Back in 2007, for reasons unbeknownst to us, The Daily Mail took it upon themselves to predict the future, and proceeded to guess the England side they believed we’d be seeing turn out at the 2014 World Cup finals. Granted, the players listed would have probably got the same results as the ones actually picked have, but they couldn’t have been wider from the mark with their selections. That said, here at Sabotage Times, we’re not afraid of failing to learn from other peoples mistakes, so we went ahead and asked various people to put together the England side they think could be turning out at the European Championship finals in 2016...
England won’t do anything drastic in two years time, mainly because we just don’t have the players to do so. Anything we’re trying to put in place in terms of infrastructure will take time to be both fully integrated and give us any real results.
That said, what Hodgson is trying to do stylistically should see England playing much better, much more balanced football in a few years time. Eight players in my team are all currently in the 2014 World Cup squad, but most are looked at as ‘young prospects’ rather than players to be entirely relied upon.
Hart should just about be keeping hold of his place, should he remain consistent enough, with Kyle Walker at right-back, who has been unlucky to miss two tournaments running through injury. Cahill remains as the ‘steady old head’, and John Stones will partner him.
Chalobah is the least likely to take part, but is one of very few natural defensive midfielders England have coming through, and is the best of the lot. Henderson, Barkley, Sturridge, Sterling and Oxlade-Chamberlain will have to regress significantly for them not to be selected. Without the likes of Gerrard hampering him, Henderson will have the licence to effect the game to much greater level than he's been previously able to internationally, and a natural defensively minded player alongside him is essential to that.
A pretty standard modern 4-3-3 formation which has been given the Bielsista makeover, reading like a 2-3-2-3.
Hart's consistent enough to presume he's going to be our man for the foreseeable (I'm especially fine with that if he keeps providing such profane Vine-gold) and the Cahill/Stones partnership strikes me as particularly strong: Stones looks to be a strong, athletic CB with good ball skills and Cahill's pretty handy at flying into tackles. Best of both worlds, really. Shaw's a given but Flanagan isn't and I'm not sure why. He may drop off next year but last season, playing out of position, he constantly impressed, closing down like Pedro on meth and sparking countless counters with his natural knack for one-touch passing.
Nathaniel Chalobah's selection was one which is probably pretty unlikely, as this is England and they'll probably find a way to reanimate Steven Gerrard into another ill-advised tour of duty, but he's a player who I really like: strong, dynamic and great on the ball. He also has a name which lends itself so very well to chanting. Barkley, standard. James W-P, less so, but he's my outside bet to be up there with the very best in upcoming season's with his dead-ball ability already without doubt. I'm not saying "next Beckham”, but he's the next Beckham.
The Ox and Sterls out wide either side of Daniel "No f*** off, why should I pass to you?" Sturridge, who will hopefully be arroganting his way to Golden Boots for a while to come.
Once again English football finds itself at a crossroads and with everyone outside of football singing from the same hymn sheet: enough; it is time for change – real change.
First and foremost, enough of the celebrity/hero worship. We should look to build a team rather than a collection of individuals. We must pick those whose ability best suits the team’s requirements and those whose performances most merit selection. We must throw out those whose reputations continue to precede them at this level.
We must abandon the likes of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Wayne Rooney, whose crash-bang-wallop up-and-at-‘em styles have always been at home in the Premier League but have always looked ridiculous in international tournaments.
Above all, we should trust in the creative type of player we as a footballing nation have excluded in the past. If we cannot succeed, we must at least evolve.
With that in mind, it will come as no surprise to see English football continue in much the same way as it has always been. The red-top press will ensure that stars remain undroppable, the physical dynamism of the Premier League will numb the players’ brains and Roy Hodgson’s admiration of Steven Gerrard will mean that he will stink up yet another international tournament.
The more things change…
By 2016, the events of the past few weeks will seem like a bad dream.
England have not been good in Brazil, but it would be foolish to view the tournament as a complete failure when there are positives which can be taken from it. Roy Hodgson's side have fallen at the first hurdle, but they have done so whilst giving several key developing players important tournament experience - and, on the basis that continuity is an important commodity, it's encouraging to know that a healthy percentage of this squad will also be traveling to France in two years time.
Joe Hart, Gary Cahill, Jordan Henderson, Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling will all, injury-permitting, board that plane, as will Jack Wilshere - hopefully off the back of a far more complete season than 2013/14.
John Stones is arguably the outstanding defensive prospect of his generation, and will almost certainly be an established international by that point. Luke Shaw's ascension to the elite class of attacking full-backs seems inevitable and, who knows, Kyle Walker may even have learnt how to defend by then.
Wayne Rooney's omission from the projected line-up really isn't as contrary as it looks, because you would expect - given his cavalier approach to conditioning - him to be a very 'old' thirty by the time the European Championship comes around. His international prime years have come and gone, regardless of how long his Manchester United contract is.
Who knows where Ross Barkley could be in two years, because - like Stones and Shaw - he appears destined for the game's stratosphere. Another two seasons of Premier League football and he will likely be a talismanic figure for England and a genuine force at international level.
And Jay Rodriguez. What a tragedy his injury was; his Premier League season was statistically remarkable and his elegant ball-carrying and direct approach to the game seems perfect for an England side who, on paper, will thrive on running at opponents and attacking with fearless ambition.
The 4-2-3-1 tactic remains a successful one, with glimpses of brilliance shown during the 2014 World Cup, but mistakes proved to be costly. England could use a 4-3-3, but the lack of quality central midfielders is restricting. Looking at this line-up, the only possible surprise inclusion is probably Clyne. I was torn between him and Callum Chambers for this role, but Clyne has so far proven to be the preferred choice at Southampton (under Pocchettino at least). Johnson, in 2 years time, will be a tad too old and this England squad needs recycling.
The absence of Gerrard and Lampard shows this. Rooney, despite under-performing at big competitions, remains by far England's best player on his day and should be picked, especially as two years under Van Gaal could rejuvenate his career. Hodgson's choice to play him from the left during the World Cup remains a mystery and he should be used down the middle, where he belongs.
Welbeck offers protection down the left, meaning Shaw can venture forward without fear of the left side being exposed. People may argue that Sterling should start over Welbeck, but bringing him on allows Hodgson to introduce a more explosive player who could affect the game. The same stands for Barkley. Currently, they are yet to fully prove themselves to consistently start for England, but two years is a very long time in football and a lot can change between now and then.
Ok, ok. Yes - Joe Hart is prone to a fuck up or three, but at least he's dandruff-free. The bottom line is that he stands between the sticks for one of the best club sides in the world. And frankly there's nowt better out there.
At right back sits Southampton's Calum Chambers, having solidified his place as Saints' next hot prospect following opposite full back like Shaw's exit to Old Trafford this summer.
Colgate's Gary Cahill, ever-present at the Bridge, and Phil Jones, who will have come into his own under Louis van Gaal keep it tight at the back.
Jack Wilshere pivots in the middle, flanked by Raheem Sterling, one of the only shining lights from the Samba-tinged shower of shite in Brazil, on the right, and Ross Barkley, on the left.
In the hole, a slightly older, slightly fatter, but puzzlingly slightly more hirsute Wayne Rooney picks up the pieces behind lightning quick Daniel Sturridge and a fully-fit Theo.
It's the team that dreams are made of (probably). It's DEFFO capable of a narrow second round loss, though.
Who would you pick in 2016? Let us know your England team below in the comments.
[All tactic boards via the excellent ShareMyTactics]