THE BLOG
22/02/2016 12:49 GMT | Updated 22/02/2017 05:12 GMT

Late to the Party: Five Outside Bets for England's Euro 2016 Squad

Am I the only one shocked that there is less than a third of the Premier League season to play? With the teams having just 12 games to go, it really has taken me by surprise how close to the denouement of the campaign we are.

Once these matches have been swept out of the way, attention will turn to the European Championships, and the efforts of England to try not to be as utterly embarrassing as at the last World Cup. Shouldn't be too hard. Should it?

For the World Cup I picked my full 23 man squad for the tournament, and I will do the same for Euro 2016 soon enough. But it is striking how uncertain this squad really is, that half of the team Roy Hodgson might pick is shrouded in mystery. The fact that a player who has dominated the season, Jamie Vardy, is not guaranteed a spot thanks to the prestige of Rooney, the form of Kane, and the returns to fitness of Walcott, Sturridge and Welbeck, really says it all.

With this uncertainty, there is more space than ever for a rank outsider to make a charge for the squad. Here, I pick my five men right on the fringes of national duty that I am backing to impress the grand owl of England in these crucial months:

Scott Dann

I told you these guys would be outsiders. Since Scott Dann arrived at a Crystal Palace side in January 2014 that were deep in relegation trouble, he has been one of the most consistent Premier League performers. Palace have badly stuttered of late, but their defence was one of the tightest in the first half of the campaign and he played the key role in that. He is also Palace's top scorer in 2016, with two goals (Adebayor has one, the other was an own goal), so he could chip in from a crucial set piece. England are not overburdened with world class centre backs, they could do worse (Jagielka and Jones spring to mind).

Mark Noble

Leicester's form this season has masked just how superbly West Ham have done - they have a real shot of playing Europa League at the Olympic Stadium next season. A major force behind this has been Noble, the captain and engine of the side. He also takes a cracking penalty, barely ever missing for his club. May not make the starting 11, but would be a superb squad addition.

James Ward-Prowse

The U21s captain, Ward-Prowse's previous tournament experience may have been last summer's abysmal European campaign, but his quality is obvious. His professional debut aged 17 was against Manchester City in Southampton's first game on returning to the top flight in 2012, and after impressing then he has gone from strength to strength with over 100 appearances. Hodgson is a self-confessed fan, and he will also like the lad's adaptability - at home in defensive midfield, a more attacking role, or on the right wing.

Troy Deeney

Ignore the criminal record, you would never be able to use the old, flawed argument of a lack of passion with this Birmingham City mega-fan. Incredibly prolific in the Championship, his nine goals in 28 games this year is not shabby at all. He offers a similar muscular drive to Rooney, and arguably has a better touch and aerial presence than Vardy. It is likely he will be overlooked, similarly to Andy Johnson in 2006 and Grant Holt in 2012 after both had impressed in their début Premier League seasons, but that's due to quality of competition rather than his own failings.

Charlie Austin

He has made the right choice returning to the top flight, rather than rotting away at QPR in the bottom half of the Championship. He needs to start more for Southampton - just once in the league so far - but he has a similar air to Crouch and Lambert, in that he is a useful alternative choice, only with skill and pace to match the height and power. Grab seven or eight strikes in the last 12 games, and Roy will have to pay attention.