Premier League XI
Goalkeeper: Julian Speroni (Crystal Palace)
Petr Cech’s had a lot of clean sheets; it’s great to see Joe Hart back to form before the World Cup; and David de Gea is the one Manchester United player close to selection. But I’ve picked Speroni because he has played a big part in keeping Palace up. When I took over at Palace his confidence was very low as he had had a nightmare in the Premier League. I helped him get it back, he’s been excellent for Palace for several seasons, and now he knows he is capable of playing in the top flight. I’m very pleased for him.
Full-backs: Seamus Coleman (Everton) & Luke Shaw (Southampton)
Coleman is the most improved complete right-back this season and Shaw has really emerged. If I was going for a pure defender I’d pick Chelsea’s Cesar Azpilicueta as I think he is the best on either side. I did think about Pablo Zabaleta of Manchester City too.
Centre-backs: Phil Jagielka (Everton) & John Terry (Chelsea)
Jags has been instrumental in Everton’s improvement under Roberto Martinez, and is a shoo-in for England. I’ve also gone for Terry, even though the players went for Gary Cahill – I think he’s a big factor in Cahill playing so well. The return of Jose Mourinho has got the best out of Terry, and he’s given Chelsea the leadership every team needs.
Central midfield: Yaya Touré (Man City) & Jordan Henderson (Liverpool)
With Steven Gerrard deeper, Henderson has been a revelation. He’s been able to play his natural game, full of energy and vitality; getting into the box, breaking things up, he’s one of the main reasons for Liverpool’s title push. I’ve gone for Touré because of his goals but he would not have been the same player without Fernandinho. An unsung hero has been Kagisho Dikgacoi at Palace.
Wide midfield: Adam Lallana (Southampton) & Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
I’d have them in the wide areas, coming in and interchanging. Lallana is a must for England in the summer and if Hazard had not been injured Chelsea would have won the league already. He would have opened up the clubs they slipped up against.
Attackers: Luis Suarez (Liverpool) & Wilfried Bony (Swansea City)
Suarez has been the best player in the country by a mile. In insisting Suarez stayed put, Brendan Rodgers made the season for Liverpool. Suarez has put to bed a lot of his problems. He still does the odd dive but, given the stick he gets in a game, not many. Swansea have struggled of late but Bony has been outstanding, a key player in their remaining in the division. Foreign players often take a while to settle but he didn’t. Daniel Sturridge was close to selection. Chelsea must be kicking themselves letting him go. He has matured a lot from playing and training with Suarez.
Kasper Schmeichel (Leicester City)
He’s been outstanding, maturing each game. If he has a good season in the top flight a lot of clubs will be after him.
Kieran Trippier (Burnley)
One for the future. The best right-back in the Championship and I’ve not seen many better in the Premier League.
Aaron Cresswell (Ipswich Town)
He’s developing under Mick McCarthy and will only get better. In the not-too-distant future he’ll be ready for the Premier League.
Clint Hill (QPR)
QPR have not gained automatic promotion but Clint’s professionalism has taken them into the play-offs.
Jason Shackell (Burnley)
I could have picked Wes Morgan, but Shackell is an unsung hero who has had to do a bit more, given the team around him.
Anthony Knockaert (Leicester)
I’m a big fan of his. He’s not always been consistent but this season, whenever he has the ball, I think “danger”.
Craig Bryson (Derby County)
No one has been better in midfield. He has energy in abundance, and can play at the top level.
Danny Drinkwater (Leicester)
He’s had a great season and must be one of Nigel Pearson’s first names on the sheet.
Callum McManaman (Wigan Athletic)
He just doesn’t give any defenders a minute’s peace and will take the Premier League by storm if Wigan get back up.
Danny Ings (Burnley)
A revelation with his movement, work rate and goals.
Charlie Austin (QPR)
Chosen just ahead of Ings’ partner, Sam Vokes. If Austin had stayed fit QPR would already be up.
Some might say, “Where’s Ross McCormack?” But while he’s shown he’s a great finisher you need to design a team around Ross and there’s not room for him in this XI.