes are hit by suspension or injury to one or two key men so I’ve packed my squad with free-scoring midfielders who can do a job regardless of if the team goes with plan A, B or even C.
Critics say you cannot take Heskey and Crouch, but I disagree. Strongly. Heskey and Rooney works well but to ignore a man, a very tall one at that, who has a happy knack of finding the net would be plain foolish. Imagine if Sir Alf Ramsey hadn’t named Geoff Hurst in his squad back in 66?
The big Beckham debate rumbles on but last night he reminded everyone just how important a killer final ball can be. Granted, it may be a luxury addition but his experience and ability to perform on the big stage make him an automatic choice for me.
There are arguably no jokers in my pack such as a Michael Owen or a non-playing teenager but I’ve included Bolton’s Gary Cahill on the back of some excellent displays. I’d like to see him given a chance during the four friendlies between now and next June.
If I had to pick a squad today, then this would be it. I wonder how close it will come to Capello’s final 23.
GK – David James, Robert Green, Joe Hart (3)
Defenders – John Terry (capt), Rio Ferdinand, Glen Johnson, Ashley Cole, Joleon Lescott, Gary Cahill, Phil Jagielka (7)
Midfielders – Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Gareth Barry, David Beckham, Michael Carrick, Theo Walcott, Aaron Lennon, Joe Cole, James Milner (9)
Strikers – Wayne Rooney, Jermain Defoe, Emile Heskey, Peter Crouch (4)