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England's left-back spot up for grabs for Russia 2018

Monday 31st July 2017
We are ever closer to the start of the new football season and the excitement is bubbling over nicely. However, in the not so distant future, we have the small matter of the biggest competition of all, the FIFA World cup. The excitement will no doubt start to pick up pace sooner rather than later.   Gareth Southgate's England currently sit top of their group, as expected, after 6 games played.

Barring a catastrophe England will expect to see themselves boarding a plane to Russia next summer, however, the identity of the men on that plane isn't quite as clear cut. Certain players may well be almost guaranteed to be aboard, although in other areas, who gets the nod to be the first choice is anyones guess.

One of those positions in question is who will be the first choice left-back, with a whole host of names in the hat. Some may well be ahead of others in the pecking order, but the player to get the deciding nod will be dictated by the upcoming season. Any from the bunch will have this campaign to force Southgate's hand. Currently, the two prime choices are Tottenham's Danny Rose and Southampton's Ryan Bertrand, however, there are plenty waiting in the wings to pounce should neither tie down the position.
In the buildup to Euro 2016, Danny Rose was the first pick at the left-back spot. After a title push with Spurs in a season where he was named in the PFA Team of the Year, Rose had earned the number 3 shirt for his country. Since then his rival for the spot, Ryan Bertrand has been in superb form for Southampton and, coinciding with Rose's injury problem in the second half of this season, Bertrand has seen a great deal of game time for his country under their new boss. He has been in such good form that it would be harsh to oust him the second Rose is back fit. So the tide turns again for the spot just a year before Russia, and now as the new season dawns, a hatful of players will look to force their way into contention.

Luke Shaw of Manchester United was once deemed the natural successor for England after Ashley Cole left the international setup. With that said, he has struggled to tie down a club place and stay fit so it would take a massive season for him to return anytime soon.

Another name hoping to be in the fray will be once upon a time England man Kieran Gibbs. The Arsenal defender seems to have lost his way since first arriving on the scene in 2008 and has been out of the England set up for some time, as well as struggling to play regularly for his club. Now at the age of 27, he will feel next summer's tournaments is his last realistic chance to be a starter at a major tournament, whether he can earn that place is a massive task and he may only achieve that by leaving the Gunners this summer.

The time may well have passed on Leighton Baines' career in an England shirt as well; now at the age of 32. Although England are never strangers to a recall on a veteran who's endured a resurgence in form, just looking back to the likes of Emile Heskey and his place at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa is proof enough of that. On the opposite end of the scale, young Ben Chilwell of Leicester was a standout player for England at the recent U21 Euros in Poland and will be hoping to become a starter for his club in the new season. Perhaps a long shot for the senior international position but with the place far from cemented a regular spot for his club would surely put him in with a chance.

On the opposite end of the scale, young Ben Chilwell of Leicester was a standout player for England at the recent U21 Euros in Poland and will be hoping to become a starter for his club in the new season. Perhaps it's a long shot for the senior international position but with the place far from cemented a regular spot for his club would surely put him in with a chance.

There is, of course, just under a year to go before the World Cup comes along and so much can happen before then. Injuries can thwart the chances of a place as Danny Rose has seen in the recent campaign and also the natural fit to system can also be a big downfall for a player. Southgate has a year to decide on these conundrums but in terms of the left-back spot, he is certainly not short of options to mull over.
Ryan Stewart

23 years old, Sport Journalism graduate living in Salford. Work in web content in Media city and always looking to break in to sports writing. Manchester United season ticket holder.


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