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All Things Footie | Tuesday, February 12 | Jordan

Dutch Courage

I'm glad Sven Goran Eriksson has had the nerve to pick an experimental squad. It's quite possible that a number of ‘first choice’ players will be injured come June (what is wrong with Kieron Dyer?) and it's worth testing out some promising youngsters like David Dunn, Michael Carrick and Joe Cole rather than just resolving to take Nicky Butt.

I like the theory that Darius Vassell and Michael Ricketts inclusion in the England squad are to put the frighteners on Alan Smith — sort yourself out or forget Japan and Korea. I don't think it holds a lot of water though to be honest. Despite his unremarkable start to his career Vassell has been England U21's best forward over the last year or so, and has been equally impressive for Aston Villa.

Michael Ricketts has been incredible for Bolton this season and one of the Premiership's most lethal forwards, he has developed an outstanding all round game. For a start he is easily as good as Emile Heskey — more prolific, more skillful, stronger — his only downfall is that he plays for Bolton and not Liverpool. Heskey was a lumbering oaf with a poor goalscoring record at Leicester, his England prospects were laughed at. He is a lumbering oaf with a poor goalscoring record at Liverpool but he's almost guaranteed a place in the England line-up. I think Ricketts deserves a real chance, no fifteen minute cameos and two touches.

I hope Wayne Bridge gets a good run out on Wednesday too. Between them he and Ashley Cole could solve England's left sided problem, both are capable defenders, comfortable going forward, hard working and naturally left sided. The interplay between the two could well confuse any markers and provide a genuine threat down the left.

I don't know, and I'm not going to guess, what team Eriksson is going to play in Amsterdam. I do know he intends to use all eleven substitutes, which should make the second half annoying. If I were going to pick England's strongest team assuming everyone was fit, I think it would look something like this…

David Seaman
Arsenal
Gary Neville
Man Utd
Sol Campbell
Arsenal
Rio Ferdinand
Leeds
Ashley Cole
Arsenal
David Beckham
Man Utd
Steven Gerrard
Liverpool
Paul Scholes
Man Utd
Wayne Bridge
Southampton
  Michael Owen
Liverpool
Robbie Fowler
Leeds
 

The hardest decisions…

Keown or Campbell : Both have performed well this season but Campbell's superior disciplinary record just edges him in.
Bridge or Le Saux : I'm not a fan of Le Saux but his crossing is exemplary and he's been playing well for Chelsea, the dodgy temper and Wayne Bridge's superior defensive ability win the day for me though.
Neville or Mills : It's the lesser of two evils but discipline dictates this one.
Fowler or Heskey : Only kidding, easy choice.

There's got to be a subs bench too; I would take Martyn (g), Keown, Dyer, Sheringham and one of Phillips/Ricketts/Smith/Heskey/Defoe depending on how they do in the run up to the summer. It would be nice to have cover for right back but England are seriously short of quality players in that area, Mills and Phil Neville practically the only choice. Don't even mention Jamie Carragher, that would be embarrassing.

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