At one point, the England team looked to be set in stone. However, following a turbulent Premier League campaign, Roy Hodgson’s 23-man England squad is looking different by the week. Some pundits are suggesting that he will play it safe and select the ‘old favourites’, while others are hinting that he could take the plunge and include some of the younger players who have taken the top flight by storm.
Here, we’ll take a look at five of the younger options that are being touted as potential wildcards.
It’s regarded as one of the most unfashionable positions in the game, but England’s options at left-back are as encouraging as any other nation in the competition. Ashley Cole and Leighton Baines appeared to be the main duo fighting out for a place on the plane, but a late contender has emerged in the form of Southampton’s Luke Shaw.
At just 18-years-old, one could argue that the full back lacks that vital experience. However, he has been coveted by some of the biggest clubs in the country over the last few months, while some pundits have described him as one of the most exciting left backs to emerge in the sport.
Ross Barkley is unquestionably the success season of the 2013/14 season, and probably one of the main reasons why Everton have fared so well this term. He is another player who has been linked with big-money transfers away from his current club, and his goal against Newcastle several weeks ago simply strengthened the calls for Roy Hodgson to include him in his squad.
A combination of power and technical ability is rare amongst central midfielders, let alone those that are English. However, whether or not Barkley has done enough to dislodge favourites such as Gerrard and Lampard remains to be seen.
Another Everton player, nobody had even heard of John Stones before the start of the season. He was plying his trade with Championship side Barnsley last term, only for a £3m move to Goodison Park in January 2013 to thrust him into the spotlight.
He has slowly become one of the mainstays of the Toffees and his performances against the likes of Wayne Rooney and other elite strikers has led many to suggest that he should be a definite contender. His ability to read the game appears to be rivalled by nobody else, while his domestic centre-half partnership with fellow England player Phil Jagielka may also boost his chances.
He has been one of the big reasons behind Liverpool’s success this term, so it shouldn’t be too surprising to see Raheem Sterling’s name also being in the hat. Ten goals from the wing means that he is another young and dangerous English name, while his performances in the games against Manchester City and Norwich over the last couple of weeks have made even more people sit up and take notice.
While Sterling was once something of a loose-cannon, he has come on leaps and bounds over the last few months and regularly has that final product that he was sometimes missing. The fact that he could also have a Premier League winners’ medal to his name should also aid his cause.
Out of all of the players that have been discussed through this article, Jason Puncheon is probably the most surprising. At the start of the season he wouldn’t have even been considered, but his performances over the last couple of months have been a major factor in Crystal Palace’s success.
Even if he continues to put in such a high level of performance, he is always going to be a rank outsider. However, the much-travelled winger has terrorised Premier League defences over the last few months and following a return of four goals in his last four games, he is certainly hitting form at the right time.
We won’t find out until May 13th the exact 23-man squad that Roy Hodgson will name. In the meantime, start your own preparations for the tournament by taking a look at the new England shirts.