Just how different could the England World Cup squad have been

As injuries continue to derail Fabio Capello’s World Cup plans it got me and a couple of mates talking, just how different could England’s World Cup squad have been had disaster not struck some of our most promising prospects?

After some heated debate and a few beverages, I came up with the following line-up.  I’m not necessarily saying these guys would definitely have been involved, but I reckon they would have all been pushing for a place.

Goalkeeper – Chris Kirkland

The Wigan keeper was highly-tipped to be England’s number one is his early years.  However, Kirkland has a long-standing back problem that prevents him training properly and has hampered his England chances.  He has just one cap, in 2006, but I still feel if he had remained fit he would be challenging the likes of Rob Green for the starting role.

Left-back – Ashley Cole

The best left-back in the world, I don’t like the guy much but you can’t deny his talent.  Hopefully he’ll be fit for South Africa as it would be a major blow if the Chelsea man wasn’t there.

Central defenders – John Terry and Jonathan Woodgate

When Woodgate was at Leeds he looked as if he was going to be England’s next great defender, unfortunately injuries have seriously impeded his career and he stands no chance of going to South Africa.  In his Leeds days I thought he was better than Rio Ferdinand in all honesty – though Ferdinand is quality and his ability has perhaps made the fact Woodgate never fulfilled his potential easier to stomach.

Right-back – Glen Johnson

Johnson isn’t in his best form at the moment but I can’t see any other option.  Gary Neville? Maybe, if he gets a consistent run in the Manchester United side.  I actually consider this a problem position for Capello, what does everyone else think?

Left-midfield – Joe Cole

Cole has now recovered from his cruciate ligament injury but can’t get into the Chelsea side. I’m still optimistic he will go, aside from Wayne Rooney I would argue he is our most technically gifted player and if he can get back into the Chelsea team he should receive a call up.

Defensive midfield – Owen Hargreaves

The Manchester United man hasn’t played a competitive game since 2008 and it seems as if time is running out for Hargreaves.  This is a great shame as he always does well for England and was one of the better players during the last World Cup.  Some say it doesn’t matter as we have Gareth Barry, personally I’m not so sure Barry is of the same standard but that is open to debate.

Central midfield – Steven Gerrard

Gerrard perhaps not been as effective this season as he has been previously but I would still have him in the starting eleven ahead of Frank Lampard, just.

Right-midfield – Aaron Lennon

Earlier in the season Lennon looked an absolute certainty to be heading to South Africa.  The media may have got hung up on David Beckham missing out but if Lennon doesn’t make it that will be a bigger blow.  In all honesty, Beckham would have been taken as a squad player but Lennon would have been a starter.  If he fails to get fit in time – it will be a huge loss.

Strikers – Wayne Rooney & Dean Ashton

Sadly we’ll never know just how good Ashton could have been.  He was forced to retire earlier this season at the age of 26 after a two year battle with injury, in a horrible coincidence one he picked up while on England duty.  Ashton was the kind of striker England were crying out for and if he had stayed fit I’m positive he would have been involved this summer.

Of course, this article is a bit of a ‘what if?’ piece and very much open to debate.  What does everyone else out there think? Have I missed anyone out at all, or have I included people who shouldn’t have been involved?

Written by Gareth Freeman, a sports writer who blogs about the Grand national 2010, football and racing tips.