Who should start for England in Montenegro?

Alex Sharp takes a look at the contenders for a starting spot in England's crunch Euro 2012 qualifier

Alex Sharp
By Alex Sharp
fabio capello
Capello's side need a point to book their place at next summer's Finals PA Photos

fabio capello

Fabio Capello picked the north London derby ahead of the international break to check out the some of his squad’s progress – and he certainly will have left with a smile on his face.

Scott Parker put in a composed and commanding performance to lay down the foundations for Tottenham’s 2-1 victory. He surely has to start in the middle on Friday in Montenegro and hold the line. We’ve had enough of Gareth Barry’s sideways passes. We need a hostile, dedicated battler to jell together the defence and midfield – and Parker is the man.

England used to have Gary Neville taking the shirt at right-back ahead of Lee Dixon and ever since then we’ve been left in the wilderness, with dire players such as Danny Mills and Glen Johnson failing to perform.

However, after Kyle Walker’s stunning performance at White Hart Lane, with a spectacular drive to win the derby, he proved he has the credentials to own the shirt in the coming years. He does have competition in the form of a rejuvenated Micah Richards and the improving Chris Smalling among others. It would be a risk, which means Capello wouldn’t dream of trying him, but he has played remarkably well and deserves a chance at some point.

Now, this column deserves some credit after it came leaping to Frank Lampard’s defence last week as journalists, pundits and fans were throwing in his towel. Lampard thumped in a hat-trick against a hapless Bolton last weekend, in the process scoring his 175th goal in 350 Chelsea appearances. A goal every two appearances is staggering and once again proves he’s likely to be involved for Chelsea and England for a few more seasons.

And staying with Chelsea, it is simply baffling how the impressive Daniel Sturridge hasn’t made Capello’s squad. The other London derby of the weekend showcased Bobby Zamora back leading the Fulham frontline and heavily contributing to the Cottager’s 6-0 humiliation of QPR. He’s industrial, hard-working and scores a few – but is he world class?

Darren Bent should never start for England. Yes, he has a good scoring record for the Three Lions and always scores at club level, but he wastes barrels of chances on a regular basis and requires service when he scores all those taps-ins.

Sturridge cut his teeth in sublime fashion at Bolton last season and has nudged his way into contention this term. His double at the Reebok on Sunday exemplified his class. Sturridge is direct, explosive and unpredictable – things you can’t say about Zamora, the underperforming Andy Carroll or Bent.

Elsewhere, it’s good to see Danny Wellbeck isn’t injured this time round and can join club team-mate Wayne Rooney in the striking five. They have already notched up 14 goals between them this season for United and that’s where your money should be for the starting two. Their understanding, coupled with service from Ashley Young on the left has produced countless chances for United and could benefit England with some cohesion upfront.

With Rio Ferdinand overlooked due to a lack of matches and ongoing niggles, Phil Jagielka having a nightmare in the Merseyside derby and Gary Cahill being swamped in misery up in Bolton, surely it’s time for Phil Jones to get the nod? He’s been in great form for United in the early stages and can feed off John Terry’s vast experience.

Whoever Capello does choose it’s refreshing to see a blend of experience and youth competing for places in the starting line-up for Friday’s crucial tie.

Let’s just hope the manager doesn’t revert to the stale 4-4-2, with Barry and Bent involved, because that would be a step backwards.

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