Afternoon all, and welcome to West England, where capitalism conquers all. Today we take a look at a hypothetical western team, basically made up of players who don’t hail from East Anglia. You’ve all seen the map by now.
Much like the real world, it’s true that this team is probably a lot less interesting to think about than the Eastern team. But you can’t have one without the other, and we should probably get cracking.
Goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford, Dean Henderson & Tom Heaton
Starting us off in goal is basically the three players you’d expect in this squad, if the last player here wasn’t conveniently injured. Jordan Pickford, born and raised in Tyne and Wear, is England’s current number one, and there’s no doubt he’d take the number one spot here, despite some somewhat iffy displays so far this season. Should he make too many mistakes to the point of proving droppable, Sheffield United’s on loan superstar Dean Henderson comes in to fill the void as a more than capable back-up. Lastly, Aston Villa’s Tom Heaton adds depth and experience to an already stacked goalkeeping selection, even if he is currently injured in reality.
It’s true that when you look at it, the West are pretty solid when it comes to goalkeepers. Aaron Ramsdale, Ben Foster, Jack Butland, Joe Hart, Alex McCarthy and Fraser Forster could all stake a legitimate claim for a spot in this team. Sadly, such is the standard of quality in the West England team, they’ll have to make do watching on from the comfort of their sofas.
Right-Backs: Trent Alexander-Arnold & Kyle Walker
Although in reality right-back is a strangely competitive position in the national team, there’s no doubt who makes the cut here. Famed Liverpudlian Trent Alexander-Arnold has to take first choice spot here, as arguably the finest right-back in world football right now. Yorkshire’s finest Kyle Walker provides a wealth of experience as his back-up should he succumb to injury. In terms of replacements in the squad, Kieran Trippier is the obvious choice, having been born in Bury. Everton’s Mason Holgate and Aston Villa’s Matt Targett are the most likely options to fill in should Trippier be unavailable, but both are unlikely to be featuring in this squad any time soon, but Calum Chambers, often deployed at centre-back, can also come in here to do a reliable job.
Centre-Backs: Harry Maguire, John Stones, Michael Keane & Tyrone Mings
There’s a common theme developing here, that most of the players we’ve already mentioned just make up the England national team, and at centre-back we have no exception. I promise it gets more varied the further we go.
Our main centre-back duo both hail from Yorkshire, with Harry Maguire and John Stones taking up their positions in the starting XI. While both their forms have been a little off this season, they’re still the finest centre-backs the West, and some might argue the whole of England, have to offer. Michael Keane and Tyrone Mings fill the remaining two slots in the squad, hailing from Stockport and Bath respectively. In another reality, either one of Burnley duo Ben Mee and James Tarkowski could easily find their way into the squad, as could Brighton stalwart Lewis Dunk, Southampton regular Jack Stephens, Norwich’s Ben Godfrey, or the perennially injured Rob Holding. If we get really desperate for options, then Jamaal Lascelles or Phil Jones can consider themselves on standby, and a bit lucky to be here.
Left-Backs: Danny Rose & Aaron Cresswell
Adding to an already stacked back line, though admittedly the weakest position in the defence, we have Danny Rose and Aaron Cresswell, who, much to my surprise, qualify to represent the evil capitalists of the West. Despite having been on the books at Tottenham Hotspur since 2007, Rose was actually born in Doncaster, while Cresswell, who joined Ipswich in 2011 before signing for West Ham in 2014, is a scouser. The things you learn from Wikipedia, eh? Both are capable left-backs, even if the best are plying their trade for the East.
In terms of back-up, there isn’t a whole lot to work with, as you can probably expect. Burnley’s Charlie Taylor is probably the best reserve option we have to work with here, with Matt Targett and an aging Leighton Baines not really having a realistic chance of getting near this team.
Central Midfielders: Jordan Henderson, Mason Mount, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain & James Ward-Prowse
Moving into central midfield, and, again, it’s pretty much the exact same as the current England team, but I swear, this team does get interesting. Our main central midfield duo is probably going to be Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson, who probably also captains this team as well, and Mason Mount, who I’d usually put at centre attacking midfield, but as you’ll see in a bit, we’re pretty spoilt for choice there as well. But Henderson and Mount complement each other nicely, and they take the starting spots here.
On the bench we have Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and James Ward-Prowse, a double-barrelled duo who coincidentally were both born in Portsmouth. I understand it’s a bit odd having a team comprised mostly of northerners containing folks from the south coast, but that’s just how geography works I’m afraid. And both players are actually pretty good so they can go on the bench for now. I’m not overly convinced with what the West have to work with outside of these four, with the next best option probably being Eric Dier, who I’m not exactly a fan of. Based on current form, we’d have to turn to either an aging but still dependable James Milner, or John Lundstram, although he’s recently been finding game time harder to come by at Sheffield United. Morgan Gibbs-White also needs more game time for Wolves to be seriously considered. Fabian Delph and Lewis Cook complete a pretty weak standby list.
