Eurospot: The uncapped wonders
Swansea City's 3-2 victory over Arsenal has seen a corner of South Wales hailed as an unlikely cradle of English football, albeit with a distinctly Catalan flavour, just five months before the start of Euro 2012.
Brendan Rodgers's team had been dubbed 'Swanselona' even before their elevation to the Premier League last summer and their admirable adherence to the kind of slick passing game espoused by Pep Guardiola's era-defining side has ensured focus has been firmly trained on the Liberty Stadium of late.
Though ostensibly in attendance to cast an eye over Theo Walcott, Fabio Capello could hardly have failed to be impressed by the more unsung English talents playing their part in the confident vanquishing of Arsenal on Sunday.
With winger Nathan Dyer comprehensively outplaying the woeful Walcott, Scott Sinclair making Andrei Arshavin look like the embodiment of apathy, Danny Graham a constant menace in attack and Leon Britton continuing the form that has seen him hailed as the Wandsworth Xavi, it has even been suggested that Capello could now turn to Glamorgan in a late attempt to freshen up his squad in time for Euro 2012.
Eurospot remains unconvinced: Capello may have shown an increasing willingness to experiment over the past two years but international managers generally remain creatures of habit, especially this close to a major finals. However, it did get us thinking, could there yet be a surprise inclusion in the squad that travels to Euro 2012?
Here are the ten uncapped players who might just have a chance of elbowing aside one of the old guard to secure a place on the plane to Poland and Ukraine.
Club: Stoke City; Position: Defence; Age: 24
The Stoke defender's only England call-up came on the same evening he shattered Aaron Ramsey's leg in two in February 2010 and he has not been welcomed back to the international bosom since. However, few English defenders command as much authority as the Stoke City captain, whose presence and influence at centre-back has forced an international defender of old, Jonathan Woodgate, to be pushed out to right-back. Capello has a fairly settled collection of centre-backs, but concerns over Rio Ferdinand and John Terry may ensure a place opens up in time for the summer.
Club: Swansea City; Position: Midfield; Age: 29
What greater international credentials could a player wish for than the accolade of being officially better than Xavi, the player who more than any other has imprinted Barcelona and Spain's tiki-taka on the football consciousness? Britton can make that claim after it was revealed he possesses the best pass success rate in all of Europe's top five leagues, with his 93.3 per cent beating Xavi into a poor second place. Britton's problem, aside from his age, is that at international level England have shown little inclination to try and play the possession game for decades now. Why try and keep the ball when Lamps or Stevie G can show a bit of passion and smash it over the bar from 30 yards?
Club: Manchester United; Position: Midfield; Age: 22
A combination of injury problems that have prevented him from playing any meaningful football since September and, until recently, the lack of a Paul Scholes-type in midfield have seen Cleverley, in absentia, build a reputation to rival that of Sir Bobby Charlton at Old Trafford. It is widely expected that the return of a player who spent last season on loan at Wigan will solve United's creative problems in the blink of an eye, and prior to his injury he was also being fast-tracked into the England side. Indeed, Cleverley was named in the squad to face Netherlands in a friendly in August before the game was called off due to the riots sweeping London. He surely has a decent chance.
Club: Chelsea/Swansea; Position: Midfield; Age: 18
The latest English talent to come under Brendan Rodgers's wing, the teenager has joined Swansea on loan for the remainder of the season and, with his appreciation of the possession game and poise on the ball, looks a perfect fit for a team predicated on a short-passing approach. A storming second half of the season could press his claims but McEachran's chances are likely to depend on the recovery of the currently injured Jack Wilshere - who is a player of a similar ilk but two years down the line in terms of maturity. If Wilshere struggles with his fitness then McEachran could be an exciting alternative to an otherwise rather stale England midfield.
Club: Arsenal; Position: Midfield; Age: 18
Capello was talking about the Arsenal teenager as a "really interesting player" and floating him as a possible Euro 2012 candidate as long ago as October - ridiculously early given he had started only two games for the club following his summer move from Southampton. However, 'The Ox' had scored in both of those appearances - against Shrewsbury in the Carling Cup and Olympiacos in the Champions League - and although Arsene Wenger has cautiously shielded him from the full first-team glare, he already looks a more accomplished player than the man he is always compared to, Walcott. Some brilliant performances for the Under-21s strengthen his claim but the Euros are likely to come too soon.
SCOTT SINCLAIR/NATHAN DYER
Club: Swansea City; Position: Midfield; Age: 22/24
We include the two Swansea wingers as a pair, because there is no chance they will both be going to Poland and Ukraine. Sinclair and Dyer have been dynamism personified for the Swans this season, and not just when giving Arsenal's makeshift defence a torrid afternoon at the weekend. Their main obstacle to a place in the squad is the sheer weight of options at Capello's fingertips: Stewart Downing and Ashley Young are likely to make the cut, Aaron Lennon, Theo Walcott and Adam Johnson will all be hopeful while Daniel Sturridge is also a strong contender to play off the right in a 4-3-3 formation. Sinclair, with his international pedigree throughout the various age groups and superior quality on the ball, is the stronger candidate.
Club: Liverpool; Position: Midfield; Age: 23
It is a long, long time since the Scouser was being labelled the 'new Steven Gerrard' and instead it is into the boots of Lucas Leiva that he has stepped following the long-term injury to the Brazil international. Spearing has been a regular presence in the Liverpool starting XI in the past two months - as well as starting four of the past five games - bringing tenacity and bite to Kenny Dalglish's midfield. If Liverpool opt not to sign a new defensive midfielder in January, and everything points to the fact that they will not, then Spearing can expect plenty of minutes on the pitch. Whether this would translate into international recognition is doubtful though, given the form Scott Parker is enjoying at Tottenham and the fact Gareth Barry remains an international fixture, despite some unconvincing performances in the white of England.
Club: Swansea City; Position: Striker; Age: 26
A club record £3.5 million purchase from Watford in the summer, Graham struggled initially upon his introduction to the top flight but has scored nine goals in his past 15 games to become one of the more dependable exponents of the lone striker's role in the top flight. More prolific than Peter Crouch and a better all-round player than Darren Bent, Graham must be encouraged by England's chronic lack of strikers. Fifteen years ago, England had Alan Shearer, Teddy Sheringham, Ian Wright, Andy Cole, Les Ferdinand and Robbie Fowler at their disposal; Capello has handed debuts to Kevin Davies, Carlton Cole and Jay Bothroyd.
Club: Celtic; Position: Striker; Age: 23
Few English strikers boast the remarkable consistency of Hooper in front of goal: over the past four-and-a-half seasons, representing four clubs in four divisions, he has scored 88 times in the league. His form at Celtic has led to sporadic claims from team-mates, fans and media alike that he is deserving of a chance at international level but as yet there has been no recognition from Capello. A consummate poacher, Neil Lennon recently joked the striker was worth £35 million and he has been linked with a move to QPR in January but unless a plague descends on Premier League strikers, Hooper's claims are likely to remain unheard.