by Tom Lees - 9th January 2016
With the 2016 European Championships now just a few months away, here at FanFormation, we will be taking a close look at each Nation competing and how they fare once the big event in France kicks off. As part of our pre-tournament preview, we will be going through each Country and highlighting three of the youngsters, on the fringes of selection, who will be hoping to make their Nations final squad.
Roy Hodgson’s England are the focus of today’s article as they look to continue their excellent qualifying form and banish the memories of a disappointing World Cup performance in 2014.
The English national team has been experiencing a much needed rebuild in recent years, with a number of high profile youngsters fast tracked into the senior side. Young Jack Butland has firmly established himself as the backup goalkeeper to Joe Hart, and defenders Phil Jones and John Stones will both be expected to appear in the final squad. Stones in particular will look to shine in the tournament and this could be where he really become a name in the game. In midfield Ross Barkley is almost guaranteed for selection, and the impressive form of Eric Dier and Dele Alli for Tottenham this season means it’ll be more surprising if they aren’t included. Further up field Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane will not only be going to France this summer, they’ll be carrying with them the attacking hopes of the nation. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain may have to play the waiting game with his selection, despite his immense ability he has never really been seen as a guarantee for selection for neither club nor country.
Injuries look like they will play a major role for the England selectors, with Luke Shaw out long term and Jack Wilshere again suffering from injury concerns, a few spare slots in the squad could present themselves particularly in the attacking areas. With ongoing problems for Welbeck, Ings and Sturridge, added to the lack of playing time for Saido Berahino, England may travel to France with limited striking options. Instead they may choose a number of attacking midfielders and adopt a ‘false 9’ tactic during games.
So who are the three players on the fringes that I believe could push for inclusion in England’s final European Championship squad?
Norwich City wide man Nathan Redmond is one of my favourite English players, a winger with everything needed to succeed at the highest level. Quick over the ground, a great dribbler of the ball who isn’t afraid to use quick feet and skill to beat a man. He can run at and terrify defenders, drops his shoulder like a young John Barnes to find space, has a great cross and an even better right footed shot. Redmond has the lot, and has shown this potential at club level and for the England youth age ranges, currently he is a stand out name in the Under 21 setup.
At club level Redmond learnt his trade at Birmingham City and his performances at youth level earnt him his first start for the Midlands club at the age of 16, becoming the second youngest player in the club’s history behind the great Trevor Francis. Over the next few seasons he would appear in the occasional game, even appearing during Birmingham’s foray into the Europa League in 2011, and it was clear he had a big future ahead of him. He would become a first team regular for Birmingham in the 2012/13 season and his form there saw him included not only in England’s Under 20 World Cup squad, but also the Under 21 European Championship selection in the same summer. Premier League clubs had started to notice Redmond’s talent and in the summer of 2013 bids from Swansea City and Norwich City were accepted by Birmingham, the player opted for Carrow Road where he has played since. Always selected and always impressive for the Canaries, Redmond has seen relegation and promotion in his three seasons at the club and his Premiership and England Under 21 performances have again seen his name linked with transfer speculation.
Redmond I feel is an underrated talent and should have been given a chance for England already, had he been playing for a bigger club, no disrespect to Norwich, he would probably be a regular at senior level. He has all the tools to make it for England, and has tournament experience which would be invaluable in France this summer. His selection would require a number of eye catching appearances, possibly even a high profile move, but worse players have represented the Country in recent times and he deserves a shot. He does play in a position however where England are strong, and his case for selection will be shared by another young wide man in Jordon Ibe.
With the potential (and eventual) departure of Raheem Sterling lingering in the air at Anfield last season, a chance was presented and taken by another flying young winger in Jordon Ibe. A dynamic, powerful and lightning fast player, Ibe reminds you of the flying wingers of days past. His direct style of play has caused havoc for defences in the games he has played and with regular game time his confidence is clearly growing.
Originally released by Charlton’s youth team, Ibe was snapped up by Wycombe Wanderers at the age of 12 in 2007 where he would develop in their youth system before his debut in 2011. His debut came as a 15-year-old for Wycombe Wanderers, setting a record as the clubs youngest ever football league player, he would soon after set another record as the clubs youngest ever league goal scorer. Ibe would go on to make 11 appearances for Wycombe before signing an agreement to join up with Liverpool in December 2011, where he would train with their impressive under 18 squad.
Ibe would make his Premier League debut for the club at the end of the 2012/13 season as he started the final match of the season, putting in an impressive performance including an assist for the only goal of the game. In the following seasons Ibe would gain first team experience with loan moves at Birmingham City and Derby County before returning to Liverpool during the 2014/15 season where his skills were utilised during the run in to the season. Now an established first team regular he has taken the departure of Sterling as his chance to shine, already becoming a big favourite of the Anfield crowd. His talent is still pretty raw and decision making can improve, but his dynamic, pacey, youthful exuberance makes him an exciting watch and constant danger to the opposition.
