Will the next England leaders please stand up?

6 June 2014

Written by:

Gone are John Terry, Ashley Cole, David James, Robert Green, Jamie Carragher, Emile Heskey and Gareth Barry.

Incoming – is a look at the next generation of England hopefuls – Jordan Henderson, Raheem Sterling, Ross Barkley, Luke Shaw, Phil Jones, Daniel Sturridge and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

England, with an average squad age of 26 – one marginally younger than the group of players that ultimately disappointed in South Africa four years ago, will land in Brazil next week on the lookout for its next captain.

It’s clear Roy Hodgson was given the green light to introduce a large number of next-wave English talent in Brazil, something that arguably should have taken place four years earlier under Fabio Capello.

It remains to be seen whether too big a gap in transition will be evident after this tournament.

Midfield champions Steven Gerrard (34 years old, 110 caps) and Frank Lampard (35, 103) have long been leading the Three Lions in the middle, but will almost certainly not be at the 2016 European Championship in France and definitely won’t be a part of the next World Cup squad for Russia 2018.

The pair, captain and vice-captain respectively for this tournament, will leave a gaping and potentially irreplaceable hole in England’s core and soon, the engine room of an England side will consist of Jack Wilshere, Henderson and Barkley.

How scary a thought could that prove to be?

Perhaps not as much as it was prior to the most recent Premier League season, but there are still changes in almost every position heading into this World Cup. Then there’s the question of who will lead the side to France and beyond?

Wilshere’s potential has long been undoubted. In the most recent years his development has stalled with long-term injuries but a prolonged, healthy run in an Arsenal side approaching a new dawn should see him reach the top.

Henderson had a breakout season at Liverpool under Brendan Rodgers; the ex-Sunderland midfielder was much maligned since his arrival at Anfield for an inflated fee. But a fantastic ending to the 2012/13 season was the catalyst for a great campaign last time around. He has also captained England’s youth sides and the armband could well be his with further years of impressive performances.

Barkley was ever only able to show glimpses of his ability under ex-Everton manager David Moyes. This was before Roberto Martinez moved into the office at Goodison Park and unleashed one of Merseyside’s finest young talents since Wayne Rooney.

His ball control with pace and power is something not too often considered a characteristic of modern England players, but Barkley’s goal at Newcastle this season will have been watched over and over with worry by England’s Group C opponents Costa Rica, Uruguay and Italy.

Central midfield isn’t the only position with impending change for England.

A back four without Terry (78 caps) and Cole (107) and a new No.1 goalkeeper will front-up against Italy in Manaus on June 14.

Shaw and Leighton Baines have finally ousted Cole from left-back, while a centre-back pairing of Phil Jagielka and Gary Cahill has appeared to gel quite well in recent matches. Cahill, in particular, enjoyed a stellar season for Chelsea and Jagielka starred as Everton pushed for Champions League places.

Meanwhile Joe Hart appears to have made the goalkeeping spot his ahead of Fraser Forster and Ben Foster, despite multiple errors this season for Manchester City.

Up front, Daniel Sturridge is likely to dovetail with Rooney. The former sparkled this season for Liverpool alongside Luis Suarez and will look to continue a top season, while Rooney desperately needs to star if he is to be considered an England great.

A side packed with talented, in-form youth, centre-backs in the peak of their careers, two national heroes bowing out and a handful of players capable of brilliance will certainly have a red-hot go in Rio.

But this tournament will be about building the future and getting experience into the legs of the stars in the making. Expectations on this England XI should be lowered; only then will they be able to play with freedom and spring a surprise.




Luke Sale is a third-year Bachelor of Journalism (Sport) student at La Trobe University and is a staff writer for upstart. You can follow him on Twitter: @lukesale1.