England may only have one manager, but ahead of every World Cup, every fan has his or her own opinion on who should, and shouldn’t be on the plane with the real gaffer. The squad selection is one of the most important decisions for an international manager. Determining who deserves the right to represent their country on the biggest of stages. Whilst every nation has a few stars that are guaranteed their flight ticket, for others there’s a much more nervous wait.
So what about those players fighting for their place on the plane? The inclusion of Theo Walcott in 2006 or Emile Heskey in 2010 shows that no matter old or young, there’s always a chance for a late phone call. Here are 5 players that, with a bit of form and good luck, could shock the pundits and fight their way into World Cup squad, a feat difficult to imagine 12 months ago. It’s not likely, but then again it wouldn’t be a World Cup squad without a surprise inclusion.
The Southampton defender is only 18 years-old and yet has already been linked with big money moves to Chelsea and Manchester United. Shaw has missed just two Premier League matches this season, starting all 14 of his games as he’s helped the Saints to have the joint best defence in the Premier League. But his pace, attacking threat and ability to read the game has led to Shaw being one of the country’s hottest youngsters, earning himself three caps for the Under-21 team since September.
He’s not a very experienced player to be suggested and playing for England in the biggest tournament in World football, but he could be called upon should injuries hit the senior side. Leighton Baines and Ashley Cole are set to continue their battle for the number 1 spot in the side over the remainder of the season, both looking to convince Hodgson that they are the best left-back in the country. But should one of the two be dealt the bitter blow of getting injured for the tournament, suddenly Shaw could be the back-up full-back.
Andros Townsend has been a hit for both Spurs and England this season with his direct, attacking style of football. With a determination to beat defenders, the Tottenham winger has become one of the North London club’s most creative players this campaign. Ravel Morrison is another one of these players. With a statement to make after being sold from Manchester United, Morrison has started to make a name for himself at Upton Park, scoring 3 goals for the Hammers, including a stunning individual effort at White Hart Lane.
His goal scoring ability has been displayed on the Under-21 stage too. As well as scoring two goals against Lithuania Under-21s in October, Morrison was caught on camera scoring an audacious backheel volley during training for the youth side. England have often lacked players with a drive to take on defenders, but with Townsend and Morrison on the pitch, suddenly defenders will fear England’s style of play. Able to play out wide or in the centre of midfield, Morrison could add more flair and drive to Hodgson’s campaign.
The 21-year-old has done nearly everything right so far in his brief football career. After joining Spurs from a young age, Caulker was sent on loan to Yeovil, Bristol City and Swansea, to gain vital match experience. It worked too, earning him a place in England’s Under-19 and Under-21 teams, as well as playing all 5 of Great Britain’s Olympic matches in 2012. But after a year of fighting Jan Vertonghen, Michael Dawson and William Gallas for a place in Tottenham’s first team last season, the youngster moved to Cardiff City in the summer, in the pursuit of regular first team football.
Ever since Rio Ferdinand and John Terry’s retirement from international football, the Three Lions have been left with a lack of depth at centre-back. Cahill and Jagielka are expected to be Hodgson’s starting duo, with Joleon Lescott, Chris Smalling and the injury prone Phil Jones left as England’s only other options. Motivated by playing matches and not earning money for Spurs’ reserves, Caulker has shown his desire to become one of the best centre-backs in England, and could argue his case to get in the World Cup squad should there be a late withdrawals.
The midfielder had a tough time when he first moved to Liverpool, for a surprising £16million fee. But after a long, difficult season, the former Sunderland youngster has turned his performances around over the summer. At first he was winning over a small pocket of Kopites due to his work rate, and persistence to cover every blade of grass. But as the weeks have progressed, more and more fans are starting to like the 23-year-old.
He still has a long way to go to win over all of Liverpool’s faithful, let alone the general public, but the midfielder is definitely showing improvement. His terrific performance during the Reds’ 5-0 win at Spurs, where he stepped in for the injured Steven Gerrard, earned him the man of the match award, and maybe a few more fans. Hodgson has to decide between taking 7 or 8 midfielders to Brazil, but if he continues to shown this much improvement, Henderson could earn himself a plane ticket. A tough task, with Barkley, Wilshere, Lampard, Carrick and Cleverly all fighting to sit with skipper Steven Gerrard in the midfield.
It feels like a long time since the 22-year-old was handed the man of the match award after Wigan’s FA Cup success over Manchester City in May. The attacker scored 3 goals in the Latics’ surprisingly successful campaign, and soon after the press linked him with a move to Everton. But since Wigan got relegated, the Merseyside-born winger has somewhat fallen off everyone’s radar.
Not according to Hodgson himself though, who spoke in November about the chances of McManaman making the trip to Brazil: “We’ve got a few on the fringes who we look at, like Callum McManaman for instance, who could make the squad. We were talking about him the other day. He was flying for Wigan at the end of last season and then he got that unfortunate injury, so he’s one we’ll have a look at. We have been following his progress. There are certain players like that who aren’t out of our radar.” It would be one of the biggest squad surprises for years, but according to the England manager, not impossible.