by Tom Exelby

This will be the final instalment of The Plane, owing to the fact that Roy Hodgeson will announce his squad of 23 on Wednesday. Here I have highlighted my preferred 23 man squad. I must also add that it is an unfortunate coincidence, and in no way an elaborate piece of irony, that my assessment of England’s hopefuls ends on week 13.

GOALKEEPER: Joe Hart: England haven’t travelled to a tournament with a goalkeeper as good as Hart for 15 years. Calm and authoritative I believe he should be handed the armband too.

GOALKEEPER, UNDERSTUDIES: Rob Green, Ben Foster: best of a supporting cast which is at best mediocre. Foster is actually retired from international football but the appointment of Hodgson will surely see his return?? If not Scott Carson will be given a call…… Lets just hope Joe Hart remains fit.

LEFT BACK: Ashley Cole: No brainer, both as a selection and in a more literal sense.

LEFT BACK UNDERSTUDY: Leighton Baines: by some distance our second best left back. Could also be relied upon in a penalty shootout.

RIGHT BACK: Micah Richards: Quick, Strong and fresh from winning the Premier League title, has hoisted himself ahead of tough competition in his position.

RIGHT BACK UNDERSTUDY: Kyle Walker: Weaker than Richards defensively but more of a threat going forward. Capable of causing mayhem from right back, he would be a real asset coming off the bench.

CENTRE BACKS: Joleon Lescott, John Terry: It seems to be a straight battle between Terry and Ferdinand. I prefer Terry and feel he would provide great balance as well as providing an important club combination at the back.

CENTRE BACKS, UNDERSTUDIES: Gary Cahill, Phil Jones: Jones hasn’t played much at centre back this year but most feel that is his natural position, as well as that his versatility will be useful. Cahill is perhaps fortunate that the squad is picked before he faces Robben, Ribery and Gomez in the Champions League Final but he will be on the plane.

LEFT MIDFIELD: Stewart Downing: Hasn’t set the world alight at Liverpool but remains the most consistent left sided winger.

LEFT MIDFIELD, UNDERSTUDY: James Milner: not strictly a left midfielder but he is versatile and he is certain to go to the Euros. Solid and dependable he edges out club mate Adam Johnson who simply hasn’t played enough.

RIGHT MIDFIELD: Theo Walcott: Has quietly been England’s best wide man since the turn of the year. His return to form has coincided with Arsenal’s charge to third and his pace scares any defender.

RIGHT MIDFIELDER, UNDERSTUDY: Ashley Young: Has a good understanding with Wayne Rooney, he is also likely to pop up with an important goal. Aaron Lennon looks set to miss out after fizzling out at the end of the season.

CENTRAL MIDFIELD: Scott Parker, Steven Gerrard: Jack Wilshere looks as though he will still be injured and so Parker and Gerrard are the obvious choices, both could be trusted in the biggest of games and Gerrard in particular is always liable to grab a goal.

CENTRAL MIDFIELD, UNDERSTUDIES: Michael Carrick, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: with Milner and Jones selected in other positions but both capable of playing in central midfield there is room for a wildcard like Chamberlain, exciting and unpredictable he could have an Owen in 1998 tournament. Carrick edges out Barry in the battle of the underrated whilst the return of Scholes is so unlikely I hardly considered it.  As unlikely as the omission of Frank Lampard is I think maybe it’s time to turn that particular page and move forward.

STRIKERS: Wayne Rooney, Danny Wellbeck: The pair work fantastically well together for United where Rooney’s recent goal scoring form has coincided with the emergence of Wellbeck.

STRIKERS, UNDERSTUDIES: Andy Carroll, Danny Graham: Graham in ahead of Grant Holt due to Holt and Carroll being quite similar. Graham has great movement and would create space for Rooney. Carroll seems to be returning to his best at the perfect time.

NOTABLE ABSENTEES: Adam Johnson, Glen Johnson, Tom Cleverly, Frank Lampard, Gareth Barry, Rio Ferdinand: all are very good players and so highlight England’s strength in depth, something often criticised by an overly pessimistic media. The latter three represent England’s past failings but are not scapegoats, more the first of that generation no longer good enough to challenge the world’s best.

NOTABLE INJURIES: Chris Smalling, Jack Wilshere, Darren Bent: Perhaps only Wilshere would have been an automatic choice but the others were robbed of me considering them carefully.

I honestly believe that the above squad is good enough to win Euro 2012. Our main competition are the Dutch, Germans and Spaniards – all are outstanding teams – but England can beat them on our day.