After a new manager is introduced and takes charge of his side for the first time, it is perhaps understandable why so many, club supporters and media alike start to make assumptions over when, where and how many changes the new man at the helm will make following their arrival. A fresh face around a tired looking setup (notably at club level) can often mean a fresh approach, fresh ideas and ultimately a fresh start and after Gareth Southgate’s recent appointment as full-time England manager, given the response which has followed the former defenders appointment you can safely say that it isn’t any different on the international stage.
Unless a manager leaves on their own accord due to ill health, retirement or often in search of a bigger managerial challenge, the main cause for a change at the top is down to a side, whether that be at a domestic or international level, severely underperforming. For England as it often has been, this was the case last summer following the disappointment of both an underwhelming 2016 European Championship and unsavoury ending to Sam Allardyce’s incredibly short stint as England boss – both leaving a taste not even remotely close to being sweet. Once again, somebody is left to pick up the pieces, to breathe some new life into a depleted national side and its supporters and in many ways, to reinvent a country who in the last two major tournaments have won only one game from seven; not the type of form you’d expect from a country renowned for its impressive club competitions and supreme squad depth compared to its European and worldwide counterparts for sure.
Therefore with changes being needed and going off his early manoeuvres as England manager, Southgate seemingly willing to make brave decisions no matter what the reaction may be, the New England boss could yet be responsible for a new generation of English talent. It may mean for definite that it’s now out with the old and in with the new but clearly changes are needed thick and fast for the Three Lions to stand any chance of possible success in the 2018 World Cup in Russia and beyond. With this in mind there will undoubtedly be a number of English stars aware of this, who both they themselves and wider fans of the national team, can see have the potential to one day make the national team should all things go to plan towards the end of this and throughout the entirety of the next league campaign. Not all, in fact perhaps even few, will be successful in making the cut but as there is every tournament there are always a cameo of stars whose form heading into a tournament warrants a place on the biggest international stage.
For this reason @ASelbyInfo casts eyes over his crystal ball and picks out five English stars that should and will most likely be looking at Southgate’s appointment as a gateway to fully kick starting their international careers with the next World Cup now less than two years away.
Position: Central Defender
After the formidable defensive pairing of Rio Ferdinand and John Terry with the benefit of hindsight perhaps underachieved together for England given their respective domestic success in the Premier League, England’s central defensive pairing has never quite looked as solid since. Leaving Southgate with the difficult task of finding a defensive pairing or even three in central defence that can work well for England in the future, the former defender himself has already looked to Michael Keane and John Stones as youthful alternatives to the likes of Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Gary Cahill but one man he may yet to turn to could well be at the club where Southgate’s managerial tenure began.
In spite of Middlesbrough’s struggles this season with the Teeside club on the brink of relegation from the English top with only of games remaining, 24 year old Ben Gibson has been one of very positives and should his side go down this season, you’d think it’s highly unlikely Gibson will be once again applying his trade in the Championship next season. Calm and assured on the ball alongside a fearlessness to compete with the very best in the Premier League, with more top flight games under his belt and perhaps a move to a club challenging towards the top of the league table, Gibson shows all the signs of becoming an England regular. With both a bit of fine tuning and to be simply afforded the chance to represent his country, the Middlesbrough man could well be looking at a place on the plane to Russia in just under eighteen months time.
Club: Newcastle United
It’s only during a major tournament that England’s lack of firepower gets the attention it deserves. For years the Premier League has continued to turn to forwards from across the European continent or more often South America and Africa in search of an out and out goalscorer with young and promising English strikers often cast by the wayside as club’s repeatedly look further afield for the goals they so highly desire. That isn’t to say however that there aren’t English forwards capable of cutting it at the highest level or on the international stage, instead more representative of where the English game is at present with English forwards repeatedly left searching for a taste of top flight football and many consequently sold to lower league opposition. A striker once with great promise and potential is soon lost and both their former club and England suffer for it.
