Watching England beat Albania and Poland in the recent World Cup qualifiers, I believe there is genuine cause for optimism in the upcoming Euros. Over the years England has often promised much before the Euros and World Cups only to fail when it mattered most and often to nations you would generally hope we would beat. Gareth Southgate has assembled a very talented squad of players and there appears to be a real togetherness that is much needed when you are locked away in a group for weeks on end.
We will all have our preferred players to play in the Euros so I wonder how my starting eleven would compare with yours.
In goal I would have Jordan Pickford. In the modern game the goalkeeper has to play like an extra defender and therefore has to be comfortable in possession and accurate in distribution. Pickford has those qualities and in my view those in competition with him for the goalkeeper’s top do not.
I would like to see England play a traditional back four. First and foremost, that back four has to be able to defend but the full backs need to be able to get forward and the central defenders need to be a threat in the opposition box from set pieces which can be vital in the tightest of games. For that reason, I will go for Kyle Walker, John Stones, Harry Maguire and Ben Chilwell. Declan Rice would sit in front of the back four to give defensive cover and to allow the full backs freedom to join in attacking plays.
I would have a midfield four of Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden, Mason Mount and Jack Grealish. In my view Foden is an immense talent and his time is now, and he will become a world class player if he is not that already. Grealish makes things happen and can unlock defences in tight games and he draws an inordinate number of fouls in matches which could be vital in the final analysis from the array of free kicks he will earn. Foden and Sterling have great pace which will enable them to link up quickly with Kane. The midfield area is perhaps where we have most options and Harvey Barnes, Jude Bellingham, Jordan Henderson, Reece James, Jessie Lingard, James Maddison, Kalvin Phillips and Jadon Sancho all deserve a squad place. Talking of squad places Dean Henderson and Nick Pope should be the under studies to Pickford and Trent Alexander-Arnold, Conor Coady, Tyrone Mings, Luke Shaw and Kieran Trippier warrant squad places.
Harry Kane would be my choice up top. His goal scoring record at the top level deserves nothing less. Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Mason Greenwood, Danny Ings, Marcus Rashford and Ollie Watkins should feature in the squad.
I genuinely believe England can win this summer’s Euros and just hope as many of us as possible can be there to see it happen!
Peter Varney, Chairman – Integral Sports Management
Photograph: Tullio Puglia/Uefa/Getty Images