England’s ones to watch for World Cup 2014
Raheem Sterling and Connor Wickham are early outsiders for World Cup 2014 inclusion
Football fans from Newquay to Newcastle love nothing more than talking about the beautiful game and discussing the national team down the pub.
The hot topic as England start qualification for the next World Cup is how Roy Hodgson’s squad might look come summer 2014, should they progress from a group that contains Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, San Marino and Ukraine.
Here are 10 promising English players hoping to catch the eye over the next two years and earn a place on the plane to Brazil:
A 10-goal return between August and the end of December last season earned the 23-year-old striker an England debut and plenty of plaudits, but staying in the Chelsea starting XI was always going to be a big ask with the likes of Fernando Torres around.
More firepower has arrived this season and Sturridge’s immediate international hopes may hinge on a loan move.
Arguably the only plus point from Liverpool’s worst start to a league season in half a century is the form of 17-year-old Sterling.
Big-money flop Stewart Downing has been dropped in favour of a teenager who has managed to set pulses racing on Merseyside. Will Hodgson be as bold as Brendan Rodgers in giving the winger a chance?
Hodgson obviously rates the 22-year-old right-back as he drafted the youngster into his Euro 2012 squad following injury to Gary Cahill.
Will Kelly, though, be able to displace Glen Johnson to get the nod for club and country? It’s a tough ask, but he showed his battling qualities last season and can give his teammate a good run for his money.
The influx of new recruits brought in by Martin O’Neill during the transfer window has pushed Wickham way down the pecking order at the Stadium of Light.
At 19, time is undoubtedly on the striker’s side as he looks to resurrect a career that promised so much when he burst on to the scene at Ipswich.
An eye-catching season for Rodwell following his short move down the M62 from Everton to Manchester City could see the midfielder force his way into England reckoning.
How he fares in the Champions League against the likes of Real Madrid and Ajax in the coming weeks will give a clear indication of whether he’s the real deal or not.
Ox by name, Ox by nature. The Arsenal midfielder is a difficult man to nudge off the ball when he’s in possession – as he showed against France at Euro 2012.
The 19-year-old is in the squad to face Moldova and Ukraine on Friday and Tuesday and represents an extremely exciting talent.
More competition for the England right-back spot comes in the form of Walker, who endured a bittersweet end to last season.
Named as PFA Young Player of the Year in April, Walker then broke his toe and was forced to sit out Euro 2012, but he’s back and determined to prove himself.
Among the next generation of Three Lions that Hodgson is keen to run the rule over is the Manchester United midfielder – and he did his future prospects no harm whatsoever with an impressive senior debut in the 2-1 win over Italy last month.
First, though, Cleverley needs to nail down a first-team spot at Old Trafford.
Displacing Ashley Cole at left-back in Hodgson’s plans will take some doing, but Gibbs is a more than capable replacement should he be needed.
The 22-year-old is progressing nicely under the careful stewardship of Arsene Wenger and has stepped up to the plate to fill the void left after Gael Clichy’s departure.
Ankle, foot and knee injuries have combined to keep Wilshere out of action for 13 months, but there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel.
The Arsenal midfielder is believed to be on the verge of returning and will be desperate to pick up where he left off when his injury nightmare started last summer.