England midfielders on trial in Denmark friendly
On Thursday Roy Hodgson picks a squad of 30 for next week’s friendly against Denmark and in the words of the old song, it’s getting mighty crowded in England’s midfield.
The squad that really matters, of course, is the 23 going to Brazil in the summer and we will all be looking for clues in the manager’s selections later this week.
And the most interest and potential controversy comes in midfield with perhaps twice as many genuine candidates as there are places.
Steven Gerrard (1/20 to make the final World Cup squad with Coral) and Jack Wilshere (1/6) are pretty much shoo-ins to be on the plane and then actually start the first game against Italy in the centre of midfield.
But the rest of the list is long and is getting longer. And it would take a brave man to pick anybody else with absolute certainty.
Michael Carrick (2/7) and Frank Lampard (1/3) will probably go as back-up to Gerrard and Wilshere, but there’s a growing clamour for Ross Barkley (8/15), while Jordan Henderson (5/4) has been pushing his claims recently and has perhaps jumped ahead of Tom Cleverley (13/8) in Hodgson’s queue. They can’t all go.
Out wide it has become even trickier to predict the personnel, even with Theo Walcott injured and out of the reckoning.
Andros Townsend (4/11) did so well in the final World Cup qualifiers that it would be difficult to leave him out, but Raheem Sterling (6/4) has been shining for Liverpool in recent weeks, while Adam Johnson (4/1) looks back to his best for Sunderland.
And of course there’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who can play right across the middle. Back in action after being sidelined for much of the season, he’s playing like he’s never been away. Selected for the 2012 Euros and already the owner of 13 caps, we know that Hodgson is a big fan of the 20-year-old and not only does Coral’s 4/5 that he goes to Brazil make appeal, so does the 6/1 that he starts the first game.
James Milner (2/7) and Adam Lallana (10/11) are among others very much in the frame, while we shouldn’t rule out the possibility of at least one wild card pick. Hodgson has said that there may be room in the squad for one or two younger players for the experience and he might yet have a surprise up his sleeve.
According to Coral’s odds, the England team most likely to line up against Italy in Manaus on June 15 is: Joe Hart; Glen Johnson, Phil Jagielka, Gary Cahill, Ashley Cole or Leighton Baines (both 5/6); Townsend, Gerrard, Wilshere, Danny Welbeck; Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge.
But there’s still time for Oxlade-Chamberlain and others to force their way in. It will be intriguing to see who Hodgson selects this time around and then who actually starts against the Danes at Wembley next Wednesday.