23 for 2014: How England will line up at the next World Cup in Brazil
With England's Euro 2012 exit leading to an unsurprising number of calls for a total overhaul of the current squad, FourFourTwo.com editor Gary Parkinson looks ahead two years to Brazil 2014...
By the next World Cup finals, Steven Gerrard will be 34, Scott Parker nearly 34, John Terry and Ashley Cole 33 and a half. Of other recent regulars, Frank Lampard will be 36 and Gareth Barry 33, as will Peter Crouch, while Rio Ferdinand Ã¢ÂÂ who has pledged to remain available for England Ã¢ÂÂ will be 35.
Between them, those eight players have 554 caps. All squads need experience Ã¢ÂÂ ask Andrea Pirlo, who turned 33 last month and has 87 caps to his name Ã¢ÂÂ but England's older generation may be forced into retirement if the national team is to look forward rather than back.
Fabio Capello had already started the necessary rejuvenation of a squad that was the oldest at the 2010 World Cup, to the extent that Hodgson's squad was the second youngest at Euro 2012 Ã¢ÂÂ albeit somewhat against England's wishes due to the late unavailability of Lampard and Barry. However, there are senior players whose participation in Brazil must be in serious doubt.
Of the eight named above, Ashley Cole seems the least likely to be cast aside just yet, but the future looks very uncertain for his club captain. John Terry may be only 13 days older than Cole, but he is already being targeted by top teams as a weak link: Italy aimed long straight through-balls at him, just as Germany did to such effect two summers ago. Terry has rarely been anything less than resolute for his country, but his sun is setting and with Hodgson putting a premium on defensive solidity it seems time for England to refresh their back-line.
Has Terry heroically just about made up for his own mistake for the last time?
Having reclaimed his place from the unfortunate Gary Cahill, Joleon Lescott will be England's senior centre-back in Brazil at 31. Cahill currently looks the best bet to partner him but England will hope Phil Jones (who'll be 22) and Chris Smalling (24) continue to mature into ball-playing centre-backs.
At the moment both Jones and Smalling are undergraduate centre-backs offering cover at right-back. The same might be said of Micah Richards, who took such umbrage at being contacted about the squad list by Stuart Pearce rather than Roy Hodgson that he flounced off to the Caribbean on holiday.
Richards has the raw material to excel in either position but he did himself no favours with his disappearing act, especially after Cahill's injury forced Hodgson to call up Liverpool greenhorn Martin Kelly. The Manchester City man, who turns 26 in summer 2014, must regret his last-minute getaway Ã¢ÂÂ but more importantly he has to make himself undroppable for his club.
For England, it would seem easier for Richards, Jones or Smalling to replace Terry than Glen Johnson. The Liverpool right-back, who'll be 29 by summer 2014, has never been everybody's favourite but was widely regarded as one of England's best players this summer, with Kyle Walker (24 in 2014) currently his understudy.
Perhaps even more so than many other modern formations, Hodgson's doughty 4-4-2 requires full-backs to be as adept in the opponents' half as their own: the adventurous Walker seems the best fit. On the other side, while Kieran Gibbs shows promise, Leighton Baines continues to wait his turn; should Cole start to slip, Hodgson might start to favour the Scouser's better delivery of early balls to the front-men.
Baines will continue to breathe down Cole's neck for the left-back slot
If Cole is the least likely thirtysomething to be jettisoned, Steven Gerrard has already declared his intention to carry on. The England captain turns 34 in May 2014 so his days of covering every blade will be behind him, but the Anfield legend's more disciplined performances this summer Ã¢ÂÂ topping the tournament's tackling charts Ã¢ÂÂ suggest an older, wiser player. If Gerrard's legs don't go and he adjusts to a deeper role at club level, Hodgson Ã¢ÂÂ who clearly admires the man he (re)made captain Ã¢ÂÂ might decide he still has a role to play.
It's harder to imagine Scott Parker lasting two years, considering he frequently found it hard to last 90 minutes. Parker has impressed with his tenacity and neat passing but like Lampard and Barry, by 2014 he may well be as distant a memory as South Africa squaddies Matthew Upson, Emile Heskey and Shaun Wright-Phillips are now.
England will be hoping for the return of Jack Wilshere to head a new breed of technically adept young midfielders including Tom Cleverley, Jack Rodwell, Josh McEachran and Jordan Henderson Ã¢ÂÂ the last of whom was thrown in at the deep end this summer, stepping up from a standby list refused the talents of Michael Carrick, who will be 34 by 2014.
Rejuvenation isn't due in England's key problem position Ã¢ÂÂ out wide Ã¢ÂÂ but the field is wide open. First-choice wingers Ashley Young and James Milner, who struggled to create anything of note this summer, will be 28 in 2014 and face a struggle to hold off squad-mates Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, plus rivals like Aaron Lennon, Adam Johnson and Ã¢ÂÂ if he can find his best form Ã¢ÂÂ Gabriel Agbonlahor.
Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain will be aiming for more prominent roles
Hodgson and his coaches have measurably improved England's defensive ability; what they need to concentrate on now is the side's ball retention and creativity. Luckily for them, England have half a dozen players who have been brought up through strong academies and are completing their education at clubs regularly competing in the Champions League.
A good example is another option out wide, Danny Sturridge, although he may not possess the desire to track back Ã¢ÂÂ or to play wide at all: he insists he's a front-line striker. In that department, Wayne Rooney will be 28 and (injury permitting) nearing 90 caps. Andy Carroll (who'll be 25) and Danny Welbeck (23) made their claims but need to keep developing at club level.
Such development is, of course, paramount in the probability of these predictions coming true. An underachieving couple of years could see today's great hopes become almost forgotten men: among the England U21 regulars in 2009 were Martin Cranie, Craig Gardner and Michael Mancienne, none of whom are beating down Hodgson's door. Promising talents like Tottenham's Steven Caulker, Everton's Ross Barkley and Palace's Wilfried Zaha must continue to improve if they are to catch the eye.
But youthful zest will always bring unrivalled promise, and there's no more exciting prospect than the nippy young striker who promises a goal a game forever. By 2014 Jermain Defoe will be 31, Darren Bent 30; will they too be yesterday's men, overlooked in favour of the latest teenage sensation?
My 23 for '14
Goalkeepers: Hart, Ruddy, Carson
Defenders: G.Johnson, Walker, Cahill, Lescott, Jones, Smalling, Cole, Baines
Midfielders: Gerrard, Wilshere, Cleverley, Rodwell, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott, Young, Adam Johnson
Attackers: Rooney, Welbeck, Carroll, Sturridge