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Tomorrow Roy Hodgson names his first England squad, with the unusual situation that he will be stuck with them for the next 6 competitive fixtures (we can but hope). With this in mind, the wise money would be on a fairly conservative group, but surely in a squad of 23 there is some room for experimentation?

In order to help Woy with his decisions, we at Trivial Pursuits have assembled the men who we would like to see leading England to inevitable quarter-final shootout elimination this summer. So with our further ado, I give you the official Trivial Pursuits England Euro 2012 squad:

GOALKEEPERS

Joe Hart (Manchester City) – England’s number 1 for the next decade (although be wary that this was said about Paul Robinson in the past) and one of the most automatic selections in the group. If there was an element of long-termism about the national side, he would be made captain immediately.

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Ben Foster (West Brom) – Beyond Hart though, there is somewhat of a dearth of options in this position. Foster has played for England in the past and having kept goal for Hodgson’s Baggies all season, seems a safe enough choice for back-up. Will need to revoke his international retirement, but his relationship with Hogdson should smooth that decision out.

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John Ruddy (Norwich City) – The third-choice keeper is theoretically little more than a waterboy in an international tournament, so unlikely is it that they will see any meaningful action. For this reason I see little point in taking a “jilted ex” like Paul Robinson. Instead an uncapped player like Ruddy, who has enjoyed a consistent campaign for Norwich, seems a more sensible inclusion. Merely being part of the squad will be a fantastic experience for him and one that he deserves.

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DEFENDERS

Kyle Walker (Tottenham) – The new PFA Young Player of the Year should follow in the footsteps of his predecessor Jack Wilshere in making an England spot his own. On the basis of this season he appears to have the makings of a good attacking full-back. Fast, strong and capable of bombing up and down the flanks all game, he also possesses more positional discipline than his rivals for the position and appears to be in the box seat for a starting berth. His only negative point is a lack of international experience.


Glen Johnson (Liverpool) – Probably shades out Micah Richards for the other right back slot on the back of some improved performances for Liverpool in the latter part of the season. Has never really disappointed on the international stage so far, despite some having reservations over his defensive abilities. Has also played left back for his club this season, which can’t do his squad credentials any harm.

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Ashley Cole (Chelsea) – Of all the “Chelsea Pensioners”, Cole is the closest to still being at the top of his game. Has provided 6 assists in the Premiership this season in addition to his usual defensive excellence. Like many at the club appeared unconvincing under Villas Boas, but has recovered and is still one of the best in his position in the world. An automatic selection if fit.

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Leighton Baines (Everton) – Was unfortunate to miss out on the squad for the last World Cup (or in hindsight, perhaps fortunate?) as rumours of alleged homesickness surfaced. Now firmly 2nd in line after Cole and another season of defensive solidity with Everton, combined with one of the best crosses in the league should mean that England fans need not worry about squad depth in the left-back position. A useful option as a left-footed set piece taker too.

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Rio Ferdinand (Manchester Utd) – Not as mobile as he used to be and probably his last tournament for the national side, but Rio is still a fantastic defender on his day. His brother’s altercation with John Terry means it’s unlikely that both will be selected, but I’d expect Hodgson to go with the Manchester United man if push comes to shove. Particularly at the back, it’s important to have an experienced head around and I’d fancy Ferdinand to partner one of the younger guys this summer.

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Gary Cahill (Chelsea) – Immense performances against Barcelona and Arsenal towards the end of the season showed that Cahill was settling into the increased pressure of playing at the top level. Has looked comfortable playing for England whenever he has been selected and possesses a surprisingly deft touch for a centre back. A goal threat from set pieces and even open play, he will; make the squad and is making a strong case for a starting place.

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Joleon Lescott (Manchester City) – Guilty of seriously misjudging the ball for Djibril Cisse’s goal on Sunday, it would have been a harsh way to end his season, had City not won. Forged a good partnership with the superb Vincent Kompany and has played a calm, understated role in his club’s success this year. Has never looked fully at home at international level, but deserves more chances.

