A Royal for England? A look at Reading's England prospects

Shaun Botterill

Tonight sees England take on Brazil, the same opposition that saw Nicky Shorey become the first Royals player to play for England in more than a century. Shorey won one further cap with the Royals but that was the last time we've seen a Reading player play for his country while with club. So Is there anyone in our current crop now that looks likely to follow in his footsteps?

Firstly I was surprised at how few players in our squad are actually eligible for England selection. While most of our squad were born in England, many have chosen to take up chances to play for other nations and that has left us with only ten players that have made a Premier League appearance and could play for England. So lets look at those ten and rank their prospects.

In with a chance

Adam Le Fondre - Age 26 - Forward

Current main competition: W Rooney, D Sturridge, D Welbeck, J Defoe, T Walcott, P Crouch, D Bent, A Carroll, R Lambert, B Zamora, W Zaha, C Cole

It's easy to forget sometimes that just 18 months ago Alfie was playing in League Two for Rotherham. We all know what's happened since then, with Alfie leading our scoring charts in the Championship last season and currently topping them again in the Premier League.

His tally of 10 league goals this season are second among Englishman, trailing only Ricky Lambert and level with the likes of Theo Walcott and Wayne Rooney. A natural finisher, he's cool under pressure and rather importantly for England, also takes a good penalty as well. While TalkSport's Adrian Durham is one that's supported his selection chances.

Two things will probably count against him in the short-term. One is that he's only been playing in the top division for six months for a relatively unfashionable Reading side. The likes of Danny Graham, Grant Holt and Ricky Lambert have all scored top flight goals and been overlooked in recent times.

The second is that while his goalscoring record from the bench is impressive, he's only managed two from open play in the Premier League as a starter and currently can't break into our starting lineup in a 4-5-1, a system highly favoured at International level.

Still, a goal is a goal and surely the role of a substitute is someone who can impact and change a game? Right now Le Fondre is the best substitute in this division and while he's got the potential to become just as effective from the start, why shouldn't Roy Hodgson pick him now and employ him in that very same role? When you take 23 men to a tournament you want someone that can change a game and Reading fans will certainly testify that Alfie can change a game.

In terms of competition it isn't exactly a crowded marketplace right now. While Rooney, Welbeck and Defoe are regulars, the rest of our current forward options are either maddeningly inconsistent, very young, or have blown prior chances.

Chances of England selection: Short Term (Before Brazil 2014) = 40% Long Term (Any point after WC 2014) = 30%

*****

Alex McCarthy - Age 23 - Goalkeeper

Current main competition: J Hart, J Butland, J Ruddy, D Stockdale, R Green, F Forster, S Carson

McCarthy had pretty much established himself as Reading's number 1 before a cruel injury in the last minute at QPR ruled him out for most of, if not all of this season. A string of fine performances saw him keep Adam Federici out of the side and led to some talking up an England callup before that injury took place.

Alex has England experience already, having previously represented England at U21 level and was also named as a standby choice for Team GB's Olympic campaign this summer.

His injury will certainly cost him in the short term, as will Reading's survival prospects, but at just 23 he's got plenty of time on his side and there's not a firm pecking order established behind Joe Hart. Jack Butland is being groomed as a future England keeper but there's a chance for McCarthy to get himself into the mix to back-up Hart and who knows, maybe even take his place down the line.

Chances of England selection: Short Term = 30% Long Term = 40%

*****

Outside chances

S Morrison - Age 22 - Central Defender

Current main competition: G Cahill, J Lescott, P Jagielka, M Dawson, P Jones, M Kelly, S Cualker, C Smalling, R Shawcross, R Ferdinand

Few expected Morrison to feature this year, but at just 22 he's already found the net twice in the Premier League and has started 11 games for the Royals this season.

Unfortunately for Morro, An injury forced him out of the side after the Southampton game and since then the form of Adrian Mariappa and Alex Pearce has kept him restricted to cup duty.

In terms of England chances, the main thing in Morrison's favour right now is a real lack of depth in the position, with lots of good but not great defenders vying for places. Of the contenders listed above, few start every week at centre back and if Reading stay up and Alex Pearce does decide to leave the club, Morrison could soon be starting week-in-week-out for a Premier League side.

With age very much on his side Morrison should have plenty of time to develop and he could well make a squad down the line, though seeing him on the plane to Brazil would seem a stretch.

Chances of England selection: Short Term = 10% Long Term = 15%

***

Danny Guthrie - Age 25 - Central Midfielder

Current main competition: S Gerrard, F Lampard, G Barry, M Carrick, J Wilshere, J Henderson, T Cleverley, L Osman, J Livermore, S Parker, J Rodwell, J Shelvey

Guthrie said he hoped to try and force his way into the England side when he joined Reading but sadly those aspirations looked very wide of the mark with his off-field problems around Christmas. Since then he's returned but once again had to sit on the sidelines as Hope Akpan has stormed into the first team picture.

