Fail to prepare, prepare to fail. That was a phrase first uttered by Benjamin Franklin, and it has since been co-opted by a variety of individuals and organisations.
It is also a philosophy that Gareth Southgate appears to be living by, with reports suggesting that he will name his 23-man squad for England’s assault on the World Cup as early as next week; some three weeks or so ahead of the official FIFA deadline.
“I’d like to [name the squad earlier] because you end up being able to run a performance camp rather than a selection camp,” he said.
“I think there’s a difference in the feel for everybody. If you name 28 and they aren’t sure, but if you name 23 and five on standby – which Sven did well – then everyone knows where they sit.
“Those on standby have a chance but they come into the camp knowing that’s their role. If you have got 28 or 30 who think they might have a chance, then there’s a lot of uncertainty and anxiety within the games.”
So we’re about a week or so away from knowing the identities of the 23 men who will represent the Three Lions in Russia this summer, and that is a truly mouth-watering prospect.
The bookmakers continue to offer a ‘to make England squad’ betting market, and this is a great guide of who is likely to pull on the white shirt, or warm the bench, when Southgate’s men tackle Tunisia on June 18.
So who can we expect to be on the plane according to the bookies?
- Jordan Pickford (1/33), Jack Butland (1/25), Joe Hart (4/9)
The bookies odds suggest that Nick Pope, a general 7/4 shot, is likely to miss out in favour of Joe Hart.
Perhaps that’s a question of experience, with Pickford and Butland – the nominal first choices – lacking experience on the big stage, with Hart offering plenty of words of wisdom from representing his country in years gone by.
- Kyle Walker (1/33), Kieran Trippier (1/10)
Just two options here according to the bookmakers, with Trent Alexander-Arnold (11/8) surprisingly being on the verge of missing out, according to the bookies.
Walker and Trippier will be supplemented by Ashley Young, however, should Southgate roll out his 3-4-3 system in Russia.
- Ryan Bertrand (2/5), Danny Rose (1/4), Ashley Young (4/7)
No surprises here, with Rose and Bertrand likely to duke it out for the starting berth. Young’s versatility earns him a spot on the plane.
- John Stones (1/10), Harry Maguire (1/10), Phil Jones (4/5), James Tarkowski (4/7)
England are likely to play three centre halves in Russia, hence why there is a generous number set to be in the squad.
Gary Cahill (11/10) and Chris Smalling (6/4) look set to miss out in favour of more stylish, ball-playing defenders like Maguire and Stones.
- Eric Dier (1/33), Dele Alli (1/33), Jordan Henderson (1/20), Jack Wilshere (4/11), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (4/6), Adam Lallana (2/5)
The injury suffered by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has opened the door for others to walk through, and according to the bookmakers it appears as if Loftus-Cheek will get the nod over the in-form Jonjo Shelvey (13/8).
Southgate is a known admirer of Adam Lallana, and may be willing to take a chance on the Liverpool man despite his ongoing injury worries.
- Marcus Rashford (1/33), Raheem Sterling (1/33), Jesse Lingard (1/25)
Just three options will be available to Southgate’s modern 3-4-3 set-up, with Raheem Sterling a no-brainer pick on the right and Rashford and Lingard battling it out for a turn on the left.
- Harry Kane (1/33), Jamie Vardy (1/33)
Even fewer options exist up front, where Vardy will serve as Kane’s deputy. There is, in an extreme case, the possibility of Rashford or Sterling playing through the middle.
So that’s it: according to the bookmakers, these are the 23 men who will represent England this summer. There are a few other options, with Danny Welbeck (5/6), Fabian Delph (2/1), Lewis Cook (9/4) and Alfie Mawson (3/1) on the shortlist according to the sportsbooks.
Is it the kind of England squad that offers hope of some long-awaited glory this summer? The jury remains out on that front….