As ever, these are not our thoughts but an estimation of Sam Allardyce’s own views. Hence your No. 1…
1 (3) Wayne Rooney
“Wayne played wherever he wanted to. I can’t stop Wayne playing there,” said Sam Allardyce on his captain’s position in midfield after the Slovakia match. Allardyce had said that Rooney would play as a No. 10. “This is the most decorated outfield player in England. He’s won everything at Man United, more or less, and at Champions League and domestic level. I think that he holds a lot more experience at international football than me as an international manager. Using his experience with a team, and playing as a team member, it’s not for me to say where he’s going to play.” And with that, Rooney’s place atop this ladder was confirmed. A captain who gets to play wherever he chooses, no matter where his manager picks him; it’s as close to carte blanche as you can get.
2 (13) John Stones
It is difficult to imagine a worse manager for Stones’ development than Roberto Martinez. It is difficult to imagine a better manager for Stones’ development than Pep Guardiola. With Chris Smalling out of favour, Stones is suddenly the certain starter in England’s central defence. As during the semi-permanence of the Steven Gerrard, Gary Neville, Ashley Cole, David Beckham, Frank Lampard, Rio Ferdinand and John Terry era, get used to seeing Stones’ name near the top of this list for a long, long time to come.
3 (11) Luke Shaw
Who cares if he withdrew from this squad with a knock?; Shaw will surely be one of the pillars of Allardyce’s ‘new’ England. He’s probably going to be England’s left-back for the next five years, and that’s something that makes us very happy until evidence to the contrary is presented.
4 (10) Eric Dier
When Jordan Henderson and Wayne Rooney are the other two players in a midfield three, you need someone young, hungry and happy to sit. Doubts remain about Dier’s competence in the holding role against high-class opposition, but England won’t face that reality in a competitive game until 2018. By then, Dier will be 24 and potentially very good indeed.
5 (17) Adam Lallana
Saving the biggest riser in the top five until last. It’s not just that Lallana was England’s best player and goalscorer against Slovakia, but that his versatility makes him an easy squad pick after James Milner’s retirement. Having also started the season well for Liverpool, Lallana’s stock has never been higher.
6 (4) Harry Kane
After the risers, a run of five players who have slipped down a few places after this summer’s Gallic debacle. Kane is still an absolute cert for a squad place – and so features highly here – but it’s hard not to worry about the striker’s performances in his last six England games. Whether it’s due to fatigue, regression to the mean or just an inability of others to supply him appropriately, improvement is needed. If Sturridge stays fit, does he start against Malta?
7 (5) Dele Alli
Any fears Alli may have had at being left on the bench by Allardyce were alleviated by his impact as a substitute. His starting berth may be taken by the captain, but Alli is a rock-solid squad member at least until after the next World Cup, whatever the weather.
8 (7) Gary Cahill
Cahill should consider himself a big winner. To have dropped just one place after the defensive unease of Euro 2016 and kept his place while Chris Smalling has lost his is a relative personal triumph. Two months ago I wondered whether Cahill may walk away from international football, but those suspicions now look entirely foolish.
9 (8) Jordan Henderson
I’m still not sure whether Henderson is not very good for England or just not very good, but neither option makes his continued presence in the starting line-up anything other than a cause for large measures of spirits taken neat. After 27 caps, we’re still left asking what it is that Henderson does that any two-dimensional player couldn’t do just as well?
10 (6) Raheem Sterling
An unavoidable drop post-France has been allayed by early-season form. The hope is that Manchester City success gives Sterling the confidence to take players on and dribble at full pelt for England. When he lacks that attacking effervescence, Sterling very quickly becomes toothless.
11 (1) Joe Hart
We’ll never know whether Allardyce would have picked Jack Butland over Hart had he been fit, but for now he is still England’s No. 1. All depends on whether it’s Grande Torino or Turin brakes in Italy. At least he’ll be dandruff-free.
12 (26) Kyle Walker
Walker and Nathaniel Clyne are destined to nip and tuck in the pecking order for England’s right-back slot, each being given a chance when the other occasionally disappoints. We miss the days of Gary Neville, but not the days of Glen Johnson. This is the vaguely happy medium.
13 (2) Chris Smalling
The second big faller, and just as unpredictable. Eric Bailly and Daley Blind’s ability to both individually make style and substance mutually inclusive and also work as an effective partnership has left Smalling out in the cold at Old Trafford. ‘There might be a lot of pertinent concern about England’s central defence, but there is one thing on which both the John Stones and Gary Cahill camps can agree: They’re fighting for one place,’ I wrote in the last ladder in March. Or, y’know, two places.
