Crystal ball time to have a look at players who might just be carrying the responsibility of England`s FIFA World Cup challenge in Qatar in 2022, assuming they qualify of course!
In no particular order of prominence or priority the bulk, if not all, of the following players could be packing the sun bloc in seven years time.
Joe Hart, currently number 1 for England and although he will be 36 by the time Qatar comes around only injury, or a fantastic run by Jack Butland, with a top club, is going to keep Joe out of the side. Before the critics mention the age thing, Buffon and Zoff- enough said.
John Stones is nailed on to captain England, a lot sooner than later. He may stay at Everton, but money talks so he is unlikely to be named in England squads beyond the 2016 Euros, as an Everton player.
He is the best English centre half who can also play football. Only 20 he is still learning the game and is bound to make mistakes BUT mistakes from which he will learn. Shades of Beckenbauer and Alan Hansen for the effortless way he moves out of defence with the ball at his feet to initiate forward moves. He can pass and tackle and his reading of the game is improving year on year. In 2022 he will still be only 28 and probably just approaching his peak.
Ross Barkley is an enigma. He is perhaps the most accomplished England midfielder, though Delle Ali should take that mantle from him or at least push him to greater things. He can be anything he wants to be IF he can control the self-destruct button he feels the need to push every now and again. Two good feet, precision passing and an eye for goal he is the best type of midfielder seen in an England shirt since Steven Gerrard. Yes that isn`t so long ago but at 22 he is more than capable of managing a game like the former Liverpool skipper. When he manages to curtail his tendency for agricultural tackles he has it in him to be on a par with the best in the world.
Raheem Sterling will be 29 by the time Qatar comes around. By then he will either be the world beater he has the talent to be OR he will have faded from the scene like so many of his type before. The skilled youngster who bursts on the scene in his teens, soars to the stratosphere, becomes a multi-millionaire and then loses his appetite for the game. The move to Manchester City may be his salvation. The next move, Real or Barca?, could be pivotal. Self-application is Raheem`s biggest obstacle. His manager in the years up to 2022 could prove critical. On his day he can unlock any team, club or international, only he can decide.
Dele Alli. England in particular and domestic football in general should praise the heavens for the emergence of Dele. Not only does it show there are diamonds outside the top flight AND NOT OVERSEAS it also acts as an incentive to other young players who may fail at Premier League clubs, drop down the leagues or even out of the Football League. Ali is the complete, modern, young footballer.
Not only does he do ALL that can be expected of a midfield player; tackle, shoot, pass and score goals, he is athletic and has a combative streak in him. The kind of `devil` that top players have and it works for them because they can control and channel it. He hasn`t quite got there yet but, at 19, he has hit the ground running with Tottenham. At 27 he can guide England to success in 2022 because he is unlikely to lose the drive he has now as a teenager.
Jesse Lingard had to move away from parent club Manchester United on loan spells to kick start his career. However his prodigious talent to speed at opposing defences with the ball and threaten with either a killing pass or an accurate finish took him back to Old Trafford where he is likely to help form the nucleus of a new Manchester United under LVG`s successor. Jesse is one of a new breed of forward players emerging in England, front-foot players with pace who can unbalance opposing teams even when they double up on him. He can play anywhere across the front line as well as in midfield and he can also slot into various areas of the team and do a job, particularly dropping back and carrying out defensive duties. That means he is not restricted, like some who wander into unfamiliar areas, because he has all the attributes required; skill, ball control and vision. Could be a vital player for England over the next eight years.
For Harry Kane, or more accurately his managers over the next few years, there is a big decision to make, re his position. Is he a number 10 who drops deep and sprays passes around before maybe sprinting into the box to finish OR is he going to be a traditional centre forward who becomes the focal point of team play in and around the 18 yard box? The fact that he can do both, at 22, is incidental. The conundrum is, where will he be best employed. Maybe he can drift in and out of both areas where he is currently pre-eminent, when it comes to international football. BUT he may be most effective, at Euros and World Cup, competitive international, tournament football, by concentrating on one or the other while being flexible enough to adapt. He is intelligent enough so it will come down to managerial direction.
Patrick Bamford is similar to Kane and there is more than a hint of Geoff Hurst about the Chelsea player who seems to have more loans than RBS. He is a goal scorer but he can also play as an attacking midfielder so, like Kane, he is not uncomfortable when away from the 18 yard box, he can appreciate what is required. The same age as Kane, 22, they are unlikely to play in tandem for England BUT IF THEY DID, Kane at the sharp end with Bamford just behind or the other way around, now there would be something to give the Germans, Spanish, Brazilian or Italian international teams something to chew on. It is no coincidence that he was given a new three year contract by Chelsea, then loaned out to Palace for a season. Once he gets a permanent place in a top flight squad, maybe at Selhurst Park, Patrick will grow his England career and could be a fixture by 2022.