He does have significant Premier League experience and has played in Europe for Liverpool, but at 25 he's entering his prime and needs to make significant strides in the next year or so if he wants to break into an already crowded midfield picture. With younger midfielders like Wilshre, Henderson, Cleverley and Rodwell already involved in the setup, it's going to be a tough ask but if he keeps Reading up and hits top form it's not inconceivable we'll see him named in a squad or two...

Chances of England selection: Short Term = 10% Long Term = 10%

*****

Young but on the right track

H Akpan - Age 21- Central Midfielder

Current main competition: S Gerrard, F Lampard, G Barry, M Carrick, J Wilshere, J Henderson, T Cleverley, L Osman, J Livermore, S Parker, J Rodwell, J Shelvey

As mentioned it's a crowded midfield picture but Akpan has burst into the public conciousness by helping Reading to seven points in three games, while creating three goals along the way.

He's shown a good range of passing, is strong and already looks composed on the ball despite his young years. If Reading stay up, this could be signing of the season but let's not get too carried away just yet.

What's also a factor in any England chances is that he's previously declared he'd play for Nigeria over England if selected. Still, these things can change, as shown by Alex Pearce, so until he's capped by either country he remains a contender.

Chances of England selection: Short Term = 5% Long Term = 10%

****

D Samuel - Age 18 - Forward

Current main competition: W Rooney, D Sturridge, D Welbeck, J Defoe, T Walcott, P Crouch, D Bent, A Carroll, R Lambert, B Zamora, W Zaha, C Cole

Samuel made his Reading debut at Sunderland in December and since then has gone on to play a couple of games on loan at Colchester in League One.

A goal machine at youth level, Samuel has always been highly thought of by the Reading management, so much so that he was given a pro deal a good six-months before anyone else who came through his academy class. He's also already represented England at U19 level, scoring just last night against Denmark.

It's always very, very tricky to predict the future of an 18-year-old but the fact he's already been involved in a Premier League game, has played in the Football League and has scored at England Youth Level is very encouraging. He's got a very, very long way to go (just ask former Reading England U19 hero Nathan Tyson....) but he's one of the more exciting prospects we've had in recent years so watch this space....

Chances of England selection: Short Term = 1% Long Term = 10%

*****

A long shot

Nick Blackman - Age 23 - Forward

Current main competition: T Walcott, W Rooney, A Lennon, A Oxlade-Chamberlain, R Sterling, J Milner, S Downing, A Lallana, L Osman, A Young.

It's hard to know where Blackman's best position is, but he's not really an out and out striker, just like the list above. That list shows how much competition he has if Blackman is to become another lower league fairytale to come out of Reading.

He's still youngish, but at 23 he'll need to progress quickly to get into the reckoning.

Chances of England selection: Short Term = 5% Long Term = 5%

***

Shaun Cummings - Age 23 - Right-Back

Current main competition: K Walker, G Johnson, K Naughton, P Jones, C Smalling, C Jenkinson

Cummings has already got a taste of Premier League football and is set to be a Reading player for a while yet after signing a new three-year deal. However he's been dropped several times in his Reading career and with Chris Gunter and Stephen Kelly both ahead of him in the pecking order, it hardly screams 'give me a call-up!'

Plenty of potential from the defender but he's a very long way off right now.

Chances of England selection: Short Term = 5% Long Term = 5%

***

N Shorey - Age 31 - Left Back

Current main competition: A Cole, L Baines, G Johnson, L Shaw, K Walker, K Naughton, R Bertrand

As mentioned, Shorey has already earned two England caps and six years on from the last one and now at 31 you can't help but feel Nicky's time has passed. His omission from a relegation threatened Reading side doesn't look good but if he were to regian his place and there were big injuries to Cole, Baines and one other from that list... maybe he gets a shot.

Chances of England selection: Short Term = 5% Long Term = 1%

***

S Taylor - Age 32 - Goalkeeper

Current main competition: J Hart, J Butland, J Ruddy, D Stockdale, R Green, F Forster, S Carson

If England need an experienced bit of bench cover than Taylor's the man for the job having backed up some of top goalkeepers in David Seaman, Shay Given, Jens Lehmann and Joe Hart. Sadly a record of just 63 league starts in 15 years isn't exactly England quality..

Chances of England selection: Short Term = 1% Long Term = 1%

*****

So that's the list, who do you think will earn a call-up or is there no chance for anyone? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
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