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Your Big Chance Is Coming, Roy - But You've Got to Get It Right This Time

24/03/2016 15:17 GMT | Updated 25/03/2017 09:12 GMT

Let's be honest, Woy, the pressure's on. The old backside may not be squeaking yet, but preparation time's running out. There's a couple of weeks and two final chances to check your deck before the summer crunch.

England are, with some bookies, fourth (FOURTH) favourites to win Euro 2016. And while the watching support and national media's expectations have tempered a little over the past few years - due to atrocious showings in major tournaments - England simply need to perform this summer. There's no excuse.

How do you define that then, the word perform? Winning the whole thing? Beating Germany at some point? For the love of God, winning a penalty shoot out? All three incidents simultaneously in some unholy cluster-muck reversal of all known footballing traditions? Sure, each would suffice.

But the priority should be to quite literally, do the nation proud. Show up, set a target, stick together, express yourselves, actually play football and see how far it takes you. The fact of the matter is that spirit and commitment can take you a long bloody way - you don't need to look too far west to notice that.

Wales, Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland earned their respective spots in the tournament through spirit, after all. Another example; an un-fancied Greece won this whole thing in 2004. It may not have been pretty, but talent doesn't always win out. It does help, mind you, if you are talented, and it's harnessed in the right way.

England are - by a country mile - the strongest of the home nations. They could learn a thing or two from the teams directly around them, but if this were a talent contest, England as a collective would probably (though only just) win out over Gareth Bale and his divine ponytail.

If this Premier League season has taught us anything, apart from letting us know that all predictions are worthless and wrong, it's that there are talented collections of English players playing alongside each other at a host of clubs. Most have youth on their side and a relative cut of experience.

Manchester United's new crop aren't quite ready to make the grade just yet. Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford are future England internationals, but have emerged too late on to come under consideration.

But Chris Smalling, a future United captain, has been the best English centre half in the country this season, and he's perfectly primed to marshall the back line. Wayne Rooney has shown at times this term that there's still life in the old dog yet, and as current skipper he'll play a crucial role.

Leicester pair Daniel Drinkwater and Jamie Vardy have earned their call ups to the national squad for the coming friendlies against Germany and the Netherlands, and the latter at least is nigh-on guaranteed a place on the plane to France. But it's at the Foxes' closest title rival where a new core of national hope can be taken.

Kyle Walker and Danny Rose are having the seasons of their lives at Tottenham, and while there's relative strength in depth at full back, each player has staked a strong claim to start the Euro 2016 opener on June 11. Eric Dier and Dele Alli - two vital cogs in the Spurs midfield this season - have done much the same.

There's a steadiness about Dier's game in his newly-found holding midfield role, and while rumour has it that Roy Hodgson will lump to stick Jack Wilshere in that position even if he's 20% fit and still in plaster, it's entirely best for the England boss to play the players in form. Not a lad - as talented as he may be - who is effectively made of glass and hasn't kicked a ball in anger since August. Not when there's other options in his pocket.

Alli has been nothing short of a revelation this season. His temperament may have already been called into question, but he's forged an understanding with Dier and a near-telepathic one with certain man in front of him, to wrestle Tottenham into a cast-iron title tilt.

That man in front, Harry Kane, simply has to stand as Hodgson's first-choice striker. For the two coming friendlies, and for the summer. The argument is of course there for Vardy, but Kane leads the Premier League's goalscoring charts, will work just as hard, and Vardy's characteristics make him better suited to that of impact player from the bench anyway. Imagine that fresh hunger chasing down a loose ball in the last five minutes of a finely balanced game.

For Roy Hodgson, there's plenty of options. He, and England, have been in far worse positions than this. There's a talented group of players at his disposal, and a large quantity are in the form of their lives. It's not the time any more to stick with favourites, it's Hodgson's job now to harness the spirit that has carried these players through a season into that England camp.

There's little expectation. There's no Manaus to complain about, no crazy temperature. This is the best opportunity England have had in a decade to hit the proverbial home run and spring a surprise or two. Unfortunately, if he fails again with the talent at his disposal, he's simply not the right man for the job.

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