With just over five months to go until the World Cup gets underway in Brazil, Roy Hodgson will have a fairly strong idea of who he is going to be taking with him on the plane.
But Theo Walcott’s long-term injury this week was a timely reminder that unexpected gaps can always appear in the squad, and with plenty of football to be played between now and the summer here are a few of the outsiders who will be trying to catch Hodgson’s eye in the coming months.
1) Gareth Barry
The 32-year-old has been in fine form this season on loan at Everton, where he has become a calming presence in a team packed with exciting young talent such as Ross Barkley and James McCarthy.
When Manchester City signed Fernandinho in the summer Barry was forced to look elsewhere for first-team action but by joining up with an Everton side who are playing fantastic football under Roberto Martinez he has managed to keep himself in the spotlight.
Out of favour with Hodgson since an injury ruled him out of Euro 2012, Barry plays in a position where England have plenty of options.
But unlike Steven Gerrard, Jack Wilshere, Frank Lampard and co the former Aston Villa captain is a naturally disciplined defensive midfielder and always helps provide a solid platform for his more forward-thinking team-mates to perform.
He already has 53 caps to his name so knows how things work on the international scene, and if one or two of Hodgson’s regular picks are unavailable by June, he could do a lot worse than turn to the veteran of over 500 Premier League games.
2) Saido Berahino
One of the brightest sparks to emerge in the Premier League this season, West Bromwich Albion’s Berahino has already scored past both Manchester United and Arsenal.
The 20-year-old, who was born in Burundi but escaped the war-torn African country aged 10 and settled with his family in the Midlands, has impressed for Gareth Southgate’s England Under 21 team, bagging six goals in his first four caps.
Berahino does not always start for West Brom, but has already got eight goals this season and appears to have the raw striking ability required to make it at the top level. His style is reminiscent of a young Jermain Defoe.
Earlier in the season Steve Clarke often tasked him with playing in a wide position, with the likes of Shane Long and Nicolas Anelka to compete with, but the youngster excelled through the middle in the 3-3 draw with West Ham United recently.
Beyond Wayne Rooney, Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck England are not exactly blessed in the forwards department and with Andy Carroll still suffering from injury and Rickie Lambert not quite a certainty for the squad, Berahino could well be Hodgson’s wildcard for Brazil.
3) Ravel Morrison
Despite only being 20 years old, Morrison has already got a reputation as one of the biggest enigmas in the Premier League. Some fine performances for West Ham United earlier this season put him in contention for an England call-up but he will have to carry on impressing if he is to make it to Brazil.
Morrison’s misdemeanours as a youth-team player at Manchester United included receiving a referral order for witness intimidation, and even Sir Alex Ferguson gave up on trying to tame him.
But since a loan spell at Birmingham City last season he has flourished under the tutelage of Sam Allardyce and his goal at White Hart Lane when the Hammers beat Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 was a true work of art.
Hodgson will only want to call on the volatile midfielder if he thinks he can be trusted, and an on-field bust up with Under 21 team-mate Wilfried Zaha in October would not have helped matters.
Furthermore, the youngster is being linked with a move away from Upton Park in this transfer window, a move which could backfire if he is not playing first-team football at the sharp end of the season.
But what is certain is that Morrison has the talent and ability to get into the England squad, so much so that Jack Wilshere even name-checked him as somebody who could take his own place with the Three Lions.
If Morrison can keep his focus, the world is his oyster.
4) Darren Bent
The prolific goal-poacher’s career has taken a turn for the worse since the arrival of Paul Lambert at Villa Park in summer 2012.
A member of the Premier League’s 100 club, Bent knows how to find the back of the net, but concerns over his lack of contribution to the team’s build-up play cost him his place at Aston Villa last season.
This year he has been farmed out on loan to Fulham, where Dimitar Berbatov’s status as top dog has limited his opportunities.
But with the Bulgarian maverick likely to move on in this transfer window, Bent could be given the opportunity to return to form in the second half of this campaign.
A more natural goalscorer than Danny Welbeck and arguably even Wayne Rooney, Bent could be a useful squad member if England are in search of an important goal.
The last of his 13 caps was awarded in 2011 and Bent has been hard-done by in the past, missing out on selection for the 2006 and 2010 World Cups despite being the Premier League’s top English goalscorer in 2005/06 and netting 24 times in 2009/10.
He may not have the dynamism of Rooney or Welbeck, but he knows where the back of the net is and if Rene Meulensteen puts his faith in him at Craven Cottage in the coming months, he may be able to book a last minute ticket to Brazil.
5) Nathaniel Clyne
Unlike team-mates Adam Lallana, Jay Rodriguez and Rickie Lambert, the Southampton right-back has yet to earn a call up to the England squad, but he has been quietly impressive at St Mary’s this season.
The 22-year-old earned eight Under 21 caps and would provide a fine alternative to Glen Johnson or Kyle Walker should either of the established duo lose form or fitness.
Defensively solid, the former Crystal Palace player showed in the FA Cup tie with Burnley on Saturday that he has the odd screamer in his locker, with a stunning strike from outside the area.
The Saints’ defensive unit was crucial to their fantastic start to the season and Mauricio Pochettino knew he could rely on Clyne alongside Dejan Lovren, Jose Fonte and Luke Shaw in his backline.
Facing strong competition for his position with 18-year-old Calum Chambers, who has filled in while Clyne has been injured recently, the right-back will be kept on his toes for the rest of the season.
If he can continue to perform in Pochettino’s slick-passing outfit he may well usurp Walker and Johnson, whether they are injured or not.
image: © Catherine Kõrtsmik