James Ward-Prowse refused to join the exodus of stars from St Mary`s but is sure to do so before establishing himself in the full England squad.
Already established in the Southampton first team the captain of England Under 21s is arguably the finest free-kick expert, of home birth, currently playing on the Premier League. Some might say better even than David Beckham. It is an ability, honed on the training ground that has become even more critical at top level when so many teams cancel each other out. When that happens coaches usually look to a spark of individual brilliance but that cannot be coached or learnt. Proficiency with a dead ball can and by putting such wicked spin on his delivery JWM makes it virtually impossible for defenders and goalkeepers alike to gage the flight of a ball. He can also play a bit.
Nathaniel Chalabah may not be a name that springs readily to mind when musing on a potential England squad for 2022 but he is one to watch. The Chelsea player, still only 21, is currently on loan in Serie `A` with Napoli after similar spells with five Football League clubs so is polishing up a talent that can only benefit his parent club and beyond that England. He has starred for his country right through the ranks at Under 16, 17, 19 and Under 21 level and like most top young professionals he has the athleticism to match his football ability. He has a very good work ethic and work rate, tall and strong and can tackle and can play equally well in midfield or defence. His versatility is very much an advantage unlike some and that flexibility augurs well for a World Cup that will see him at his peak, aged 29.
Saido Berahino, like Raheem Sterling, is a bit of an enigma. After bursting on the scene as a teenager with West Brom the striker had his head turned by the attempt to lure him from the Hawthorns by Spurs. The links with Real Madrid didn`t help either. Fortunately for Saido Tony Pulis remoulded him back to the highly efficient goal scorer he was when he first burst into the Premier League. In only his second full season he netted 20 goals in 45 games and at international level his ratio is better than one every two games, the ideal rate for a striker. In 47 games for England, from Under 16 level to Under 21, he has a total of 24 goals.
Saido can play comfortably anywhere across the front line, down the middle or wide on either flank and to those who suggest he is too similar to Sterling the nod, in eight years if it has to be between those two for England, will go to the player who best discharges his duties other than going forward. By the time the 2022 World Cup is on us the former Burundi refugee will be 30 and at his peak.
Jordan Ibe burst on to the scene with Liverpool after signing from Wycombe for whom he made his League debut at 15. A powerful and pacey forward he can play equally effectively as an attacking midfielder or a winger. He can force defenders on to the back foot with the ball at his feet and can go inside or outside and either finish with a shot or set up a team mate. His ability to carry the game from defence into attack will be exploited and honed by club football over the next few years and at just 20 any improvement can only enhance England`s chances of international success over the next decade.
Eric Dier grew up in Portugal where he moved at the age of seven. Within a year he had signed up for the world renowned Academy at Sporting Lisbon. Two years later he signed pro forms and eventually after a brief loan spell back in England, at Everton. He went back to Everton for a year before returning to Portugal where he made his Sporting B debut aged 18, in 2012. Eric signed a five year contract with Spurs in August 2014 and in just over a year his rise has been meteoric.
Gone are the days when versatility was a curse. The modern footballer who can play a variety of roles with equal quality is almost a must have for all the top teams and in Dier Spurs and England have such a player.
Equally adept at right back, a defensive midfielder or centre half Dier made a scoring Spurs debut in August 2014. On November 5th 2015 he made his full England debut.
In 26 appearances for his country, at all levels, Eric has yet to score. In 44 games for Tottenham he has five goals.
His positional play does not suffer at all wherever he finds himself on the field or wherever he is selected. At 21 he has made an impressive start to both his club and international career. How much better it gets is down to him, and his coaches.
Luke Shaw became the most expensive teen footballer in history when Manchester United paid £30 million to sign him from Southampton. But just as the left back was beginning to live up to his expensive price tag he suffered horrendous injury in September 2015 that has kept him out of action ever since. It will be touch and go if he can recover in time for enough match action to make the England squad for Euro 2016 in the summer. But at just 20 he has every chance of making the left back slot his own for the next decade. His attacking game is at a high level already and he was starting to show signs of his improvement as a defender, which is strange to state for a £30 million player but once fit again he should become the best left back in the Premier League.
Written by Brian Beard.