Thursday, July 29, 2010

England's future stars - ones Fabio Capello should watch for the 2014 World Cup squad

England urgently require youthful reinforcements: here are 9 who might make the grade. A GK, 3 defenders and midfielders and 2 strikers.


Scott Loach
Age: 21
Club: Watford
2009-10 Championship appearances: 46

Since Joe Hart's elevation to the senior squad, Loach is now the regular England Under-21 keeper. In August 2009 he was nominated as Watford's key player for the season in FourFourTwo and he has not missed a league game since November 2008. 

He was nurtured by the Ipswich academy before moving to Lincoln City, but signed his first professional contract when he moved to the Hornets in the summer of 2006. He had loans spell with Stafford Rangers before making his league debut for Morecambe in January 2008. 

On his Watford bow against Reading eight months later, the first goal he conceded after coming off the bench was one of the most controversial in English football history, the "ghost goal" ludicrously awarded by the referee Stuart Attwell. Several Premier League clubs are watching his progress, especially Tottenham Hotspur. 

However, Loach is aware that if he makes the step up too soon, he is likely to be stuck on the bench. "If I can play another 60-100 games here and then move on then I'll be in a much better position," he said. "Even if I was 24-25, I don't think I'd automatically get into Premier League sides. I'm confident I can go somewhere and break in somewhere, but it's all about games and I just want to keep learning." 

Loach, who recently signed a new three-year deal as he believes Watford can "genuinely go places", certainly has potential, but Hart will fancy his chances of being England's first-choice goalkeeper for the forseeable future.


Phil Jones
Age: 18
Club: Blackburn Rovers
Position: Central defender
2009-10 Premier League appearances: 9

The powerful centre-half was promoted to the first team in March after injuries to Ryan Nelsen and Christopher Samba, and helped Rovers secure draws with Chelsea and Manchester United at Ewood Park. Jones said after his Premier League debut against Chelsea that "John Terry is definitely someone I idolise", while his manager, Sam Allardyce, said "he looks a little like John Terry in his body language". 
His first-team debut came away at Nottingham Forest in the Carling Cup, with the young Lancastrian putting in a man-of-the-match performance. Keeping out Samba and Nelsen next season will be a difficult task, but his likeliest route to a regular first-team berth may be at right-back in place of Pascal Chimbonda, as he has played there on numerous occasions for the reserves. 

Strong and resilient in the challenge and competent on the ball, Jones has signed a five-year deal at Blackburn, but Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, Liverpool and Spurs are reportedly interested in him.

Chris Smalling
Age: 20
Club: Manchester United
Position: Central defender
2009-10 league appearances: 12 (for Fulham)

Bought by Manchester United in January despite having started only nine Premier League games for Fulham, Chris Smalling's arrival at Old Trafford is likely to see him and Jonny Evans groomed as the potential successors to Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand. 
However, this means that he is likely to have to wait for regular first-team football. It might have been better for his development if he had remained with the Cottagers for at least another season, but it is hard to reject the lure of Manchester United. 

Last September Smalling was given his Fulham debut against CSKA Sofia in the Europa League and his performance prompted praise from his manager. "He played with a maturity that I'm not entitled to expect from a player so young," Roy Hodgson said.
 He has been likened to Ferdinand in that he is 6ft 4in, quick, has good feet and strokes the ball around like a midfielder.

Micah Richards
Age: 21
Club: Manchester City
Position: Right-back/Central defender
2009-10 league appearances: 23

Richards has already been capped 11 times at senior level but has fallen down the pecking order due to his erratic form. Still only 22, he has the potential to make the England right-back position his own, although it may be decided that he is more effective as an agile, speedy centre-back. 
His versatility has hindered him during Fabio Capello's reign – the England manager went for Glen Johnson when Richards was being deployed at centre-back for City. Sven-Goran Eriksson identified the defender as a future captain of the club when Richards was only 19. 

He certainly has the natural ability and resoluteness to become a world-class performer, but his initial mission will be to win a regular place in the City side. His chief competitors for a starting spot are Nedum Onuoha and Pablo Zabaleta – both of whom share Richards's versatility. 
One worries that the defender may be marginalised if Roberto Mancini invests heavily this summer, but one thing is sure – Richards would not be short of potential suitors.


Jack Wilshere
Age: 18
Club: Arsenal (Joined Bolton on loan in January)
Position: Attacking midfielder
2009-10 league appearances: 15

Usually found floating around the wing and given the freedom to tuck inside, the Arsenal prodigy is being groomed by Arsène Wenger to play behind the target man in the Dennis Bergkamp role. Whether this shift in position will materialise or work favourably remains to be seen – Wenger envisaged Theo Walcott adopting a similar role "off the front man", but the speedster has rarely been unleashed in a central position. 

