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Changing of the Guard: England’s Centre Back Dilemma

Fabio Capello has some serious thinking to do.

For many a year, the backbone of England’s football team has been anchored by a solid, dependable centre-back pairing.

As far back as the World Cup-winning side of 1966, the fort was manned by late inspirational captain Bobby Moore and the irrepressible Jack Charlton.

Other famous names to adorn the numbers 5 and 6 include Terry Butcher, Tony Adams and Sol Campbell, currently playing out the last of his days at St.James’ Park.

But in the current era, with Rio Ferdinand battling constant injury problems at 32, and John Terry dogged by issues in his personal life and inconsistent performances, what are the alternatives?

Ledley King has proven he is incapable of staying fit long enough to be a force for England, as proven by the massive gamble taken on him at last summer’s World Cup.

Matthew Upson showed in the 4-1 hammering to Germany, he is not an international class defender, and lacks the pace he had as a youngster.

Joleon Lescott undoubtedly has defensive talent, but he is frustratingly inconsistent and struggles to merit a team in the Manchester City team under Roberto Mancini.

So England, as ever, appear to be in some sort of crisis. While we have time between now and the next international tournament, we should try and transition to new back line for the new decade.

Unquestionable Spirit

Michael Dawson has amicably lead Tottenham to uncharted territory into the Champions League Quarter- Finals, and would be head of the queue should Capello decide to experiment at the back.
The former Nottingham Forest trainee already has prior England experience, and his resilience to overcome a serious knee-injury against Bulgaria last September shows his mettle at the top-level.
He would also be a worthwhile candidate for the captaincy.

Phil Jagielka is a man of unquestionable spirit. Having also overcome a serious-injury in 2010, he has once again become a fixture in an under-achieving Everton side.
‘Jags’ regularly puts his body on the line for the sake of his team, and his never-say-die attitude is akin to an England hero of the past, Terry Butcher.
He played in that same game that Dawson suffered his terrible injury, and was roundly praised by many for demonstrating he could cope at the highest level.

Meteoric Rise

Roger Johnson may be a surprising name on this list, but his performances this season should indicate otherwise.
His battling performance in the League Cup triumph over Arsenal, despite sustaining an injury for the cause, was indicative of how integral a part he has become of the Birmingham side since their promotion.
He possesses many qualities necessary to be an international defender; being able to read the game exceptionally well, an immaculate tackler, and a leader at the back.

Chris Smalling may only be a recent consideration for a slot, but in the past month he has proved himself as a more than capable Premier League defender.
In the absence of senior defenders at Manchester United, he has filled in admirably alongside Nemanja Vidic, earning rave reviews for his performances.
He has had a meteoric rise to fame, only 3 years out of Non-League football with Maidstone United, and he bears an uncanny resemblance to club-mate Rio Ferdinand, both in appearance and playing style.

Potential Candidates

The above players are ones who would definitely be able to come in and play straight away. But there are a number of players around the league that could just as easily stake a claim for a place.

Potential candidates include: Gary Cahill & David Wheater (Bolton), Ryan Shawcross (Stoke), James Tomkins (West Ham) and Michael Mancienne (Wolves), who can all be optimistic of their chances on becoming a regular England international.

Fabio Capello has rectified the goalkeeping issue by naming Joe Hart as his number one, now it’s time he cured his defensive malaise by replacing those who guard the City stopper.

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More Stories Chris Smalling david wheater Gary Cahill james tomkins john terry joleon lescott ledley king matthew upson michael dawson Michael Mancienne phil jagielka rio ferdinand Roger Johnson Ryan Shawcross