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Phil Jagielka (Everton) – Mr Reliable for Everton, despite overcoming a serious injury this season. Jagielka’s partnership with Joleon Lescott was one of the best the league has seen over the past few seasons. Was immense as England somewhat fortuitously beat Spain last year. Can play in midfield, right-back and even in goal (at Sheffield Utd, they used to not name a sub keeper when he was in the side, so impressive was he between the sticks) so a useful man to have in the squad.


MIDFIELDERS

Scott Parker (Tottenham) – Media darling “Scotty P” has made the position his own and was even awarded the captaincy by Stuart Pearce for his game in charge. Calm, tenacious and dependable, he benefits from being more mobile than Gareth Barry. Might not be quite as good as factions of the press would have you believe, but still England’s first choice for the holding midfield role. A decent bet for the captaincy.


Gareth Barry (Manchester City) – Got slaughtered for his performance against Germany two years ago, when the sight of him being left for dead by Mehut Ozil was an apt representation of England’s overall inadequacies. Since then has recovered and played a quietly effective role in the engine room of Manchester City’s midfield. Never going to be a world-beater, but worth remembering that before the last World Cup we were “sweating” on his fitness. Experienced.

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Frank Lampard (Chelsea) – Another player who the press have seemingly been dying to write off this season, Lampard showed in Barcelona just why he should be in the squad. Like Gerrard, he may have to accept a more peripheral role in the squad, and may not even make the starting line-up. Still a quality player though and if surrounded by younger, more mobile teammates, his lack of pace won’t be so exposed.

Steven Gerrard (Liverpool) – Ah, Stevie G… Probably harsh on him, but seems destined to join the ranks of players who have never quite carried their club form onto the international stage. Not even at his best for Liverpool this season due to injury, but worthy of inclusion on former glories. May have to accept a more back-seat role in the team, but that may not be a bad thing as anyone who remembers his early international performances (as a holding midfielder) will agree. Can play in midfield or off the main striker, which could be useful in Rooney’s early absence.


Theo Walcott (Arsenal) – As an Arsenal fan, I can vouch that there must be few players in the country as frustrating as Theo. On his day he is an explosive and effective winger, lightning quick and better at finishing and crossing than people give him credit for. The problem comes with consistency. He is liable to go missing for whole games, and when faced with a quick full-back he can struggle to make an impact. The threat of his pace changes the whole dynamic of games though, pushing teams back and if Barcelona fear him, then I’m loathe to argue. Should start. Just.

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Ashley Young (Manchester Utd) – When not getting shot by the famous Old Trafford sniper, Ashley has had an effective season with United. He started the season on fire, scoring two scintillating goals against a ragged Arsenal side and looked like he belonged at a top club. Fell off a bit towards the middle of the season, but his dribbling skills, allied with his ability to cross the ball accurately with both feet, should make him a starter on the left for England. Likely to “win” the penalty that a future England villain misses in the Quarter Finals.


Adam Johnson (Manchester City) – A bold choice, as he has hardly played for Man City in the latter part of the season, but there appears to be something about Johnson that excites fans. Has impressed whenever he has played for the national side, and that seemed to be enough to keep the moderately-talented Darius Vassell in numerous England squads. Likes to take on defenders and has a cool head in front of goal. Would be a useful option off the bench.


Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal) – The selection that everyone seems to want, largely because he offers a bit of hope for the future. “The Ox” hasn’t been as consistently effective as many believe, but outstanding performances against the likes of AC Milan and Manchester United seem to confirm that there is definitely something about him. A fast, strong dribbler with excellent distribution off both feet, he has an air of the unexpected that puts him ahead of the likes of solid players like James Milner in my book. Unlikely to start, but as Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney have shown in past tournaments, some players are just born to play at the top level and he could provide an explosive impact as a substitute.


