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Upton Park's England Prospects

Filed: Thursday, 22nd February 2001
By: James Carey

With the arrival of Eriksson every English Premiership player is trying to pull out all of the stops to impress the new coach.

Dozens of players across the country will be in the spotlight as each game in the upcoming months is watched with intensing scrutiny to single out potential England players.

Whilst the new England coach’s right hand man, Tord Grip, has been in the country for months, watching games, taking notes and adding players names to his dossier, the main man, Eriksson, has only just arrived in the country and where would he choose to get his first taste of live Premiership action….. none other than Upton Park.

Much has been touted in the past about how West Ham played a significant part in England winning the World Cup in 1966 with three major players, Moore, Hurst and Peters hailing from the original academy of Upton Park, but how much of a chance do the current crop of English players plying their trade at the Boleyn Ground have of making it into Eriksson's squad.

Where better to start than the current golden boy of English football. Only recently returning to Premiership football after a long term injury Joe Cole knows that now is the time to show the fans, the media and most importantly Eriksson what kind of a player he really is.

The pressure was on him against Sunderland and he didn’t disappoint showing his full repertoire of skills that included his mazy dribbling, creative passes and willingness to defend when the chips are down.

Comparisons have been made between Cole and Gazza. The fact that England haven’t had a player who can unlock defences with a single pass or who can travel with the ball through the centre of midfield, a la Zidane, since Gazza has never been more evident than at Euro 2000 and now that Cole is playing more regularly in the Premiership there is a definite case that Cole should be included in Eriksson's squad. Even if he is not in the starting line up against Spain he is the kind of player you can bring on in the last ½ hour who has the ability to change a game. Whether it be a dribble past the opposing midfielders or a Rivaldo-esque pass, as demonstrated against Sunderland where he split the defence with an audacious pass to Di Canio, this boy definitely has the potential and perhaps under Eriksson's reign he’ll be given the chance to show the world that he can live up to and exceed everyone’s expectations.

Another of the Hammers rising young stars is the Geordie lad Michael Carrick. Carrick has long been in the shadow of Cole and this may have benefited him, as it would have allowed him to concentrate on his football. Although he plays in the centre of the park as well he is a completely different type of player to Cole. Rather than delight the crowd with silky touches and outrageous skill Carrick relies on his superb distribution and reading of the game to command the midfield.

Whilst Cole is likened to Gazza, Carrick is more similar to Glen Hoddle. He has started the majority of West Ham’s games this season and has rarely put a foot wrong. His simple but effective passes are another thing that England have been missing but with Beckham possibly taking a more central role in the midfield Carrick may find it hard to get a place in the squad but he is definitely one for the future.

Often England players progress through the ranks from the Under - 21’s to the senior side. Players who have performed well for their country at U- 21’s are given the opportunity to show what they can do at senior level. No player has put in more consistent performances in the U-21’s in recent years than Frank Lampard Junior.

Made captain by Peter Taylor, Lampard played a pivotal role in helping England qualify for the U-21’s European Championship in formidable fashion. He has since received only one senior cap in which he failed to shine but how much chance has he of making the grade this time.

So far this season he’s played well but has failed to stamp his authority on many games as expected from a midfield leader as in the likes of Keane. His downfall may be that doesn’t really offer England any new options as that type of player is evident in many Premiership sides such as Ince, Wise, Bowyer and Morris.

I think he’ll miss out this time but if he concentrates on adding a more commanding role to his game becoming a midfield general and scores more goals he may find himself a central figure of the England set-up over the next few years.

Last buy by no means least is Trevor Sinclair. Although he had a bad game, albeit carrying an injury, in front of Eriksson on Saturday he is a player that is reportedly held in high regard by Tord Grip.

His pace down the flanks and willingness to take defenders on has been a central part of West Ham’s attack for some time now. What gives Sinclair an edge over other possible England candidates is his versatility. He has played in a number of positions under Redknapp from wing back, right midfield to centre forward and he is comfortable playing on either the right or left hand side of the pitch. This makes him a most useful squad player as though he might not start for England he is willing and more than able to deputise in a number of different positions and it is this which might give him the edge and get him a place in the squad.

West Ham have a number of exciting young English players whose collective aim aside from helping West Ham to success is to play for the full England squad but due to the fact that they all more or less operate in midfield means there will be some disappointed players at Upton Park. Cole and Sinclair are the most likely candidates to get a place in the squad as they both offer England a different dimension.

Lastly it’s not too late for the uncapped Di Canio to claim British citizenship and get a place in the squad…oh well we can all dream!

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

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