Attacking Midfielders: James Maddison & Jack Grealish
There’s a big ol’ debate going on right now as to who’s more worthy of a spot in the England team, Coventry local James Maddison, or Aston Villa’s home-grown wonderkid (even though he’s definitely Irish) Jack Grealish. In this reality, both players act as the teams’ attacking midfield options. In my mind, Maddison is the better player and more worthy of a place in the starting XI, but Grealish has certainly been in better form over the past couple of months and is clearly the driving force behind basically any Villa attack. Both are highly talented players and it’s going to be interesting to see who features more regularly for the national team, with usual first-choice Dele Alli both out of form and representing the East.
Manchester City’s prodigal son Phil Foden is sure to be a fixture of this squad in the near future, once he’s actually given game time to prove himself. In the meantime, if Maddison and Grealish are unavailable, the West would have to call upon the services of the likes of Ross Barkley or Jesse Lingard. Maybe even Ravel Morrison. Let’s hope nothing happens to those two any time soon, then.
Right-Wingers: Mason Greenwood & Jarrod Bowen
Here’s where we encounter our first selection problem; the West could do with more wingers. Not that the two players I’ve opted for here are bad exactly, far from it, but I think both are still a bit unproven, and it’s a lot to put them into the first team squad here. Especially my first choice, Bradford’s finest, Mason Greenwood, who is still only 18. But he’s still hit double figures this season for Manchester United, and has lightning pace and a keen eye for goal. Jarrod Bowen, on the other hand, might be a proven goalscorer, but in the Championship with Hull City. He only joined West Ham on deadline day in January and needs more time to prove himself in the Premier League, but I think he’s a solid back-up here, and he gives the wild lands of Leominster some much-needed representation.
If we’re going for more experienced options, then we’d have to turn to either Nathan Redmond or Marc Albrighton, who have been playing Premier League football for what seems like an eternity. Albrighton is even a Premier League title winner for crying out loud. But I think at the moment Greenwood and Bowen are more technically gifted and a better fit for the team. Ademola Lookman is another option, but he’s get to convince me he’s actually good.
Left-Wingers: Marcus Rashford & Harvey Barnes
The left wing is slightly more encouraging, with Manchester marksman Marcus Rashford easily taking up the starting berth. Although injured at the moment, Rashford has been pretty sensational this season and finally looks to be coming into his own, and becoming more comfortable as a wide forward. Ole at the wheel and all that. As back-up, it’s a toss-up between Leicester’s Harvey Barnes and Burnley’s Dwight McNeil. Both are decent players, if not a little underwhelming at times. I’m plumping for Barnes here (ironically from Burnley) on the basis that he has the better record this season, and has helped Leicester climb into third place at the time of writing. But McNeil is two years younger, so there’s plenty of time for him to overtake Barnes as a player.
Demarai Gray is probably the other best option in the reserves, with Scott Sinclair, Solly March and Ryan Kent also being footballers who are from the West. I just wanted to be nice to them.
Strikers: Jamie Vardy & Danny Ings
If we consider this a reality without international semi-retirement because the capitalists need all their firepower to try and prove their worth against the true glory of socialism, then Jamie Vardy is the undisputed first choice striker here. The superstar from Sheffield has shown no signs of slowing down after his meteoric rise through the game and is currently three goals shy of 100 in the Premier League. He’d be a true legend in the West. And given that Danny Ings has shot onto the scene this season to remind everyone he does actually still a professional footballer, he’s a solid choice for the bench option here. Long live Mr. Dings, fresh from his pint at the Winchester.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin has recently emerged as a contender for the squad, since Carlo Ancelotti has taught him how to score goals since taking over as Everton manager. Burnley duo Ashley Barnes and Jay Rodriguez can also consider themselves on standby, whilst I suppose I also have to consider Watford ‘strikers’ Andre Gray and Troy Deeney. And it turns out that Wayne Rooney is still playing football, so in the midst of an injury crisis I suppose he could always be called upon.
Manager: Chris Wilder
With current England boss Gareth Southgate hopefully steering the East towards a bright future, we need to turn to the best the West has to offer for this group of lads. Sean Dyche’s patented shithousery might not be the best fit to manage this team, and Sam Allardyce might try and sell his tactics to Saudi businessmen if he were given the job. I’m also not entirely sure about Graham Potter or Dean Smith being able to manage the team to its full potential.
So, at the risk of jumping on a bandwagon, I’m putting Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder in charge. Born in Stocksbridge, Wilder knows how to get the best out of his players and has worked miracles at United over the past couple of years. If he were given this crop of talent, I think only positive things would come out of it.
And so we come to the end of our adventure through the hypothetical West. I hope you all enjoyed this ludicrous and nonsensical piece of writing, but, if nothing else, it makes you think. I hope. Anything to put Danny Ings on the international map I guess.
Stay tuned for the same article on the East, which, like all things Eastern, will be a lot more exciting and thought-provoking than what the West has to offer. The West doesn’t have Todd Cantwell after all.
Thanks for reading, and see you on the other side of the wall!