With just over a year to go until the 2014 World Cup finals, the 2013/14 season will be vital for both the England regulars and those on the fringes of the team.
We take a look at how England's squad is shaping up, and which players need to make a a major impact next season to cement a place on the plane to Brazil.
Dead Certs: Joe Hart
England’s undisputed No. 1 despite criticism by his own manager for certain mistakes this season.
Most likely: Ben Foster, Jack Butland
Foster’s decision to come out of retirement and experience playing for England makes him the natural No. 2, whilst Butland has been included in the majority of recent squads. His decision to turn down the attentions of Chelsea and sign for Stoke City, whose current first-choice goalkeeper Asmir Begovic looks set to move on, could be crucial.
Late push: John Ruddy, Robert Green, Alex McCarthy, Fraser Forster
Ruddy was named in England’s squad for the European Championships last summer though missed out through injury, something which continued to hamper him this campaign.
Alongside Robert Green, whose decision to jump ship to QPR having taken West Ham into the Premier League spectacularly backfired, he will need a decent season in 2013/14 to stand a chance.
Lastly, Reading keeper Alex McCarthy has earned rave reviews for his performances this season, and could earn his first England cap in the upcoming international friendlies. An assured performance and a move back to the Premier League in the summer could see him make a late push for a place in Brazil.
Dead Certs: Ashley Cole, Leighton Baines
Cole remains one of the best left-backs in world football, whilst Baines has established himself as his undisputed understudy and replacement in recent years. A move to a big club, following his manager David Moyes to Manchester United for instance, would only serve to increase his stellar reputation.
Most likely: Kyle Walker, Glen Johnson, Phil Jones, Gary Cahill
Walker and Johnson look set to battle it out to be England’s first-choice right-back in Brazil, with the latter so far preferred by Hodgson in recent qualifiers.
With the retirements of both John Terry and Rio Ferdinand, a number of centre-back slots are up for grabs. Phil Jones is widely tipped to fill one permanently over the coming years and is aided by his ability to also play further forward, whilst Gary Cahill’s reputation continued to improve following success at Chelsea.
In and around the squad: Phil Jagielka, Joleon Lescott, Chris Smalling
Both Jagielka and Lescott have played a fair amount of football for England over recent years, though the latter lost his place this season to 19 year-old sensation Matija Nastasic and may need to move to secure the first-team football necessary to cement a place.
Smalling similarly has played a somewhat limited role at Old Trafford this season and is probably considered a less likely option than Phil Jones at this current stage.
Late push: Micah Richards, Michael Dawson, Carl Jenkinson, Kyle Naughton, Stephen Caulker, Ryan Shawcross, Ryan Bertrand, Kieran Gibbs
Both Richards and Dawson have been frequently overlooked by England managers in recent seasons, whilst the latter few have it all to do next season to be in with a shot.
Dead Certs: Steven Gerrard, Jack Wilshere
Gerrard has had a decent season with Liverpool and will captain the side in what could well be his last major tournament with England. The side desperately needs a fit Jack Wilshere if it is to have any chance of success in Brazil; his ball-playing ability unrivalled amongst the pick of England’s other midfielders.
Most likely: Michael Carrick, Frank Lampard, James Milner, Gareth Barry, Theo Walcott
Carrick has enjoyed arguably his finest season at Old Trafford and was named in the PFA Team of the Year, having missed out on the award for Player of the Year.
That Lampard will play in the Premier League for at least the 2013/14 season and is still scoring crucial goals should cement his place in next summer’s squad. Whilst far from the most imaginative players to watch, the experience and exceptional work-rates of Milner and Barry as part of a Manchester City squad filled with expensive quality mean they are all but assured of an immediate England future.
Lastly, though his form his often erratic for both club and country, Walcott surely cannot miss out on selection for yet another major tournament after playing in the majority of the qualifying games.
In and around the squad: Ashley Young, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Tom Cleverley
Young has been a constant fixture in recent England squads, whilst Oxlade-Chamberlain played at Euro 2012 and scored in both qualifiers against San Marino despite his tender age. Cleverley, similarly, has become a more regular starter at Old Trafford, and should play enough next season to be included.
Late Push: Jack Rodwell, Scott Sinclair, Jordan Henderson, Stewart Downing, Raheem Sterling, Wilfred Zaha, Adam Johnson, Nathan Dyer, Scott Parker, Leon Osman, Tom Huddlestone
Both Rodwell and Sinclair have struggled for any real game time after moves to Manchester City during the summer whilst, conversely, Henderson and Downing have enjoyed their best seasons so far in a Liverpool shirt under Brendan Rodgers.
Sterling faded after an incredibly promising first-half to the season, whilst Zaha’s chances depend on his success at Old Trafford next season. Johnson and Dyer could make late cases for inclusion, though the latter has yet to earn a first cap, whilst Tottenham’s Scott Parker has faded from the international scene of late.
Dead-certs: Wayne Rooney
Rooney will remain one of England’s key men whether he stays at Manchester United or decides to move on. This season, Rooney has managed to score 12 Premier League goals and has chipped in with 10 assists for United, and is desperate to shine in another major tournament for his country.
Most likely: Jermain Defoe, Danny Welbeck
Limited options mean that both Defoe and Welbeck will more than likely make the plane to Brazil next summer, despite meagre goal returns this season.
Late push: Daniel Sturridge, Andy Carroll, Darren Bent, Rickie Lambert, Gabriel Agbonlahor, Peter Crouch
Should Sturridge take his current goalscoring form for Liverpool – 11 goals in 15 games – into next season, he will no doubt be on the plane, whilst Andy Carroll’s recent form has seen him recalled for the upcoming friendlies against the Republic of Ireland and Brazil.
Lambert’s age looks set to count against him despite him being England’s second highest scorer in the league this season behind Lampard, whilst Bent’s chances no doubt lie on the success of a probable move this summer.
Ones for the future
Southampton’s young left-back Luke Shaw is an exciting prospect and has been strongly linked with a number of top clubs, though he is not yet in a position to challenge Ashley Cole or Leighton Baines.
Similarly, Everton’s Ross Barkley is considered by David Moyes as holding even greater potential than Jack Rodwell, though is yet to earn his first cap, as is Wigan’s Callum McManaman, who misses the chance to gain international tournament experience at the Under-21s European Championships this summer due to injury.
Lastly, Chelsea hold incredibly high hopes for Nathaniel Chalobah to become their long-awaited next home-grown sensation, with the on-loan defender/holding midfielder playing a crucial role in Watford’s progress to the play-off final this season.
He has captained a series of England youth sides, travelled with Chelsea’s first-team squad on numerous pre-season trips abroad and looks set to play in the Premier League next season whether or not still with Watford.
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