Sam Wallace Q&A: Should England go with experience or youth? Was Antonio Valencia reaction justified? Can England win the World Cup?

Readers have been tweeting their questions to The Independent's chief football correspondent
  • @SamWallaceIndy

Following England's latest warm-up match for the World Cup against Ecuador, we've been putting your questions to Sam Wallace.

The Independent's chief football correspondent, who is based in Miami with the England camp, responds below...

I would rather Gerrard play centre-back and be covered in midfield, than see Chris Smalling start, thoughts? #AskWallace

I don’t see Gerrard at centre-half, even in the autumn of his career. I like the role he performs at Liverpool when they have the ball in attack and he drops in between the two centre-halves to allow the full-backs to push on. Playing him specifically as a defender, though, would mean you lose his drive going forward. That drive is not as potent as it used to be but it is still very useful. Also, don’t underestimate the experience necessary to play a specialist position like centre-half at the top level. It would be asking a lot of him to switch.

Should Roy Hodgson opt for experience in the older players or flair and talent in the younger players? #AskWallace

That’s a very broad question. Against Ecuador we saw what Ross Barkley and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain bring to the party. They put opposition on the back foot with their running and they have the element of surprise. No matter how meticulous the scouting, they are still relatively an unknown package to opposition sides – although in the ultra-prepared world of modern football that is less and less the case.

I don’t think you can simply say ‘Play the youngsters’. Clearly, England need the likes of Gary Cahill, Glen Johnson, Steven Gerrard, Leighton Baines and Wayne Rooney. But Raheem Sterling, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Barkley are all major contenders to play

#AskWallace Does Valencia's reaction become slightly understandable considering his horrific leg break a few years ago?

I was surprised at his reaction because he is so laid back usually. It was a bad tackle but not quite a red in my book. The referee saw his chance to make a big decision and took it. He should have paid more attention to the context of the game. I have noticed an over-zealous aspect to US referees when I have come here with clubs on pre-season tours.

I thought Sterling did well not to react to the hand in his face. He has got a decent temperament for one so young, although, yes, the tackle was silly.


#AskWallace Does the game prove that Barkley, Wilshere and Lampard should be the midfielders? Better performance than Gerrard and Henderson.

First of all, you’ve suggested that three replace two. What do you mean? My belief is that Gerrard will naturally start against Italy on 14 June but it will be with either Jack Wilshere or Jordan Henderson in a 4-2-3-1 system. I don’t think you’d change that on the basis of one game. Barkley, Sterling and Oxlade-Chamberlain (if fit) will all be in contention to start.

The big question! Where do you think England will finish?

They are placed 11 in the world, in the Fifa rankings. For all the stick those rankings are given, I think they are a pretty decent guide. That would say to me that the quarter-finals would be a good outcome for England. If they do get there then I think the quality of opposition will be too high to go further. I believe they will get out the group and the draw should be relatively kind to them in the last 16. So I am sticking my neck out and saying they will make the quarter-finals. But then much depends on injuries between now and then.

#AskWallace Any idea why no defensive midfielders have been picked in the squad?

I wouldn’t say that. Gerrard is now regarded as a defensive midfielder since his conversion to that position under Brendan Rodgers. Henderson is definitely a holding midfielder. Frank Lampard does that job for Chelsea now. I am not sure who else you had in mind. It’s a pity that Owen Hargreaves had such bad luck with his knee surgery. He’s only 33. If he was fit he would be in this squad. He is still the best we have had in that role in modern times.