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Hodgson must trust England youth to enjoy Euro 2016 success

Lee Gormley | January 27, 2016

Young Lions showing true potential

This June, all footballing eyes will cast their gaze towards France where 24 teams from the continent embark on their Euro 2016 journey, and its one that Roy Hodgson will look to enjoy with his England set-up, which possesses a promising array of young talent.

England v France - International Friendly - England Training Session - Enfield Training Centre

Each and every passing European tournament or World Cup finals, the Three Lions are expected by their hopeful nation to once again bring back the glory days of 1966 when they conquered all on the international stage, and 2016 is shaping up to be no different 50 years on.

The so-called ‘Golden Generation’ has faded into the sunset after little or no success to look back on fondly, but some of those stars remain for what could be their final European campaign. Joining the likes of Wayne Rooney and Joe Hart will be an abundance of youthful talent that can help inspire England, if not to glory, then a more encouraging outing in the French backdrop, with Hodgson’s men surprising 10/1 fourth-favourites with Coral to lift the trophy.

World Cup woes a bleak reminder of failings

England will arrive no French soil with the usual hope and confidence ahead of their Group B duties kicking off, with Hodgson having to prepare for games against Russia and Slovakia, as well as Home Nations rivals Wales, who will be gunning for a pleasingly historic win over their closely-situated foes.

Soccer - FIFA World Cup 2014 - Group D - Costa Rica v England - Estadio Mineirao

Chris Coleman’s impressive Welsh side will undoubtedly prove a tough test for any nation in the summer’s showcase event, especially England, but Hodgson holds an ace in the pack which could trump even the explosive attacking package that is Gareth Bale, which is his in-form young guns.

The disastrous 2014 World Cup was a bleak reminder that England are no longer a feared nation on the international platform, exiting at the group stage despite gaining a favourable draw against Costa Rica, Italy and Uruguay, eventually finishing rock-bottom of Group D with a solitary point.

This year, on the back of a flawless qualifying campaign, which witnessed skipper Rooney become his nation’s all-time leading marksman and fresh new faces spring to life in international colours, Hodgson has enough quality to make an impact, though his side are 6/1 to suffer another early group stage departure.

Hodgson must show faith in youth

Within the Three Lions ranks, ahead of Hodgson declaring his tournament roster, the usual suspects of Rooney, stopper Hart, Gary Cahill, Leighton Baines, Michael Carrick and Jordan Henderson could be joined, or pipped to a starting position, by many upcoming prospects that have risen to prominence recently.

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The one name on every England fan’s lips is that of Tottenham midfielder Dele Alli, with the 19-year-old having enjoyed a truly remarkable season to date, stunning the top-flight with his magical central displays and even better long-range goals. Not forgetting a sumptuous national debut strike over France.

Helping Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs side reach the upper heights of the Premier League, Alli has been a pivotal club member, along with fellow starlet Eric Dier, with the latter 22-year-old anchorman discovering ferocious form sitting in that crucial defensive role to protect his back four.

Of course, the England manager may have to decide between currently contributing Alli and previously promising Jack Wilshere in his midfield, with the latter obviously holding incredible abilities but lacking constant fitness levels due to a flurry of injuries; having missed over 800 days of football since his Arsenal career began in 2010.

These are only two, potentially vital, young lions that Hodgson should be calling upon this summer in order to avoid suffering another nightmare campaign, similar to that which occurred in Brazil, with an oversight in showing immediate faith in such players possibly the future undoing of England’s experienced boss.

Relying on starlets is risk worth taking

Ask any passionate England supporter which players they would like to see feature heavily in France for their country and many will pick out the promising talents of Alli and Dier, with Jamie Vardy another attacker ready to prove his worth too, while Harry Kane is seemingly essential to any success.

Soccer - UEFA Euro 2016 - Qualifying - Group E - England v Switzerland - Wembley Stadium

Rooney cemented himself in the history books by overcoming Sir Bobby Charlton’s all-time scoring record last year and has rediscovered some encouraging form for Manchester United but, with Kane firing on all cylinders again, is it now a case of out with the old and in with the new for Hodgson’s starting XI?

The Three Lions captain has evidently endured a decline for the Red Devils and his performances in Brazil were far from promising, though Kane has continued his rampant rise up the ladder, blasting in goal after goal for Spurs, while also instantly impacting internationally.

Raheem Sterling has cemented himself as a regular starter for Hodgson and looks like maintaining that position for Euro 2016, but surrounding the Manchester City forward with all of Kane, Dier, Alli, Ross Barkley and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, as well as John Stones and Nathaniel Clyne in the rearguard, is a youthful risk definitely worth taking this coming June.

Hodgson impressed by emerging talent

Developing emerging talent has been somewhat of a problem for England in previous years, due to a lack of initial exposure in high-profile tournaments early on, but the current crop coming through are proving that they are made for the big stage, and Hodgson would be foolish to not thrust them into action.

England v France - International Friendly - England Training Session - Enfield Training Centre

Although, speaking previously, the 68-year-old former Liverpool boss was full of praise for the talented starlets coming through at the highest level, having handed many of the debuts since 2014, but it’s at Euro 2016 where his faith will really come to the fore.

“If you look at the players we had building up to and during the World Cup and you look at the players now – there’s not many survivors,” Hodgson stated.

“We are building a team hopefully a good future for English football. We have made a lot of strides forward.

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“There are a lot of young players at the moment who if they do get the experience and keep maturing, keep developing in their clubs, I think a lot of them can be hopeful of similar careers to the careers of the great players who have retired since I took over, people like John Terry, Ashley Cole, Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard.

“They’ve gone. The only one remaining from that squad really is Wayne Rooney and he has got a lot of young players around him.”

Contenders for England’s final cut

In the build-up to Euro 2016 actually kicking-off, much of the talk surrounds who will be ‘on the plane’ (or cross-Channel ferry) so to speak, and along with the untouchables and likely candidates, there is enough of the current season remaining for players to catch the eye.

It shows the spectacular rise that Spurs duo Alli and Dier have enjoyed with their odds of making the squad both being odds-on at 1/5 and 4/6 respectively, but the likes of new Newcastle United signings Andros Townsend and Jonjo Shelvey will argue their case too.

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Townsend was a crucial member of Hodgson’s set-up last season before a decline in London, with the winger 7/2 to make the cut, along with new teammate Shelvey who is 3/1.

Meanwhile, Liverpool prodigy Jordon Ibe is 6/1 to be included, with Saido Berahino (8/1), Charlie Austin (8/1) and Jesse Lingard (7/1) all set for hopeful Premier League season run-ins with their clubs, ahead of a huge summer when Hodgson will either trust in his rising youth stars or fall back on old, potentially fatal, team approaches.

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