Nick Smith, James Randall, Tom Verghese, Chris Smith, Graeme Dowden and Adam Davey enlighten us with their thoughts on the future of the England football team. Some of these answers are on the obvious assumption we qualify for Rio 2014!
Who is the best upcoming English star?
Nick Smith – Danny Welbeck. Welbeck is emerging into a real world class star. He has an eye for goal and is a clinical finisher. He has also proven himself to be a more reliable and consistent goal threat than England’s other strike options. Most importantly, he seems to play to his potential for England rather than struggling to replicate club form as many England players seem to do.
James Randall – If Andros Townsend counts, then I’m excited by what little I’ve seen of him – both when he was on loan in the Championship and his early form this season. He has a long way to go, but he’s very much an unknown quantity.
Chris Smith – Luke Shaw. With Ashley Cole reaching the end of his career at 32, and Leighton Baines likewise at 28, I believe Shaw can develop into a first-time England player in the coming years. Dubbed ‘the next Gareth Bale’, Rio 2014 will probably come too early for him but if he maintains his form for Southampton then England have a real player on their hands. Let us not forget he is just 18 years old!
Tom Verghese – Jack Wilshere. You could argue that he’s already a star, but in the sense of the term ‘upcoming’, he’s got greatness ahead of him. He’s the type of player you only need to watch for 15 minutes to tell that he’s a special footballer. England’s future squads have to be built around him as, if he can keep himself fit, he’s going to be one of the best footballers in the world.
Adam Davey – Real ‘stars’ often explode onto the scene from nowhere, so I think our next true star may still be an unknown youngster playing academy football somewhere right now. From what we do know, Ross Barkley’s start to the season has encouraged me. He is a player comfortable with the ball at his feet and can carry it into dangerous areas. He is still a very raw talent and will be 20 years old before the year is out, but he should play a lot more football this season so could develop into a midfield dynamo.
Graeme Dowden – Ross Barkley. He has two very strong feet, the ability to pick a pass as well as the physical presence. I tip him to be a contender for the starting 11 come Rio.
Who will be the key man in the World Cup, Brazil 2014?
Nick – Jack Wilshere. As long as he can stay fit he will be one of the best midfielders in the tournament. Alongside Gerrard, Wilshere will be able to express himself and control the game. If him and his midfield colleagues can produce the form they are capable of, then England have a good chance of reaching the later rounds.
James – Joe Hart. His form is a real worry at the moment, and England cannot go in to the World Cup with uncertainty over the number one position. It cost England dearly in 2010; an in-form Hart is world class, but he has a big season ahead to rebuild his confidence.
Chris – Steven Gerrard. The great’s don’t go out gracefully, and captain Gerrard will want to sign off his international career in style rather than a whimper. Captain, leader, passionate: he has everything. Despite not finding his domestic form for his country, he was the only England player included in the team of the tournament in the last major and if he plays well can inspire his teammates into producing a performance much higher than most now expect.
Tom – Strange choice, but Gary Cahill is my key man. He’s a really intriguing player for me; on his day, he’s absolutely top class. Take the Super Cup for example. If he can put in some commanding performances in Rio, then we’ve got a solid base of arguably world class players around him (who would have been more obvious answers to this question: Cole, Gerrard, Lampard, Rooney). I came close to picking Walcott for the same reason; he’s got some world class performances in there somewhere, it’s just a matter of whether he brings them out or not.
Adam – Wayne Rooney. He is perhaps our most volatile player, but he is a true match winner. Whilst some show it for their clubs, nobody in the England set-up seems to be able to grab a match by the scruff of it’s neck like Rooney has shown in the past. We don’t have the personnel to dominate matches against the best teams in the world so we rely on those players who can win a match with a moment of brilliance, a la Wayne Rooney.
Graeme – Wayne Rooney. If England want to stand any chance of doing well in Rio, Wayne has to perform. If he doesn’t then it’ll be another predictable tournament for England; qualification followed by immediate exit once we play a team with any class. If Wayne performs we may get to the Quarters/Semi’s.
