Hit Row Z fans select their England World Cup Squad

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Over the last two weeks we have been asking readers of the site to pick their ideal 23 man squad for the World Cup in 2014. Around 350 of you have submitted your squads, ensuring we have a large enough sample size to draw some general conclusions regarding how England fans feel about Hodgson’s selection dilemmas. Here are the findings.
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The Hit Row Z Fans’ England Squad
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First things first, who are the players most respondents included within their individual squads? Well, aggregating all responses, and taking the 23 most popular players, provides us with a squad list that reads:
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Goalkeepers: Hart, Foster, Forster
Defenders: Baines, Cahill, Jagielka, Cole, Jones, Walker, Johnson
Midfielders: Oxlade-Chamberlain, Lampard, Lallana, Barkley, Carrick, Walcott, Townsend, Wilshere, Gerrard
Forwards: Lambert, Welbeck, Rooney, Sturridge

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As I’m sure most fans would agree, this instinctively feels like it could a viable selection for Hodgson, pending injuries, club selection records and form. But what are the main talking points, or surprises, from this selection?

1.       The spine of the England squad is clear

Virtually all respondents included Joe Hart (345), Steven Gerrard (337) and Wayne Rooney (342) in their squads, confirming the consensus that these three players represent England’s most talented and important players. Whether any of the three is genuinely world class is debateable, but they are the bedrock upon which any England success in Brazil will be built upon.

2.       Baines appears to be first choice left back

Perhaps surprisingly, more squads contained Leighton Baines (332) than Ashley Cole (309), although the consensus clearly remains that both should be going to Brazil. So long considered the best left back in the world, Ashley Cole’s poor form for Chelsea, and the excellent performances of Leighton Baines, means that for some at least, he is no longer indispensable for the national side.

3.       Some new entrants to the England set-up keep their places…

Whether through preference or circumstance, Roy Hodgson has done more to promote a new generation of players into the England squad than any coach for a decade. And it seems many fans are persuaded new entrants like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (227), Ross Barkley (233) and Andros Townsend (303) deserve to be on the plane to Rio. Likewise, Southampton’s two most impressive England debutants Rickie Lambert (202) and Adam Lallana (224) also make the cut for many fans.

4.       …but some more established names miss out

Yet for the majority of fans, there is no place for the likes of Tom Cleverley (41), Andy Carroll (58), Jordan Henderson (74), Chris Smalling (129) or even England regulars Jermain Defoe (127) and James Milner (112). This likely reflects differing levels of form for their clubs, injuries, or a growing suspicion that they ultimately don’t cut the mustard at the highest level. Milner is a particularly puzzling omission, and indicates that the qualities that make top class managers trust in the Manchester City man – industry, discipline, tactical awareness and the ability to take and enact instructions – remain invisible to most fans.

5.       And some names just won’t go away

Perhaps most surprisingly of all, over 20 per cent of all squads submitted featured former England Captain John Terry (78). Restored to the Chelsea team more regularly this season, and perhaps with his performances in the European Championships of 2012 in mind, some fans clearly believe Terry has something to offer. That Cahill, Jagielka, Jones and Smalling continue to stutter is beyond doubt, but surely the England set up has moved on from ‘JT’. I expect a quarter of respondents to be disappointed come next summer.

Looking ahead to Brazil: What does success look like?

At the time of writing, England have yet to learn of their World Cup Group opponents, upon which so much of their chances of progressing into the latter stages of the tournament depend. But looking at the likely squad options Hodgson has at his disposal, how optimistic can we be?

Clearly England remain a work in progress. The majority of squads selected by Hit Row Z readers acknowledge this fact, blending experience and youth, presumably in large part with the intention to develop the new generation of players for future competitions in mind. It also reflects the lack of truly top class talent we currently have.

For Hodgson then, success in Brazil will ultimately be about demonstrating that he is making progress with the players he has at his disposal. As ever, England expects. But this time our expectations are more modest – some semblance of hope for the future will likely suffice.

Further England coverage on Hit Row Z

– Young Lions: Which clubs have done the most to boost English talent?

– Should more England players be playing overseas?

– Should the Premier League limit the number of foreign players in the domestic game?

Listen to the latest Hit Row Z podcast out now on iTunes – subscribe and share!

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