England's Euro 2012 squad options - Central defence: Terry and Ferdinand or Cahill and Lescott?
Perhaps most likely to cause Roy Hodgson a selection dilemma ahead of Euro 2012 are the stoppers he decides to take with him to the tournament. With John Terry mired in controversy and doubts about his suitability partnering Rio Ferdinand, there is the possibility that Hodgson could field a surprise central-defensive partnership. Here are the candidates who are jostling to make the trip to Poland & Ukraine.
John Terry, 31. (Chelsea) - 72 caps
FOR - After a shaky start to this campaign with Chelsea under the stewardship of Andre Villas-Boas, the former England captain looked like he was on the wane with injuries and his infamous spat with Anton Ferdinand a huge blot on the career of the Three Lions veteran. However, recent months have seen the brave-heart rejuvenated to his old self, and now under the management of Roberto Di Matteo with the Blues, the skipper has made a good case for being included in Roy Hodgson's plans. He has helped lead Chelsea to the Champions League final, despite his moment of madness in the semi-final, and was resolute as ever in leading the Blues to their FA Cup triumph last week.
AGAINST - His alleged racist abuse of Anton Ferdinand is likely to make Terry persona-non-grata with some members of the England squad, not least Rio Ferdinand. The potential for this feeling to spill out and affect the camp with a bad atmosphere is surely something that Hodgson does not need.
Rio Ferdinand, 33. (Manchester United) - 81 caps
FOR - The Manchester United defender has been on the periphery of the Red Devil's squad this season, but recently, much like Terry, the former Three Lions captain is getting games at the most important part of the season. Despite the Manchester giant's recent stuttering form that saw them relinquish control of the Premier League title, before then Ferdinand was pivotal in leading them to the top of the league table.
AGAINST - At 33, Ferdinand has surely seen his best days. It is oft-stated for players of his age, but he has lost a yard of pace, and for a player where such an attribute was key, this has diminished Ferdinand's ability to mix it with the very best in his position.
Gary Cahill, 26. (Chelsea) - 8 caps
FOR - The former Bolton stopper has adjusted well to Chelsea after last summer's transfer, and unlike other experienced players in the Blues' squad, the 26-year-old has gained the favour of both AVB as well as Di Matteo. This must tell something and like Terry, Cahill has been a key player for the West London side's run to the Champions League final. Currently with only 8 caps to his name, reservations about Cahill for England in the past centred on the fact that he was playing for lowly Bolton. But now at 26, surely the time is right for him to lock down his place in the Three Lions central defence. Should he recover from his injury, few are better placed than him to do so.
AGAINST - Cahill's fallibility to injury may count against him when Hodgson makes his cut for the squad. Currently injured and at risk of missing the Champions League final, the prospect of a prolonged season with international duties may be beyond a player who has never been in a similar situation before, as the fixture list at a club like Bolton is considerably less packed than that of a Champions League competing club.
Joleon Lescott, 29 (Manchester City) - 14 caps
FOR - This season has been a breakthrough for Lescott, who has secured the central defensive starters berth at City alongside Vincent Kompany. The Belgian defender has gained all the plaudits, and rightly so, but the former Everton defender has been an able side-act to the dominant skipper.
AGAINST - At 29, with only 14 caps, it must be questioned why Lescott has not achieved more at his age. The City man also curiously lacks experience at the top level of football at his age, and this could count against him, even against younger alternatives for the position.
Chris Smalling, 22 (Manchester United) - 3 caps
FOR - With Nemanja Vidic being sidelined with a long term injury at the end of last year, Smalling has been battling with Johnny Evans for a place alongside Ferdinand. He has been successful in deputising for Vidic for the most part, and despite his young age, he has gained valuable experience at the highest levels. The defender also has the added bonus of having been managed by the current England boss whilst at Fulham, so Hodgson will know better than most the player's ability.
AGAINST - One for the future no doubt, it would be foolhardy for Hodgson to not trust in experience during the finals. Smalling has not been tested properly in an England jersey, and that may be too big a risk next month.