There are those who are more likely to pull off the impossible but in a team sport every single player who steps out onto that white line can be the one who grabs all the headlines, for either the right or the wrong reasons. As far as England are concerned, the faces of their protagonists may not be as familiar as those we’ve become accustomed to in recent years.
Of the twenty six man squad Roy Hodgson has assembled for the upcoming games against San Marino and Poland, seven of them have less than five caps to their name. The recent inclusion of players like Jonjo Shelvey and Raheem Sterling have added to the integration of Tom Cleverley, Alex Oxlaide Chamberlain and when he is fit again Hodgson will be hoping Jack Wilshire can at the very least start to build an understanding with those around him. The Arsenal midfielder is the rightful heir to the midfield throne now occupied by Steven Gerrad and Frank Lampard. Quite who will be around him however, has yet to be set in stone.
With the recent problems surrounding Ashley Cole and John Terry, there has never been a better time for Hodgson to try and revamp the defence. In much the same way that the current crop of England’s back line all seemed to rise to prominence together, the experiences and challenges we’re able to give new players now will help in the future. Phil Jones and Chris Smalling showed enough signs that they could be an excellent pairing for the Under 21 side in the European Under 21 Championships held last year but injury and poor form has resulted in the two not as yet having the chance to stamp their authority in the senior side.
For now at least, Gary Cahill is the man who looks to be the next in line for a permanent slot ahead of Joe Hart. Joleon Lescott and Phil Jagielka also have a ready made partnership from their days at Everton if Hodgson wanted to go in that direction. It’s in the wide areas in which there is the most speculation. Martin Kelly, Kyle Walker, Kieron Gibbs could all play a part for the national side in the up coming few years and as such, will probably all end up with a handful of caps as opposed to any one getting a sustained run in the side.
Up front is where England have a severe disadvantage when compared with other nations. There isn’t the firepower that a team like Uruguay, Brazil, Germany or Spain (when they decide they want to play a striker that is) can utilize. Having said that, few could have predicted back in 1996 that a certain Michael Owen would have such an impact on the world stage just two years later. One of the joys of football is that those who are talented enough to force their way into the reckoning don’t always come from the most obvious of places.
Quite who will step up to the mark isn’t something that anyone can know and it could just as easily be the usual suspects. Brazil in 2014 may a swansong for Steven Gerrard or Frank Lampard but if they’re going to even get the chance however, they’re going to need a little help in getting there from the next crop of England hopefuls.