Internationally Ibe has only recently begun representing England at Under 21 level, but because of the stature of the club he is playing for, and the impressive displays he is putting forward, he must be on Roy Hodgson’s radar as a possible selection choice. Although in recent days he has fallen victim to a plague of hamstring injuries that have rocked Liverpool and he’ll be hoping that he doesn’t miss too many games in the run in to the Championships. If selected Ibe could raise a few eyebrows, people outside England may not be too aware of his talents, but he certainly has the talent to make an impact in France.
Tom Carroll may be the surprise inclusion on this list as many might say “what the guy that is always loaned out?” and they have a point in being surprised. But recently Carroll has benefited from Tottenham’s rise to a potential title challenge as Mauricio Pochettino has decided to utilise the midfielder in his hard working squad. Although only a handful of appearances have come the way of Carroll so far, his performances when played have shown what a classy, ball playing midfield presence he is and there is no reason he cannot follow in Ryan Mason’s footsteps and play for his Country. It also works in Carroll’s favour that he operates in a midfield that includes England’s newest stars Dele Alli and Eric Dier, and in tournament football the connections of players can be key.
Beginning his career at Tottenham in the youth academy Carroll never really progressed into the first team set up apart from a handful of appearances in the Europa League. Instead his time was spent moving in various loan moves, as managers came and went at White Hart Lane with regularity. Short term moves to Leyton Orient, Derby County and Queens Park Rangers came with mixed results and under new coach Mauricio Pochettino the midfielder was loaned to Swansea City for the 2014/15 season. It did seem that a career at Spurs wasn’t going to work out for Carroll, however just like Mason before him he was eventually afforded his chance to wear the shirt. Pochettino showing that he wasn’t afraid to give the young players in the squad a chance to shine, rather than always looking for new recruits. So far in his few displays for Spurs Carroll has looked like he’d been playing for them for years, a sign of the impressive way the Argentine coach integrates all members of his squad.
What Tom Carroll offers is exactly what England have been missing, he keeps the ball and loves possession. Ok he may not be the dynamic of players, but England have those types in abundance, what he offers is somebody who can operate in the middle of the park making everything tick over. He also can pop up from time to time with impressive long range strikes, but his key ability is in doing the simple things in the game, and doing them well. Will he make it to the European Championships? Well it’s a long shot, but when selecting midfielders to do a job, I’d much rather England looked to the future with a player like Tom Carroll, rather than use an experienced head that hasn’t been able to impress in past attempts.
OTHER PLAYERS OF NOTE
When signing for Arsenal in the summer of 2014, Calum Chambers must have thought that his continued progression and eventual selection for the European Championships was a sure thing, particularly after a couple of early England caps. But his playing time has been severely limited at the Emirates and his inclusion could come down to an injury crisis in defensive areas, at present it’s not looking too promising for the young versatile defender. The same can’t be said for Everton’s Brendan Galloway however, the injury to Leighton Baines enabled Galloway an extended run in the Everton first team and he has impressed everybody with his displays. Unfortunately, the left back position is an area that is strong for England with a number of options, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if Galloway is given a call up before the tournament gets under way.
In midfield Jonjo Shelvey will be hoping to retain his place in the squad, though the form of his club Swansea City may result in his position coming under threat. Jack Wilshere may return from injury, Fabian Delph may get an extended run in the Manchester City team and the form of veteran Gareth Barry could all put pressure on the Swansea man’s place. Another midfielder hoping to gate-crash the squad will be James Ward-Prowse, always impressive in the Under 21 team, a good end to the season at Southampton could see his name mentioned as a possible.
Jesse Lingard and Jack Grealish would both have had their hopes raised in recent months but lack of playing time, and discipline issues in Grealish’s case, mean their selections would come as a huge surprise. Andros Townsend, although a big favourite of Roy Hodgson, will also be desperate to get playing again if he has any chance of going to the tournament. A couple of attacking players that could throw their names into the mix are Wilfried Zaha and Demarai Gray. Zaha has been putting in some brilliant, although sometimes inconsistent, performances at Crystal Palace and Gray has just signed for high flying Leicester City following great form in the Championship. You get the impression though that Zaha is just not coming under consideration at the moment however which is slightly unfair, and Demarai Gary will have to not only adapt to a higher level, but impress enough in a short period to get his name mentioned.
A real wildcard selection that I would like to see is Dominic Solanke, the on loan Chelsea man has impressed at England youth levels and in his games for Vitesse in the Eredivisie. England are really short on striking options, Welbeck and Sturridge are plagued with injuries and will be risky selections with back to back tournament fixtures, Danny Ings is also out long term. Andy Carroll and Saido Berahino could be options, although Carroll has failed to prove he can play at a higher level and Berahino’s issues at club level are keeping him out of the West Brom side. So England are reliant on Harry Kane, Wayne Rooney and Jamie Vardy, it would be great to give an emerging talent a chance. Unfortunately, I can’t see it happening, either for England or Chelsea upon his return from loan.
So there we have it, my look at the youngsters hoping to make it to the European Championships with England this summer. Who do you think Roy Hodgson will pick? Will there be any surprises? Let us know in the comments below.
England are in Group B with Wales, Slovakia and Russia, and begin their campaign in Marseille on June 11th against the Russians. They will be big favourites in the group and will be looking to go far in the tournament.