With England now two Wembley wins from the World Cup Finals in Brazil next year, James Gray looks at four youngsters who might make a real impact in Roy Hodgson’s squad.
Now that Marouane Fellaini is finally a Manchester United player, there is something of a gaping hole at the heart of the Everton side and most fans are looking to Ross Barkley to fill it. Everton’s mediocre start – consecutive no score draws – has overshadowed the emergence of a man who has been tipped as one of the long-term successors to Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard in England’s midfield. Loan spells at Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United last season have aided his development greatly, and an increase in responsibility at Everton may see him become a player for Brazil in 2014.
Zaha is perhaps the most widely heralded of England’s young players at the moment, as indicated by Manchester United snapping him up in the January transfer window last season, only to loan him back to Crystal Palace immediately. For a player of just 20, he showed tremendous resilience in one of the toughest leagues in Europe, featuring in all 46 of Palace’s league games, and scoring twice to put Palace into the play-off final. He has limited experience at international level, and his two caps for England may speak more of the FA’s eagerness to ensure he wouldn’t take up his eligibility to play for the country of his birth, the Ivory Coast.
In an exciting Norwich side, Nathan Redmond’s stands out as a real livewire. Like Zaha and Barkley, he has plied his trade in the Championship, but he announced himself on the Premier League scene with a superb goal against Southampton doing what makes him so exciting to watch – cutting in from the left hand side to strike the ball with his right foot. If he can stay injury-free, he could be a real threat from the bench in an England shirt.
Sterling made his Liverpool debut at the age of just 17, and immediately excited the Kop with his raw pace. A somewhat hasty international cap followed, and he made 24 appearances in Liverpool’s 2012/13 campaign. With an influx of attacking midfielders to Merseyside, Sterling’s game time may be limited this term, but if he manages to secure a first team spot or even a short-term loan, then Roy Hodgson may be very interested in handing him a plane ticket to Rio.