This coming Saturday, England’s latest battle for glory on the big stage kicks off when Roy Hodgson’s side take on Russia in Marseille, in their opening European Championships fixture.
Among the squad, holding the hopes of the nation on their collective shoulders, are five players from South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire, representing the largest concentration of talent from anywhere in England.
Sheffield pair Jamie Vardy and Kyle Walker are joined by Dronfield’s Gary Cahill, Barnsley-born John Stones and Doncaster’s Danny Rose as our five star men, but will they make it into Hodgson’s starting XI? Here we assess the chances of each of those players lining up to belt out the national anthem in five days time.
Hodgson played Vardy and Harry Kane (and Wayne Rooney) against Portugal last week and it didn’t work, as both front men ended up on the flanks and neither made an impact. With Rooney almost certain of a place, Hodgson may now go with one up front and Kane, in that case, would be more likely to get the nod.
With the squad of defenders somewhat inexperienced, cautious Hodgson will surely look towards a steady head in Cahill, particularly in the opening game. The Chelsea defender is arguably the most likely of our five to start.
Doubts remain over Stones, mostly because he’s not your usual English central defender. While some believe that makes the former Barnsley youngster unreliable, others welcome his calmness and ability to play out from the back. Caution, again, could dictate though. Expect Stones to feature towards the end of the group stages if England have notched up enough points.
A superb season at Tottenham has seen the Doncaster born left-back all but make the spot his own and he should join Cahill in the starting line-up on Saturday.
The former Blade has raced into contention of late and was one of the only positives to emerge from that 1-0 win over Portugal. If Hodgson hadn’t decided on a right-back then that display could have made his mind up.