On Monday, the England squad for Euro 2016 will finally be announced.
Roy Hodgson delayed it from last week, presumably in case any more strikers get knee injuries which require months out just before a major tournament, although given Welbeck has already gone this seems less likely.
There have already been the usual multitude of predictions and 'leaks' (not really leaks, just bored types messing around), and here I am to add mine to the mix. By the time you read this the real squad chosen by those who matter may already have been selected, but that certainly isn't going to stop me.
Goalkeepers - Hart, Forster, Heaton (Reserve: Pickford)
With Jack Butland injured and Ben Foster off the scene, England's keeping options are slim enough to pick themselves. Tom Heaton gets the coveted third keeper slot for a fine season at Championship winners Burnley and it will be good for him to get a crack in the Premier League again, and I would take Sunderland youngster and U21 first choice Jordan Pickford as the reserve in the 30-man squad for experience, ahead of John Ruddy.
Right backs - Walker, Clyne
Two good quality options here, and I would have Kyle Walker as my first choice, he as developed exceptionally well in the last two years and is as solid going forward as going back, with the latter still a worry for the more fragile Nathaniel Clyne.
Left backs - Rose, Bertrand (Reserve: Shaw)
Sharpen your pitchforks Hammers, Aaron Cresswell isn't in my top three English left backs, and neither is the overripe Leighton Baines. From what was a humongous pack some months ago, Danny Rose has streaked ahead as a clear favourite for the first XI, with Ryan Bertrand as an able deputy. Luke Shaw gets the reserve place, if fit, by being a better player than Cresswell. Sorry Slaven.
Centre backs - Smalling, Stones, Cahill (Reserve: Shawcross)
With the calamity Phils - Jagielka and Jones - unpickable on past England and recent league form, these are England's four best centre backs. Scary, isn't it? It's hardly the Terry, Ferdinand, Campbell quandary of 2004. My first choice pairing would be Chris Smalling and John Stones, although Gary Cahill will certainly start.
Midfielders - Dier, Alli, Milner, Drinkwater, Lallana, Henderson, Noble (Reserves: Wilshere, Barkley)
I'm going on the basis of England playing 4-3-3, the formation they have looked most threatening with in the recent past. Eric Dier and Dele Alli pick themselves (who would have said that last summer?), James Milner is better than his many detractors would like you to think and Danny Drinkwater has more than earned a spot. Adam Lallana is unrecognisable under Klopp, revitalised from the passenger he was in the early campaign, and while Jordan Henderson should not start, I would take him if we need shoring up with a narrow lead in the latter stages (a big if). Then, the wild card pick. Mark Noble has been, at times this season, the best English midfielder in the league. He is like Kevin Nolan, only far more technically adept, and really Nolan deserved an England call up in his pomp. The fact also remains that Jack Wilshere has been injured for too long, and Ross Barkley has had a terrible campaign, utterly underwhelming at Everton. You can put away those pitchforks you 'Ammers, Noble gets my nod.
Strikers - Rooney, Kane, Vardy, Sturridge, Sterling, Carroll (Reserves: Defoe, Deeney)
Of course Wayne Rooney should go. Don't be so silly. I would play him in the 4-3-3 in behind Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy, so he can happily roam between scything tackles in the midfield and playing slightly overhit through balls to the strikers who might actually score goals. It would be worth it for the moment of quality that surely has to come in a major tournament. And the penalties. Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling off the bench is quality most countries would kill for, while Andy Carroll can take Welbeck's newly vacant spot - I'm a sucker for the variety argument. Jermain Defoe is just edged out to the reserves, and Theo Walcott has been so poor for so long he will miss another squad as the uncapped Troy Deeney has had a better year.
So there you go. I would pick a team full of Spurs players and Andy Carroll. Read into that what you will.
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