As has proven often in the past for the likes of Rickie Lambert, Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane, starting from the bottom and working your way up can later prove a winning formula and one that Newcastle United forward Dwight Gayle can work in his favour ahead of next years World Cup. After beginning his footballing trajectory at semi professional level with non-league Bishop Stortford, with the benefit of hindsight you could perhaps say that a move to Crystal Palace was somewhat premature and that his development may have been impeded by moving too quickly and to a much more challenging level. Gayle however appears to have refund his goalscoring touch from earlier on his career and at Newcastle United, his goals look set to lead The Magpies back to the top flight next season. If Gayle has truly learned from his former mistakes and proves capable of continuing his good form of this season into 2017/18, the 27 year old could find himself on the plane to Russia given England’s incredibly light options in attack. Not only would he offer something different to England’s current forwards but his hunger and determination to succeed could be what’s needed to once again make England successful internationally.
Club: Tottenham Hotspur
Position: Defender/Defensive Midfielder
Among the conveyer belt of talent produced at Tottenham Hotspur in recent years you can add Harry Winks to what is an increasingly growing list of English stars that possess the potential to form the nucleus of future winning England side. Alongside the likes of Dele Alli, Eric Dier, Danny Rose, Kyle Walker and Harry Kane, a fellow Harry is likely to follow in their footsteps if their recent development and footballing achievements are anything to go by! Winks, aged 21 has come on leaps and bounds after achieving his first-team debut in the last year and looks from the raw talent he did upon his introduction to the first team fold at Spurs.
Whether that be due to the guidance of Mauricio Pochettino or simply through working alongside fellow talented young stars not only English but from further afield, Winks has looked every bit the professional and regular first team starter in a top quality Tottenham Hotspur side and could go on to have such an important role for his national team too. Recent reports even suggested that Winks turned down the chance to play for Spain in order to fight for his place in the England squad in the future. Therefore given that Gareth Southgate clearly has one eye set on rebuilding and reinventing the current England squad with fresh talent, if Winks is able to continue performing to the standards set in recent months, expect Winks to make the jump from being a talented young English star with potential to England international in next to no time at all.
Club: West Bromwich Albion
Position: Central Midfield
In what was Gareth Southgate’s first England squad announcement ahead of the Three Lions recent friendly against Germany and qualifier against Lithuania after being named permanently in charge following a short spell as interim boss, it appeared that the former Middlesbrough man had took notice of West Bromwich Albion boss after naming Jake Livermore in the squad. After the former Hull City midfielder completed move to The Hawthorns earlier this year, Pulis has repeatedly spoken of Livermore’s quality; commenting often on just how good of a season he has had and in the several ways he has already benefitted a high flying West Brom this season. With this in mind, for what initially seemed a surprise inclusion you can perhaps understand Southgate has opted for the 27 year old for recent England matches but does Livermore have a future at international level for England?
Well, for all the doubters who seem to think England need to boast as many players from clubs competing in the Champions League, Jake Livermore seems one of the more deserving players this season given his current form. In a similar vein to the way in which Danny Drinkwater last season found his way into the England squad, Livermore has come back from a rough patch in his career – testament to his hard-working nature and determination to bounce back from his demons and recapture the form which had scouts and top-flights club raving about his peformances earlier on in the season. In the heart of midfield, Livermore offers a steady presence at the centre of the park and given that he himself has said recently that his inclusion helps create ‘good competition and that is what we need. We push each other’, lets hope he continues to impress for the players’ sake in challenging one another ahead of next years World Cup.
Club: Leicester City
The substitute that Leicester City fans found themselves asking for on a number of ocassions during Claudio Ranieri’s much more difficult season after his title winning exploits last season, Demarai Gray continues to be one of the most promising players in the English game and looks set to burst into regular first-team football next season given his impressive performances off the bench so far this league campaign. A total of 177 minutes of top flight action during the 2015/16 title winning season has increased significantly, albeit not the quantity in which Leicester City fans would have wished, but should Gray continue developing at such a speed, you’d expect the 20 year old winger to be in the Leicester City line-up week in, week out next season.
In terms of what Demarai Gray can bring to the current England fold, the Leicester City man offers flair, trickery and much needed pace which apart from the likes of Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling, England are currently without. Of course Demarai Gray is most certainly still developing and is far from the finished article but given he is still considered by many to be something of a raw talent, Gray already has significant international experience with the national team – most recently applying his trade for the England U21 side in Poland earlier this year. His progression from the U19 to U21 side in just over two seasons could be made complete if Gray continues to work hard and fine tunes the abilities he has at present. And whilst his inclusion at present may seem somewhat unlikely, Southgate could well plump for the surprise factor that Gray offers ahead of picking his 2018 World Cup squad next year.