With the European Championships making his job that bit harder, Stuart Pearce will look to young talent throughout the Home Nations for Team GB. Here’s my starting XI to face Senegal on July 26th at Old Trafford.
Goalkeeper – With Joe Hart unavailable, Wayne Hennessy injured and Craig Gordon not starting at Sunderland, Pearce’s job in finding a keeper is difficult. That being said, I would pick David James as my starting keeper. Yes he is 41, but in such an important position international experience is the key factor. Ben Amos and Jack Butland are alternatives here, but I think James’ sheer experience wins out.
Right back - The right back position is a toss up between Tottenham’s Kyle Walker and Liverpool’s Martin Kelly. PFA young player of the year in 2012, Walker has had success at Tottenham and at senior level with England, being capped twice. 22-year-old Kelly is a staple in the England U21s and has kept Glen Johnson out of his Liverpool job for spells this season. For me, Kelly is the safe bet here just because I expect Walker to be in contention for a Euros spot.
Centre back – There are questions as to whether Chris Smalling and Phil Jones will go to the Euros (if they don’t they start here) so let’s assume they do. This leaves Blackburn’s Grant Hanley and Swansea’s Steven Caulker. Hanley has become an important part of Steve Kean’s defence and should be selected if injuries allow. Steven Caulker is a stalwart in the Swansea defence and should be given the nod alongside Hanley for the 2012 games.
Left back – Arsenal’s Kieran Gibbs should be named left back for the 2012 side. The 22 year old has been important for Arsenal on the left since the departure of Cole and Clichy and would we a reliable element in Stuart Pearce’s team. Danny Rose could be another option, paired on the left with teammate Gareth Bale, but his tendencies to attack may leave Team GB short at the back.
Midfield – This position seems the easiest for Stuart Pearce and his staff. David Beckham will most likely be the second over-age player to be selected, due to his role in securing the Olympics’ but also because of his dangerous set pieces and leadership. Wales captain Aaron Ramsey looks set to take the other vacancy here, combining with Beckham to produce a solid midfield providing good supply to the GB forwards. Jack Rodwell would be an alternative if Ramsey and Beckham don’t meet defensive needs
Attacking midfield – Another dead cert for the starting XI would be Tottenham’s Gareth Bale. The Welsh wonder will surely take his talents to the Olympic stage and terrorize defences at London 2012. On the opposite flank there is competition but I’m going with Jordan Henderson here.
The Liverpool midfielder has been solid of late and can attack on the wings yet also drop back if Beckham/Ramsey decides to go forward. In the middle, Jack Wilshere should start if he is fit/doesn’t get selected by England for the Euros.
However, if unavailable, teammate Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could get the start. Although more of a winger, Oxlade-Chamberlain will have plenty of room in the midfield to be his creative, dynamic self with teams trying to manage Bale et al. This talented attacking line should help provide goals for Stuart Pearce’s men.
Strikers – Again there are assumptions to be made. If not selected for England, United’s Danny Welbeck and Chelsea’s Daniel Sturridge make strong cases for this starting spot. However, if they are Pearce should use his final over-age pick. Craig Bellamy would provide goals and experience in leading the forward line, combining with Wales teammate Bale and Liverpool teammate Henderson.
Andy Carroll (who I don’t think will be called up for the Euros) could be another contender, although his lack of goals and international experience means he loses out to the Welshman. One to watch may be Rangers’ Kyle Lafferty, although I think Bellamy would be better use of the over-age pick.