Five youngsters that England should take to the World Cup

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At the start of the season English football was consumed with doom and gloom.

BBC Sport study found that the Premier League was now less than a third English, there was no talent coming through the academies and the English game was dying.

Any chance of England winning the World Cup ever again was as good as over.

But then, all of a sudden, things seemed a bit more hopeful. Young English players were everywhere, and they were actually playing quite well. 

Despite the negativity surrounding the draw for the World Cup that took place last Friday, the difficulty of it could actually turn into something of a blessing in disguise for Roy Hodgson and the FA. 

If they fail to get through a group consisting of Uruguay, Italy and Costa Rica, it won't be a real surprise. Anything further than that will be a bonus. What a tough draw does, then, is afford the Three Lions with something of a free hit at the competition.

Hodgson should realise that there is no point in taking mid-ranking, middle-aged (in football terms) players who are neither England's present just to make up the numbers.

I am not suggesting every player over the age of 23 should be dispensed with. Joe Hart, Ashley Cole, Steven Gerrard, Michael Carrick and Wayne Rooney should obviously go.

It is the likes of John Ruddy, Gary Cahill, James Milner, Jermain Defoe, Rickie Lambert, Joleon Lescott, Ashley Young and Tom Cleverley - all called up since the start of the season - that should not even be considered. The kind of players that aren't getting England anywhere now, and won't take them anywhere in the future.

England have been given a chance to genuinely experiment in the closest thing to a pressure-free environment that they will ever be likely afforded. Youngsters should be handed the chance to gain some experience that will only benefit the national team in the future. Here are five that Hodgson must take...

1. Luke Shaw

At the start of the season the number one England debate was Ashley Cole v Leighton Baines. 

Cole, an England centurion, has been one of the most consistently excellent footballers in the world over the past decade, and the Everton player had emerged as the most feared attacking full-back in the Premier League.

Now, though, the Chelsea left-back has sat on the bench for the past two months and Baines is currently out injured. 

The former Wigan defender was superb going forward in England's key qualifiers against Montenegro and Poland, but his defensive abilities were called into question in the recent friendly against Chile. 

If Cole manages to force his way back into the Chelsea side, then I'd take him and Luke Shaw to the World Cup, leaving Baines at home.

If recent tournaments are anything to go by, then it is a matter of fact that in big games England don't spend a lot of time with the ball in the opposition's half.

Cole's offensive prowess has lessened in recent years, but (if he finds his form) he is still a superb defender, and I fully expect him to find his way back into the Chelsea team. In big games where England are on the back foot, Baines specific talent's won't be especially useful.

He will also be 31 by the time the European Champions come round in 2016, hardly the future of the position. Take Luke Shaw as back up.

2. Steven Caulker

Steven Caulker's omission from the England squad for the recent friendly games against Chile and Germany was surprising to say the least.

Whilst I do not believe there is the outright bias within the England setup towards selecting players from big clubs that many think there is, I can see why Caulker being omitted and Chris Smalling being included would lead some to think that there is.

Have Smalling - or in fact his team mate Phil Jones - really done more this season to warrant inclusion than the Cardiff captain?

Caulker has probably been the most impressive young English defender in the league over the past couple of seasons, and he deserves his chance to impress in one of the games leading up to Brazil.

He has just one cap to his name so far, in the 4-2 defeat to Sweden last year, but it is worth remembering that when he left the pitch England were 2-1 up and he had a goal to his name. The decision not to select him since has been an odd one. 

3. Ross Barkley

Probably the most exciting attacking English player to emerge since Rooney, it appears as though Ross Barkley has the world at his feet. 

His decision-making is still not always the best, but his positivity and drive more than makes up for it. He has excelled time and time again this season. 

He may tire towards the end of the campaign, as young players often do, but if he is in any kind of shape to go then he must. 

Too often England just drop deeper and deeper into their own half in tournament games with no outlet and no creativity. Barkley would address that. 

Everton's 1-0 win over Chelsea earlier on this season was the perfect example of the midfielder's qualities.

The Toffees were pinned deep into their own half trying to hold onto the lead throughout most of the second period, but every time Barkley got the ball he drove forward and carried the threat towards Chelsea to alleviate the strain on his side.

It was simply superb and exactly the kind of thing England require. A must have for the World Cup. If you're good enough, you're old enough.

4. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

It is unfortunate for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain that, even when he recovers from injury, he is unlikely to be a regular starter for Arsenal for the rest of the season.

But England can't afford to be picky, and Hodgson will have accepted that not every player in his squad will be playing regularly for his club side.

It is important to remember, as well, that sometimes a player will suit England's style more than that of their club, therefore making them more valuable for their country. And 'the Ox' is very much one of these.

His style of direct and powerful running is far more suited to a Hodgson team built around transitions and counter-attacks then a Wenger side built around possession and intricate passing. 

Hopefully he will come back into the Gunners fold and have a successful second half of the season.

And if this is the case, he should be on the plane to Brazil.

5. Ravel Morrison

Despite the occasional moment of rashness (a la Rooney), it does seem as though Ravel Morrison has finally sorted himself out and settled as a Premier League player.

Even in a dour and insipid West Ham team he has managed to stand out, which is saying something, and you wonder what he could achieve if he had players around him that were anywhere near as good as he is.

At his best, he is capable of moments of inspiration that almost no other English player is currently capable of providing. 

Taking him would be a risk more for off pitch reasons, but if he can continue to prove that he has, in fact, calmed down over the course of the season, then there is every chance that will prove himself worthy of being on the plane.

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