For years the England squad has had great stability at left back, with players such as Stuart Pearce, Ashley Cole and then Leighton Baines sweeping away all the competition for the position. But when the Three Lions were poached in Brazil, Baines wilted and looked like his age had caught up with him.
Now for Roy Hodgson, he has a very positive dilemma of whom to pick for a place on the plane this summer, with at least five options that could make the squad. Baines now is 31, and has struggled to make the Everton XI of late, highlighting just how tough it will be for the Everton player to get into the team.
The first rival, and probably the favourite, is Manchester United’s Luke Shaw. Though currently injured, it is believed that Shaw will be back in time for April, and Roy Hodgson will surely favour the ex-Southampton star. At the age of 20, the position looks to be Shaw’s to lose for the foreseeable future, and considering his pre-injury form, he had one assist in five games for the Red Devils, he’s in line to start. Had he not got injured, you feel that his stability and consistency would have been crucial for United, who could be higher up the table with him.
The second that Hodgson will probably consider is Arsenal’s 26 year old defender Kieran Gibbs. Like Baines, he has struggled to break his way back into the team after injury, with Spaniard Nacho Monreal keeping him out, and rightfully so. But with one goal in 14 appearances, Hodgson may be convinced that if Gibbs doesn’t start, then he will probably be a good player to have in the squad.
One player that has recently been more regular in the Three Lions set up is Southampton’s Ryan Bertrand. After Saints lost the talented Shaw to United they needed a stable left back, and Bertrand provided just what they needed. As a player, he was never given enough of a chance at Chelsea, but he quickly repaid the faith of Ronald Koeman. With two assists in 23 matches this season, he has struggled to recreate the quality he showed glimpses of last season, but given his experience he is a left back that should not be ruled out.
With Tottenham’s success this season, it has helped highlight the individuals within that squad that are performing: Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli are the headline grabbers, but one player that has played out of his skin is Danny Rose, who is relishing under the competition provided by Ben Davies. One goal and two assists in 16 games for Spurs, illustrates just how much he has improved. His improvement has not been ignored, with Hodgson regularly in the stands at White Hart Lane, and Rose will be in with a good chance of making the squad.
One player that is completely overlooked in the England set up due to the FA’s ‘big club mentality’ is West Ham’s Aaron Cresswell. Since his move from Ipswich last season, the 26 year old has been one of the Hammers’ most consistent players, with one goal and three assists in 28 games. Though he deserves to be called up, he sadly probably won’t.