Neighbour Dave has featured in a few of my columns over the years. He is my sounding board for the daily issues that present themselves in both football and sport in general.
Recent news that the experienced duo of Joe Hart and Jack Wilshere will not be in the England national team’s 23-man squad for the World Cup is a sign manager Gareth Southgate is looking to the future.
England’s recent form in major tournaments isn’t great, especially for a country of such quality footballers, with 2006 the last time they made the quarter-finals.
In 2010, they were bundled out easily with a 4-1 defeat to Germany, while 2014 was the first time since 1958 England had been knocked out in the group stage, following losses to Italy and Uruguay, and a draw with Costa Rica.
Southgate will be looking to build a young starting line-up that won’t just be competitive now but also in the future. England look to have the right mix of youth and experience for a starting 11 that can easily better their efforts from 2014, push for the quarter-finals and maybe even the semis.
In goals will be either Everton’s Jordan Pickford and Stoke’s Jack Butland. Butland has been the incumbent number 1 for England for years now but the emergence of Pickford has that under threat.
Southgate should stick with Butland – he has more of a presence and a repertoire of big saves – although the younger Pickford probably has the better all-around skills and footwork.
John Stones and Harry Maguire look to be the favoured center-back pairing and for years to come, being 23 and 25 years old respectively. Stones has always looked a star, making his England debut at 19. Maguire is only new to the national team, making his debut in 2017 after some great form at Hull City, then at Leicester City after a big-money transfer.
The two fullbacks should be Kyle Walker from Manchester City on the right and Danny Rose from Tottenham on the left. Both have experience in the national setup and are young enough.
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In central midfield, the best options would be Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson and Tottenham’s Eric Dier. Both are versatile, able to play as holding midfielders who can go out onto the wings if needed. They also complement each other, with Henderson happy to push up and be more attacking, while Dier can drop back to centre-back.
Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling, Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford and Tottenham’s Dele Ali are your attacking midfielders. Both Ali and Rashford are young and can play on the outside flanks, creating opportunities for others, but also both have the finishing capabilities to score themselves.
Sterling is an absolute star, has been a national regular since 2014, but is still only 23 years old. Right now he is in the form of his life, being a major reason City won the Premier League title so comfortably. In 34 games he scored 18 goals and had 11 assists, and averaged either a goal or assist every 90 minutes.
Sterling will play a similar attacking midfield role, sitting behind the striker, feeding the ball in to create chances but with the firepower to do some damage himself.
Up front should be Tottenham’s Harry Kane, who since 2014-15 has played 140 Premier League games for a return of 105 goals – impressive for any striker.
Kane has also scored 12 goals in his 23 England appearances, which again shows his skill and eye for goal. He could be one of the best strikers in this year’s World Cup.
This is the starting line-up that should play against Tunisia on June 18 and hopefully stay the same the whole tournament. This would be arguably their strongest line-up and the young core could stay together and become a force in the years to come.
Youngsters including Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Ryan Sessengon could be bolters, but have a future in the England shirt regardless.
Gareth Southgate has come in with a plan of playing the youngsters and sticking with them, because he wants to make England a real force in world football for the future as well.
England’s 23-man World Cup squad
Goalkeepers: Jack Butland (Stoke City), Jordan Pickford (Everton), Nick Pope (Burnley).
Defenders: John Stones (Manchester City), Harry Maguire (Leicester City), Phil Jones (Manchester Utd), Kyle Walker (Manchester City), Kieran Trippier (Tottenham), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Ashley Young (Manchester Utd), Danny Rose (Tottenham), Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool).
Midfielders: Eric Dier (Tottenham), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Dele Alli (Tottenham), Jesse Lingard (Manchester Utd), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Chelsea), Fabian Delph (Manchester City).
Forwards: Harry Kane (Tottenham), Jamie Vardy (Leicester City), Marcus Rashford (Manchester Utd), Danny Welbeck (Arsenal).