Wilshere will have to work on his upper-body strength, but his nimble footwork and ability to weave between opponents are his chief assets. Wenger takes great pride in nurturing a budding talent into a top-class performer. 

The only stumbling block for player and club is how he is going to see any substantial match action next season. Walcott, Andrey Arshavin, Samir Nasri and Tomas Rosicky are all built in the same mould, but the Frenchman will be loth to lose such an exciting prospect.

 The Bolton manager, Owen Coyle, wants him back for the first half of next season but Wenger may prefer him to spearhead Arsenal's Carling Cup campaign.

Jack Rodwell
Age: 19
Club: Everton
Position: Central midfielder
2009-10 league appearances: 26

Formerly a captain of England U16s, Rodwell has produced several high-calibre performances for Everton and England U21s. He earned praise for his solid all-round display in the holding midfield role during his first U21 start against Germany in June 2009, for his intelligence, distribution and tackling. 
Rodwell made his first-team debut at 16 and has already made 64 appearances in all competitions. Significantly, he knows that, at Goodison Park, if he is good enough then he is old enough. The highly regarded defensive midfielder, who may yet morph into a ball-carrying centre-back in the Rio Ferdinand mould, has caught the eye of Manchester United's Sir Alex Ferguson, among others. 

He signed a five-year contract with Everton in May but the club were unable to keep hold of Wayne Rooney and Joleon Lescott in the long term, thus it is conceivable that Rodwell will be playing for one of the more affluent clubs by 2014.

Jordan Henderson
Age: 19
Club: Sunderland
Position: Central midfielder/right midfielder
2009-10 league appearances: 33

The Sunderland-born midfielder firmly established himself in the first team last season and is equally comfortable in the centre or on the right. He played the majority of his reserve games out wide but after the tigerish Lee Cattermole was injured, Henderson was put in the first team in a central role. 
Steve Bruce has been using Opta statistics to monitor the work rate of his squad and wants his midfielders to match the 13km that the likes of Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard routinely clock up. If Henderson is to reach similar heights, he will have to add goals to his game – he scored only one league goal this season, along with five assists. 

His goals to shots ratio is a measly 0.03 but his shots on target figure of 0.41 suggests he can find the target often enough but has yet to develop a killer instinct. Henderson was voted the club's official and the fans' young player of the year for 2009-10.
 Next season, it will be interesting to see if Bruce feels he can afford to play three midfielders – Henderson, Cattermole and Lorik Cana – who all lack ruthlessness in front of goal.


Nathan Delfouneso
Age: 19
Club: Aston Villa
Position: Forward
2009-10 league appearances : 9

A product of the Aston Villa youth academy, Delfouneso was a regular fixture in the England U19 team, scoring nine goals in 19 appearances. He scored a hat-trick for the England U16s in the 2006 Victory Shield, marked his debut with the U17s with another and put his name on the scoresheet in his U21 debut against Greece. 
At the 2009 Uefa Under-19 Championship, the forward's four goals won him the Golden Boot as top scorer. At that tournament the French football magazine Onze likened the Birmingham-born striker to his idol Thierry Henry after Delfouneso declared that he chose the number 14 because of his admiration for the Frenchman. "His speed, technique, style, defensive work, putting his thumbs up to his partner – they have many things in common," the magazine said. 

Delfouneso is capable of following in the footsteps of Villa's Gabriel Agbonlahor, but they possess similarities in style and technique – they are both speedy, agile and skilful performers, but his manager, Martin O'Neill, prefers to pair his forward speed merchants with a towering target man such as Emile Heskey or John Carew. 
It is therefore likely that Agbonlahor and Delfounesco will be competing for the same spot. He was named Villa's players' young player of the year and supporters' young player of the year last season, and after his winning goal against Portsmouth in April, O'Neill predicted: "In the not too distant future, he'll be a real player for us."

Andy Carroll
Age: 21
Club: Newcastle
Position: Forward
2009-10 Championship appearances: 39

The target man had a fine season for Newcastle in the Championship, finishing with 17 league goals and he was a vital cog in the Magpies' successful quest for promotion. He still has to prove that he can boss Premier League defences and Newcastle will certainly rely heavily on his output, as the manager, Chris Hughton, must operate with a minimal transfer budget this summer. 
At 6ft 3in, he is excellent in the airand Hughton has hinted that he may be given the famous No9 shirt next season. "He's a player that has a wonderful leap," the Newcastle manager said last month. "He is a very good technical header of the ball. He's an old-style centre-forward, going back to the 60s and 70s. 

It's a bit like Peter Crouch. He's probably four inches taller but they're similar." No stranger to controversy, Carroll needs to work on his self-discipline on and off the pitch, and was booked eight times last season. 
But having represented England from U19 to U21, he is certainly on Capello's radar. Scotland are eager for him to switch allegiances, however, courtesy of a Scottish grandmother.

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