Is the influx of foreign players in the Premier League stunting the growth of home-grown talent?
Nick – Yes. The recent transfer window clearly demonstrated the lack of faith clubs have in English players. They are both overpriced and unable to compete in quality with the players coming in from abroad. The greatest threat to home-grown talent however is the signing of players to the big clubs, only for them to sit on the bench and watch their careers stagnate. See Jack Rodwell, Adam Johnson, Steve Sidwell. This trend has damaged the careers of many bright English talents and only makes the situation worse.
James – No. When the Premier League was dominated by Englishmen, we didn’t qualify for the 1994 World Cup. Liverpool have shown if their youngsters are good enough, they’ll be played. The onus is on the English youngsters to prove they’re good enough, not simply restricting foreigners with better technique.
Chris – No. While massively overpriced, the bottom line is that young English footballers aren’t particularly good. The ones that are get their chance in the end – Sturridge, Phil Jones etc. If there was more quality then more players would integrate into the first teams of Premier League clubs. Foreign players are a logical choice if they are better and cheaper – its simple.
Tom – No. I honestly don’t feel that this is what we have to blame for the shortcomings of our talent production line. If you’re a young footballer at Arsenal for example, the opportunity to learn from, and play with, the likes of Cazorla and Özil is staggering. The difficulty for me comes in how extreme the gulf between Premier League football and reserve team football is. Take Raheem Sterling for example; last season he was one of Liverpool’s most important players at the age of just 17. He naturally burnt out somewhat, and in combination with the signings of Coutinho and Sturridge, along with Downing coming back into favour, he ended up barely playing after January, only getting odd starts for the reserves. The FA need to look into extending the loan window and loan limitations of English players. Ask Wilshere, Welbeck and Sturridge whether loan football is beneficial.
Adam – The influx of foreign players should never stop the very best English talent emerging and playing regularly. I think it can hinder the ‘second tier’ of English players that may be kept out of first team football, but those players destined for the top will get there no matter how many foreign players are in the Premier League. I feel the problem regarding the lack of emerging English talent is a structural one that lies deeper within.
Graeme – Yes. However it all stems down to the money and the immediate success being piled on teams. Managers these days are under pressure to succeed from the first minute. If the easiest way to become successful is to buy in foreign players than developing your own then this is what will be done.
Next England captain after Gerrard?
Nick – Gary Cahill. Cahill is a born leader and plays at the key position of centre back. He is a commanding figure and leads by example. Jack Wilshere would have been a good option as well but I think Cahill’s more vocal style suits England better. Additionally, Cahill is more durable than Wilshere and therefore more likely to feature in all England’s games. Wilshere is a player I’d rather see play freely without the added pressure and expectation of captaincy, a job which has been proven to a poisoned chalice for more than one ex-England captain.
James – There’s no obvious candidate, which is in itself a worry. If Wilshere stays fit for a couple of years he could be a candidate; as could Steven Caulker if he progresses at Cardiff. But nobody really stands out at present.
Chris – Jack Wilshere. I see him as our best player for the future and would therefore like to see him lead by example. His all-action style of play can be inspiring to younger players coming through and his involvement in the game makes him a perfect candidate. Injuries are a worry, but if he can stay fit he can be the catalyst and driving force for English football.
Tom – Joe Hart. Natural answer really. I don’t usually like a goalkeeper being a team’s captain, but when you’ve got someone like Hart, who is a nailed on starter, a well respected player and professional, good with the media and playing at the highest level, the decision makes itself.
Adam – Gary Cahill. Perhaps a surprising answer as someone that doesn’t captain his club side, but I can see Cahill being at the heart of the England defence for the next 8 – 10 years. His style of play is very modern, and his conduct away from the pitch has never come under scrutiny. A regular fixture in the side and a leader at the back with his head firmly screwed on makes him my choice.
Graeme – Wayne Rooney. It was close between him and Hart but I think Rooney will get the nod for a few years. He’s our number 1 player and giving him the captaincy may spur him on to produce top performances on the international stage.