Can Fabian Delph finally cement an England place?

Three Lions close

The Aston Villa midfielder only received his first cap at the age of 24, but injury has hampered him since. Now can he finally establish himself?

It was last September when Fabian Delph collected his first full England cap, in the friendly against Norway. It was not before time, and anybody who witnessed his emergence as an 18-year-old for Leeds United in 2008 had predicted a first cap much sooner.

Injury and loss of form have affected his development, but that long-overdue England debut was assured enough for Delph to be deployed in the engine room for the crucial away tie in Switzerland only five days later. The Bradford-born midfielder was pivotal in the 2-0 win and it looked like Delph would become a mainstay in Roy Hodgson's team as he earned a third cap versus Estonia in October. But shoulder surgery put paid to that and Delph was absent from the November squad for the two wins over Slovenia and Scotland.

Villa's recent resurgence under new manager Tim Sherwood has seen Delph back to his best, and with a new contract signed earlier this season, it is clear that Delph has become a crowd favourite at Villa Park.

The relationship was cemented with the crucial opening goal in the recent 2-0 FA Cup victory over local rivals West Brom, and Delph's form under Sherwood has prompted the Villa boss to coin the affectionate nickname of 'The Hoover' for him, a name that doesn't do justice to the attacking threat Delph poses and which Sherwood is keen to encourage more of.

At 25, Delph now faces a crucial period of his career as he looks to finally fulfil the promise that so many have seen in him. His early England performances demonstrated the perfect balance of bite, industry, composure and elegance and Delph now looks every inch the international player close observers have always thought of him as.

A starting spot against Lithuania next Friday (27th March) would represent a significant selection by Roy Hodgson as Delph looks to solidify his promise and finally, after years hampered by injury, deliver on the tag as the 'next big thing' in English football.

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