STRIKERS

Wayne Rooney (Manchester Utd) – It speaks volumes about his ability that there doesn’t even seem to be any question about his selection despite a two match ban for a moronic red card in Montenegro. A phenomenal striker who has just enjoyed his best ever goalscoring season at club level, the team would undoubtedly be built around him if he was available for the whole tournament. Hasn’t scored in a tournament for England since his outstanding arrival in Euro 2004, but is far too good for that to count against him. Can play up front on his own, or just behind a target man as he has so often this season.


Danny Welbeck (Manchester Utd) – Football is about partnerships, and nowhere is this more true than at international level, where the players get less time to familiarise themselves with each other. His understanding with Rooney this season has impressed, and as previously stated, that is a major plus point for him. Fast and strong, with a good ability to hold up the ball, he might not be the finished article yet, but if he can bring his understanding with Wazza to the international stage, it bodes well for England and his future at this level.


Andy Carroll (Liverpool) – A rash choice, and almost certainly one I wouldn’t have made a few months ago as he blundered around under the weight of his absurd price-tag. However he was absolutely immense in the two recent games against Chelsea, displaying a surprising sleight of foot in addition to aerial dominance. As Gary Neville highlighted, defenders are terrified of him when the ball is lumped into the box and are often forced into mistakes. Would be an interesting plan B off the bench, and if he can do the job he managed in the FA Cup Final, he could be our super-sub. Could equally be utterly useless, but worth the gamble.


Jermain Defoe (Tottenham) – Final spot in the squad goes to Tottenham’s Jermain Defoe, a decision made simpler by Darren Bent’s lengthy absence. As last week’s tabloid stories showed, he is always capable of scoring if the target is wide enough… But cheap puns aside, he is the closest thing we have to an “out-and-out goalscorer”. Bagged 17 goals in a season where I hardly remember him playing and has a decent strike rate for the national side. His inclusion gives the striking options a nice balance.

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Unfortunate absentees

Micah Richards was looking a good bet for the right-back berth earlier in the season, but has lost his place in the Man City side to Pablo Zabaleta and is a victim of the intense competition for places in his position. Many people would like to see Phil Jones in the squad, and while his versatility would be an asset, I don’t feel that he has nailed down a position with enough conviction to warrant inclusion. One for the future though, undoubtedly. Michael Carrick is an underrated player and exceptional passer of the ball who has fallen foul of Frank Lampard’s late-season revival.

Further up the pitch, both Aaron Lennon and James Milner are options for the wide berths, the latter carrying the advantage of positional versatility too, and either could justifiably be selected in place of Adam Johnson or Oxlade-Chamberlain. Darren Bent is a fantastic goalscorer who I probably would have selected in place of Defoe, had he not spent some time injured. But if there is anything we have learned from past tournaments, it’s that half-fit players aren’t worthy of inclusion, so I’m afraid he’s out. Daniel Sturridge is an interesting player, one of the few to enhance his reputation under Andre Villas Boas. He has fallen out of form at a bad time and I struggle to work out where he would play in this side. Lastly, the Grant Holt bandwagon has been gathering pace on the back of his 15 premiership goals this season, but in reality a 32 year old with one season in the top-flight is just a little too leftfield for my liking.

And finally…

John Terry – There are some who have taken the criticism of “Mr Chelsea” a bit too far. His reputation as a human being appears to be affecting people’s perception of his ability on the pitch and his demise exaggerated as such. I would like to reiterate that, despite some laughable moments in the Liverpool game, Terry would walk into this squad on merit. This is tournament football, the squad need to gel, and I’m afraid for these reasons his selection is completely unjustifiable. The FA have made a pig’s ear of his court case and deserve a share of the blame, but with a charge of racism (against an important squad member’s brother) hanging over his head, Terry simply cannot go.

So there you have it, the Trivial Pursuits squad for the Euros. Given how many marginal calls there are, it’s unlikely that you’ll agree with all our selections, so why not add your own suggestions in the comments below?

by Harry Harland

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