Leading your country out on to the pitch with the national anthem blaring out in the stadium and all four walls of the stadium bouncing as they anticipate to see their country’s best face off against the best the world has to offer. It’s a dream of a lifetime of every boy and only a select and privileged few get to actually achieve and for those who do captain their country, whether it was for one game or a hundred games, it’s something that will live with entwine you into the history books forever. England has a rich history of amazing captains and although all apart from one actually lead the country it is an illustrious list including the likes of Sir Bobby Moore, Bryan Robson, Tony Adams, John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, David Beckham, Steven Gerrard and even current captain, Wayne Rooney. Although still officially captain, it is all but confirmed that the Manchester United forward is being slowly ushered out of the England set-up as he hasn’t been called up in the past two squads by Gareth Southgate so it begs the question, in this vastly young and internationally inexperienced squad, who on earth should be England’s captain?
Club: Manchester City (On Loan to Torino)
England Caps: 70
England Clean Sheets: 40
Joe Hart has been a mainstay in the England set up since his debut in 2009 and has fended off the likes of Robert Green, John Ruddy, Ben Foster and even more recently with the likes of Tom Heaton and Jack Butland. Joe Hart’s career has been a whirlwind of drastic and startling turn of events over the past 12 months or so. Having overseen Manchester City’s most successful period of their club’s history from his goal line and being a vital component of this success, he finds himself in the Manchester wilderness and at a crossroads in his career. The arrival of Pep Guardiola presumably brought great joy to Hart’s thoughts but after an extremely underwhelming Euro 2016 for England, it become abundantly clear that Joe Hart was not favoured by the Spaniard, being deemed to the bench for City’s first three league games before being shipped out to Italian outfit Torino, where he’s endured an underwhelming if not disappointing season in Turin, finishing firmly in 9th place, conceding at a rate of 1.72 goals a game in all competitions having shipped 64 goals in 37 appearances keeping a mere 5 clean sheets in his time in Italy. Having already publicly stated he is not staying with Torino so the summer ahead represents a huge challenge for the Englishman, with him needing to play regular minutes at a high enough level to keep away competition behind the sticks.
When it comes to England, in this new crop of young and fresh players, Joe Hart is one of the older players who provides experience and leadership in the set-up. A commanding man of his box, he is already a leader to his back four and is someone who captained the country previous when the captain has been subbed off or not the starting XI on a number of occasions. The two-time Premier League winner also an extremely vocal and aggressive personality, which can be to his benefit as well as his detriment. Joe Hart seems an obvious candidate for the England captaincy due to his long career at the top-tier of football and at 30, he has a lot of years ahead of him as he’s still relatively young for a goalkeeper. The only problem with Joe Hart being England captain is he’s currently going through an extremely flat period in his career and with young budding keepers like Jack Butland and Jordan Pickford hot on his heels, Hart’s time as England undisputed number one could be coming to a quick end.
England Caps: 53
England Goals: 4
Gary Cahill is the oldest player on this short list, coming in at the ripe age of 31 and although he’s coming towards the latter years of his career, he’s had a glittering career ever since he joined Chelsea, winning everything that is possible in a staggeringly short space of time, winning the FA Cup, League Cup, Europa League, Champions League and Premier League all in the space of three years, winning a double of the FA Cup and Champions League in 2012, a Europa League triumph in 2013 and then winning another double of the league Cup and Premier League in 2015 and has just capped off another successful season winning his 2nd Premier League in 2016/17 under Antonio Conte, captaining the side in most games due to club captain John Terry being deemed to the bench for much of this season. Cahill has spearheaded Chelsea to the 3rd best defensive record in the league shipping only 33 goals, only behind Tottenham and Manchester United with 26 and 29 respectively. The former Bolton man has also had 15 shutouts in the Premier League in the season just gone, an impressive figure for a man who’s previously been known to be carried by John Terry.
In very similar fashions to Joe Hart, Gary Cahill is one of the only few players who can give true grit, experience and a winning mentality to fall back upon. With the Chelsea centre-back a serial winner in the England fold only behind the seemingly departing Wayne Rooney, Gary Cahill is someone who can be stood up and counted when the going gets tough and someone for the younger players to depend on for experience when on the big stage, which England no doubt expect to do to some such a promising set of young players coming through in the ranks. Again in a mirror situation, Cahill seems an obvious candidate and choice for the armband due to his experience, winning past and commanding nature however with the plethora of young English defensive players coming through such as Michael Keane, John Stones and even Ben Gibson, Cahill faces an uphill battle to contest and compete with younger and fitter centre-halves, despite his quality as a defender.
England Caps: 32
England Goals: 0
Jordan Henderson is by far the youngest candidate in this list, at the fruitful age of just 26 but despite his relatively young age he’s been through a lot, having gone through a big money move to Liverpool for £20m at the mere age of 20 and being distinctively poor, below average and inconsistent for the first few years of his Liverpool career before being part of an unfortunate failed title challenge that went all the way before taking the reins as Liverpool’s captain, after iconic legend Steven Gerrard left for pastures new. In more recent times he’s also captained his side to a major European final and is now a staple of Jurgen Klopp’s brewing Liverpool team. The former Sunderland man is a box to box midfielder who has been touted from a young age to become a blockbuster and in recent years this has come to fruition, with his key attributes such as his passing range, eye for goal and immense stamina improving year upon year. He spent a lot of the 2016/17 season out injured, only playing a measly 27 times for the Reds, yielding 1 goal and 4 assists, although his ability to dictate and set the tempo of matches from the middle of the park isn’t something that can be strictly tangible from pure statistics.
The combative midfielder is the only player on this list who is their club’s captain, although Gary Cahill is very likely to become Chelsea captain due to the departure of John Terry. Unlike both Hart and Cahill, it isn’t in Jordan’s nature to be a super aggressive and in your face captain, although the Liverpool captain is prone to a squabble or two. He is more the calming presence when he’s wearing the captain’s armband, he can adopt the bulldog approach and be that aggressive leader but he is the quieter type of leader, a man who leads by example by churning out quality performance after quality performance, similar to how David Beckham took to the England captaincy during his time. With Henderson the youngest of the lot and already being captain at club level for two years now, it only seems logical for him to take the armband, reminiscent of this predecessor in Steven Gerrard. However there are a few problems that stand in his claim, one being is rampant injury record. He has been injured five times since the start of the 2015/16 season, totalling 245 days or more worryingly, 47 games, which is more or less an entire season. Another issue that stands in his ever fluctuating form on the pitch. It is a rare sight to see the Liverpool perform at a high level over a prolonged period of time, which at times can affect and has previously affected his England career so if this deficiency isn’t ironed out of his game, it can lead to him being dropped altogether.
The task of taking on the captain’s armband for your country is a mammoth one for any person of any country, but in a country where your every movement is magnified and scrutinised to death, it takes an extremely strong and courageous man to do so and the players I have listed I believe have the grit, fight and strong will needed to succeed as England’s captain. There are players such as Harry Kane which I have not included in this list as although he is a great player, I believe it is far too early in his England career to take on such as task this early on, but I have no doubt that he can grow into the potential, in the same way, any of the three mentioned could signal in the new era of England, with Wayne Rooney, the last of the golden generation, gone.