England XI: The future
A look into the next generation of English football
As we approach the 2014 World Cup, many people are recalling the recent disappointments of the England national team.
Underwhelming performances in recent competitions has led people to believe our current team is passing it's time. Many people are optimistically looking towards the 2016 European Championships and the 2018 World Cup as potential years of success for England, and are hoping the younger set of players shine through in these future tournaments.
But what will the Three Lions' line-up look like in five years? We take a look into a possible selection.
Goalkeeper - Jack Butland
Jack Butland had a dream end to last season when he, in the absence of John Ruddy, was given his first England call up for Euro 2012.
Despite not making any appearances for his parent club Birmingham at the time, he impressed while on loan at League Two Cheltenham Town and subsequently earned himself a place in Roy Hodgson's squad. Since then, he has shot up the footballing ladder, establishing himself as Birmingham City's number one and even rejecting Chelsea to force a move to Stoke City in the January transfer window. Showing a lot of promise at a young age, he could well be Joe Hart's successor.
Right-back - Kyle Walker
Tottenham's quick right-back Kyle Walker has been part of a solid north London team that challenged for a Champions League berth for the most of last season, establishing himself as first choice right-back as he looked to, ultimately failing, secure Spurs a top four finish last season.
He is a regular in the England squad already, but hasn't been able to displace Glen Johnson in the side yet and will be looking to do so as he matures as a footballer. Since his loan spell at Aston Villa he has shone at Tottenham and could well be England's best right-back soon.
Centre-back - Phil Jones
Former Blackburn man Phil Jones has been a big hit at Manchester United since joining the club in 2011.
In his two seasons at Manchester United, Jones has shown his versatility in many positions, whilst excelling at centre-back. Known for his strength, aggression and maturity beyond his age, the ex-u21 skipper could establish himself as a rock in England's defence in the not too distant future.
Centre-back - Chris Smalling
Choosing the second centre-back was a close call between Steven Caulker and Chris Smalling. Whilst Caulker has shown his capability with Tottenham and Swansea, he never nailed a first team place, similar to Smalling.
Smalling too is not established in United's back-line yet, however he was a regular in the u21s and has valuable European experience which Caulker has not. Less versatile than his Manchester counterpart, but still a towering defender in the air, Smalling has the raw attributes to become a great centre back for England one day if used correctly.
Left-back - Luke Shaw
In his debut season in the Premier League, young Saints left back Luke Shaw thoroughly impressed the top division's big boys with a series of impressive performances for his newly promoted side.
Showing maturity not many would expect from a 17-year-old, the Southampton boy shocked opponents both offensively and defensively using his clever perception of when to attack and defend.
Arguably the brightest patch in Southampton's side for many years, it won't be long before Shaw starts to challenge for the left back slot dominated by Ashley Cole for many years.
Left-wing - Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Another man from the production line that is the Southampton academy is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Nicknamed 'The Ox' by Arsenal fans, Chamberlain has become a fan favourite during his time at the Gunners, startling opponents with his frightening pace and deceptive strength.
Since his move from the Saints in 2011, Chamberlain has put in some impressive performances for both club and country with touting him to eventually move into a central midfield role in the future.
Centre-midfield - Jack Wilshere
Jack Wilshere has been the crown jewel in Arsenal's youth academy for many, many years. Making an instant impact as a young 18-year-old many saw no other path for him other than stardom. An exciting box-to-box midfielder who has been unfortunately plagued with injuries for the past two years, it remains to be seen whether he will live up to the hype surrounding him as a young north london starlet given his recent unfortunate history.
If he can stay clear of his ankle problems however, there is no reason why he can't still make it to the pinnacle of English football.
Centre-midfield - Tom Cleverley
Another English academy graduate, this time from rivals Manchester United, is Manchester boy Tom Cleverley. A late developer from a footballing perspective, 24-year-old Cleverley made his name during a loan spell with Wigan Athletic a couple of years ago when he shone in another season of staving off relegation for the Lactics.
The next season proved underwhelming, as with his counterpart, he was plagued with injuries after a shining start to the season. A calm figure in midfield and long passer of the ball, Cleverley is just a decent goalscoring record away from htiing his footballing peak.
Right-wing - Wilfried Zaha
Very rarely do young players have such a whirlwind year as Wilfried Zaha. After a staggering start to the season with Crystal Palace in the Championship, Zaha quickly built up a name for himself.
His brilliant form earned him a move to Manchester United in January on the agreement he would be loaned back to Palace for the rest of the season as they pushed for promotion.
Fears rose that he believed he had made it as his form dropped, before a strong finish to the season, including winning the penalty that got The Eagles promoted, allayed those worries. A confident player who relishes in dribbling past a man out wide, Zaha is a very exciting prospect indeed.
Striker - Danny Welbeck
Danny Welbeck is, like Tom Cleverley, a United graduate, who was sent out on loan before returning strong the next season. At Sunderland during a spell when the Black Cats had the like of Darren Bent and Asamoah Gyan in the ranks, Welbeck played a decent part in their season before he was brought back to Old Trafford for the following season. Scoring a respectable amount of goals in that season whilst battling with Chicharito for the striker role next to Wayne Rooney, Welbeck's fortunes changed the next season.
Whilst he was playing regularly, the arrival of Robin van Persie often forced him out wide and he only managed two goals in all competitions, including one against Real Madrid in the Champions League. His finishing skills certainly need refining if he is to succeed as a centre-forward, which is his only current stumbling block.
Striker - Daniel Sturridge
Much travelled striker Daniel Sturridge seems to finally have settled in at Liverpool after spells at Manchester City and Chelsea which were often frustrating.
After failing to force ahead of Fernando Torres and later Demba Ba in the Chelsea XI, Sturridge opted to move to Merseyside in search of regular first team football. He found that at Liverpool and quickly found his feet in-front of goal for the Reds, excelling in a role in-front of Luis Suarez.
His dribbling skills and pace up front make him devastating on his day and a good partner to Welbeck in attack.
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