England’s hangover from the World Cup seems to be easing after the national side beat Bulgaria last Friday. It was a convincing 4-0 victory which featured a clinical hat-trick from Tottenham striker Jermain Defoe. Yet when this good work evaporates in major tournaments, supporters and journalists will question the national side’s apparent lack of hunger and desire to win. A simplistic analysis it may be but one that finds credence with many. Fabio Capello will presumably turn to youth as he seeks to reinvigorate an ageing team but there are swathes of uncapped English players who still may have something to offer. FootballFanCast runs through some of these players in the trusty 4-4-2 formation which has long been the default formation for England managers.
The 35-year old keeper has been at Newcastle United since 1993 but was frequently in the shadow of former Toon favourite Shay Given. Harper who has an Open University degree is now the club’s undisputed No1. Tim Krul may be after that job but Harper was one of the club’s most consistent performers last term and will be seeking to build on that back in the Premier League.
The 27-year old defender alongside Scott Dann was pivotal to Birmingham’s top half finish last season. The former Cardiff City man who is no stranger to criticising referees made the step up to the PL seem effortless. Respected journalists including The Times’ Patrick Barclay described him as polished and a valuable asset to the club’s backline.
Aside from Phil Brown’s permanent tan, the London born defender caught the eye in Hull City’s inaugural PL season. Being a fantasy football hit he was snapped up by free-spending Sunderland in 2009. As a no nonsense defender he is often on the receiving end of referring cautions. Steve Bruce has tipped him as a future England centre-back.
The 24-year old defender is most commonly found in the centre but can play as a right-back. It has been a turbulent year for the talented defender, enduring a fracas with team-mate Andy Carroll and unable to agree a new deal with Newcastle. His long term future at the club may be in doubt but his performances suggest a maturity beyond his years. There will be no shortage of clubs after his signature if his contractual situation is not reconciled.
Taylor is predominantly a left sided midfielder but England are not averse to playing people out of position. The Bolton man did often play as an attacking left-back for former club Portsmouth. Glen Johnson has demonstrated the importance of defenders needing to defend. Nevertheless versatile left-footers are always at a premium and few can strike the ball as sweetly as Taylor.
Still only 23-years old, Mark Noble is West Ham’s longest serving player and a veteran of England’s under-21s. Noble would undoubtedly relish the chance to make the transition that James Milner made to the senior squad. His progression from the 2006/07 season when he made a telling impact has been patchy. By playing alongside Scott Parker he has grown in stature and is on the way to becoming an all action midfielder.
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The Liverpool born, former Bolton player was an inspirational figure in Newcastle’s successful return to the PL last season. A popular figure, Nolan has a strong conviction in his and Newcastle’s ability to perform well this year. The dynamic midfielder has a reputation as a battler but scored 17 goals in the Championship. Having been pushed forward, he scored two against Aston Villa recently.
This attacking midfielder/right winger has been at Everton for his entire career. He does not always make the starting line-up given strong competition from Steven Pienaar, Diniyar Bilyaletdinov and Mikel Arteta. However when he plays he invariably impresses as an energetic creator who can make that important run into the box and grab a goal.
There was something of a mild clamour to get this left winger recognised by Fabio Capello last season. Unable to hold down a starting place at Upton Park, he has been ever present for Stoke City. He has brought a new dimension to their play, distributing incisive passes from the wing and contributing with the odd, well executed goal.
The nation’s fixation with the conventional ‘big man’ up front will never cease. Unusually Bolton’s Davies has never been in vogue or called up for national duty. He has been a loyal servant for the Lancashire club over the years and is now their captain. Many defenders, including England centre-back Matthew Upson, would attest to this striker being a right handful.
The Birmingham City striker can only aspire to the longevity of Davies. Jerome is a strong, domineering striker who is additionally blessed with astonishing pace. He was top scorer at St Andrews last season and his form was kick-started by a 30-yard screamer at Anfield. The striker who has seemingly discovered the art of finishing also scored against Manchester United last term.
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