On taking over the National Team, I made my intentions clear to the media, it had been too long since England had won an International tournament (Le Tournoi aside
), and I was here to rectify that. My first chance of landing that elusive Championship would be the World Cup in 2010, which would be held in South Africa. Getting to the World Cup would mean overcoming Iceland, Ireland, Latvia and Poland in our qualifying group, and I fancied our chances of doing just that, with our first game in 42 days time in Riga, Latvia.
Looking at the squad that had performed so terribly at the Euros, I couldn't understand how they had capitulated so badly. The likes of Rooney, Walcott and Ashley Young were all right at their peak, and skipper Steven Gerrard was still a great player even at 36 years of age. Having said that, there were a few players who didn't deserve to be in the squad, and so when it came to announcing my squad for the games against Latvia and Poland, I made a few changes.
England squad for the games against Latvia and Poland
Joe Lewis - My number 1 at Ipswich, and England's Goalkeeper before I took over, and I saw no reason to change that.
Joe Hart - Moved from Man City to Swansea early in his career, and is now at Sheffield Wednesday. One previous cap to his name, and despite playing in the Championship, a very talented keeper.
Ben Foster - Man Utd's regular keeper has 5 caps to his name, and also a very capable stopper if required. The oldest of the 3 keepers, but only 33 and in the best shape of his career.
A very tough choice for the jersey, but Joe Lewis
gets the call for the time being, with Joe Hart acting as backup on the bench.
Leighton Baines - Still uncapped, but the 31 year old will be my first choice left back. Takes a mean free kick and I have high hopes for the Everton defender.
Gary Sawyer - England's first choice left back for the Euros, the Aston Villa full back has 5 caps to his name, and will provide good competition for Baines.
Michael Dawson - Spurs centre back and colossus in the heart of defence. I'm blessed with an abundance of great defenders and Dawson will be there or there abouts when the lineup is announced.
Chris Smalling - Chelsea defender and another looking to make his debut for England. A towering centre back who should prevent the majority of aerial attacks.
Curtis Davies - Now at Man City, Davies is yet another defender with great talent.
Tom McMahon - Young defender who was with me at Ipswich, and despite his age - just 19 has wonderful positional sense and a tackling machine. Another waiting for his first cap.
Wayne Reeves - Uncapped Wolves centre half, was on my radar when at Ipswich, and at 22 has a very bright future.
Glen Johnson - 68 caps to his name brings some much needed international experience to a cap-light looking defence. Still with fantastic ability, the Liverpool right back will also be my first choice no. 2
Micah Richards - A fantastic alternative to Johnson if required, more defensive minded than his fellow right back, Richards can also fill in at centre back if required.
A backline of Baines - Dawson - Smalling - Johnson
should start against Latvia, but there is wonderful strength in depth in defence, and they will all have to be on their toes to keep their place.
Ashley Young - Versatile midfielder, the Everton winger has 67 caps to his name, and should find himself in the starting lineup, but on which flank remains to be seen.
Aaron Lennon - The speedy winger has also been a stalwart for England the past few years, achieving 61 caps in that time. Another who can play on either wing, his fast feet should terrorise many defences.
James Milner - Yet another versatile midfielder, Milner can play all across the midfield, but will probably find his time operating in central midfield.
Steven Gerrard - The most experienced in the camp, with a record 137 caps for England. Still a fantastic player, the Standard Liege midfielder will captain the side.
Jack Wilshere - Once at Ipswich, now back at Arsenal, the 24 year old has finally been called upto represent his country. Can play either on the left or centrally, and has great vision on the ball.
Michael Johnson - My captain with Ipswich, the ex Man City defensive midfielder has 20 caps to his name, and with a lot of attack minded players in the midfield, should add some balance to the midfield.
Marvin Elliott - The second Wolves man in the squad, 31 year old Elliot has been in England squads for the past couple of years, and the box-to-box midfield is a great option to call upon if needed.
Stewart Downing - Man City Left winger, not played as much for England as his talent warrents, at 32 he still has great delivery, and should create plenty of chances for the strikers.
A very experienced midfield quartet of Young - Johnson - Gerrard (C) - Walcott
can boast a staggering 263 caps between them, and once again there are some wonderful reserves if needed.
Wayne Rooney - England's all time record scorer, with 71 goals from 123 caps, the Man Utd foward is still just 30 years of age and right at his peak.
Gabriel Agbonlahor - Has formed a feared strike partnership with Rooney at International level, the Aston Villa front man has a decent scoring record himself for England, with 31 goals in 61 apps.
Andy Carroll - Another Villa striker, the giant Geordie is yet to represent his country, but his aerial ability and brute strength should strike fear into many defenders.
Darren Bent - A goalscorer anywhere he's been - except England. Has only managed one solitary goal from 21 caps, and some have doubts about his mental strength and ability at International level, but will be in the squad for the time being.
Connor Wickham - The 23 year old had been in the last few England squads, but never got the chance to get on the field, and is still in search of his first cap. Despite being behind Mbokani and Macheda at Ipswich, he scored some big goals for me at Portman Road, and with not many alternatives to choose from, he makes it in as 5th choice striker.
The Rooney - Agbonlahor
partnership will continue to impress, and I have a great option with Carroll on the bench, who can unsettle any defence.
As you can see, and in the words of that great manager Mike Bassett,