Goalkeeper: Joe Hart
Surely the simplest decision of all, Hart is the only man who has looked anywhere near competent in an England jersey since David Seaman was in his early thirties. Kiss of death? I really hope not…
Right Back: Micah Richards
Having burst onto the scene as a highly promising teenager, making everyone except my Mum and Gary Lineker laugh by swearing live on national TV and impressing particularly for his marauding runs down the right flank, Richard’s development stalled somewhat in his early 20s. However, this season he has firmly cemented his place in the starting line up of one of the most competitive club squads in world football, looking defensively assured as well as posing an attacking threat. Under the guidance of Roberto Mancini, he seems to be finally fulfilling his obvious potential. However, this season’s exceptional work still hasn’t been rewarded with a recall to the national side, with Capello preferring to persevere with distinctly average toilet seat thief Glen Johnson or test out talented but inexperienced Kyle Walker. For me however, on form and ability Richards is by far the best option of the three.
Centre Back: Joleon Lescott
Centre back is another position where England have a worrying lack of depth. Joleon Lescott gets the nod from me; having hopefully put his poor form from the past two seasons, Lescott is another Man City defender who has flourished this season. At his best, he is athletic, composed and reads the game well – we just need to hope his form holds until the summer.
Centre Back: Phil Jagielka
Solid, good in the air, reliable for Everton although inexperienced at this level. Looked very good in partnership with Joleon Lescott against world champions Spain, which coupled with the poor form of John Terry and particularly Gary Cahill, who has been woeful for Bolton this season, is probably why I’ve gone with him. Man Utd’s Chris Smalling and Phil Jones may be the centre back partnership of the future, but I don’t feel they have enough experience playing centrally for club or country just yet.
Jagielka is also probably the country’s third best goalkeeper, which is handy too.
Left Back: Ashley Cole
Age is catching up with him a bit, but Ashley Cole remains one of our most consistent performers and is one of the first names on the team sheet. Has a more than able deputy in Leighton Baines, who has looked lively in recent friendlies down the left.
Central Midfield: Scott Parker
Last year’s PFA Player of the Year, Parker has matured into his defensive midfield protector role impressively over the past few seasons and is now one of the most important members of England’s first team. His phenomenal work-rate, his ability to win and retain possession and drive the team forward are irreplaceable.
Central Midfield: Jack Wilshere
Arguably, alongside Rooney, Wilshere is England’s most talented player – definitely the most creative midfielder we possess. I feel the team benefits from Wilshere playing in a slightly deeper role, alongside Parker where he can dictate play from deep, and where his ability to keep possession of the ball can be used to greatest effect. Parker’s defensive qualities give him licence to get forward from here, and when England are dominating he should be pulling the strings in the opposition’s final third.
Left Midfield: James Milner
Milner’s workrate and tenacity win him the place for me ahead of the more exciting Adam Johnson. Hopefully at club level, Roberto Mancini can instil into Johnson the discipline and defensive qualities he needs without limiting his creative output, and Johnson can begin to dictate games in the way his manager feels he should. In the meantime however, James Milner is a very consistent performer who works hard and rarely has a bad game. Can chip in with goals and assists, and his willingness to track back allows Ashley Cole to get forward down the left hand side.
Right Midfield: Theo Walcott
Inconsistent and sometimes frustrating, Walcott still has the ability to frighten defenders with his pace alone. I know we should be asking more from our national team’s footballers than the ability to run really fast, but on his day Walcott does show that he can play a bit too, and has been impressive in key games in the Champion’s League for Arsenal. Those days are nowhere near regular enough, but currently I feel he remains the best option.
Attacking Midfield: Ashley Young
Ashley Young’s form for club and country recently has been excellent, scoring and creating some impressive goals. In Rooney’s absence, Young will need to take more responsibility in a central role feeding off the striker and trying to work openings with his pace and skill. Can take a quality free-kick too.
Striker: Darren Bent
I know I’m going to get stick for this, but I’m putting it out there; currently, without Rooney, he is the best we’ve got. I can see arguments for both Sturridge and Danny Welbeck, but until either of them start scoring for their clubs with the same regularity that Bent does, the Villa man gets the nod from me. Good finisher in the air and on the deck, with a burst of pace and decent hold up play, he showed last season that he can link well with Ashley Young, and so is my man to lead the line in this team.