14 (19) – Daniel Sturridge
Inevitably bumped up the list with Wayne Rooney dropping deep, Kane looking knackered and Jamie Vardy still not fully integrated into the England set-up. That pre-Euro 2016 positivity over England’s striking options was extinguished quicker than a candle in a hurricane.
15 (20) – Danny Rose
Okay, this is going to sound harsh: Rose’s presence in the starting line-up epitomises a team stuffed full with jobbing, above-average-but-hardly-inspiring players, those who are regularly good for their club but unlikely to thrive in the international arena. Still, he’s only ever likely to be back-up to Shaw, and that’s fine.
16 (14) – Nathaniel Clyne
Clyne and Walker are destined to nip and tuck in the pecking order for England’s right-back slot, each being given a chance when the other occasionally disappoints. We miss the days of Gary Neville, but not the days of Glen Johnson. This is the vaguely happy medium.
17 (RE) – Jack Butland
Now injured again for two months. Until he returns and impresses, Joe Hart can sleep easy. Yet Butland does have majority media opinion on his side.
18 (16) – Jamie Vardy
There just isn’t a hole the right shape for Vardy’s counter-attacking peg to fit inside. For now, he remains a fringe England squad member.
19 (27) – Theo Walcott
Arsenal’s born-again winger was utilised from the bench in precisely that role for England on Sunday. Spotting the obvious gap in Arsenal’s squad on the eve of this season could yet save Walcott’s England career.
20 (9) – Danny Welbeck
Given Allardyce’s initial reticence to rip up Roy Hodgson’s rulebook, we can only assume that Uncle Roy’s star pupil would retain a prominent place in the squad. Unfortunately, three league starts in 2015 will be followed by seven in 2016. When you’re halfway along the road to perma-crock city, don’t be surprised when your country sources alternative options. Welbeck’s biggest hope is that those deputising carry out his job only half as effectively.
21 (24) – Danny Drinkwater
Untainted by the Euro 2016 disaster after his exclusion, Drinkwater is now reaping the rewards both of that snub and James Milner’s international retirement. The next step is to make a competitive appearance for England.
22 (15) – Fraser Forster
Drops down as Jack Butland returns and rises, Forster is a decent goalkeeper destined to get fewer than 15 England caps. He can start up a little support group with Ian Walker, Ben Foster and Tim Flowers. Sorry Rob Green, five’s a crowd.
23 (18) – Phil Jagielka
Roy Hodgson chose to pick one less defender rather than take Jagielka to Euro 2016, so his presence in Allardyce’s first squad was more than a little surprising. Jagielka is now older than Gerrard when he played his last England game, and is surely only a stopgap.
24 (48) – Michail Antonio
Comfortably the biggest climber, rewarded for the form of 2015/16 that took him into discussions for a place on the plane to France. Now Antonio must beg Slaven Bilic not to play him at right-back.
25 (21) – Ryan Bertrand
Would have been included in the squad to face Slovakia but for injury; Bertrand is still behind Rose in the fight to sit on the bench and watch Luke Shaw for the entirety of Allardyce’s reign.
26 (45) – Marcus Rashford
Plenty of hoo-ha about Rashford’s omission, but if he keeps impressing for United (even from the bench), his time will come. Allardyce’s assessment that 90 minutes for the Under-21s would be preferable to nine minutes for the seniors is perfectly understandable.
27 (12) – Ross Barkley
The biggest casualty of Allardyce’s first squad, I assumed Barkley would be a Big Sam certainty. The only outfield players to fall further in this ladder are James Milner (retired), Jonjo Shelvey (Championship) and Phil Jones (broken), but it’s hard not to feel slightly sorry for a player who has been tarred by the brush of a tournament in which he never even played a minute. The message is clear: Barkley can’t get by on reputation and potential alone.
28 (21) – Tom Heaton
No. 3 in France but back to No. 4 when Butland gets fit. Still, he got to visit a chateau or two and eat the odd croque monsieur.
29 (28) – Fabian Delph
No league start yet this season, and Ilkay Gundogan will be slotted in at club level some time soon. Delph has avoided the Toure/Mangala/Nasri-style cull at Manchester City, but he’s still the player that gets forgotten too easily when creating these ladders. That’s not a compliment.
30 (31) – Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Must make Allardyce’s next squad to avoid recording a full year without international squad selection, and didn’t merit inclusion after starting two of Arsenal’s first three league games. It now seems bizarre that Oxlade-Chamberlain played in seven of England’s ten Euro 2016 qualifiers.
31 (38) – Andros Townsend
“You have Shaw coming back from injury at Manchester United and you’ve also got Townsend, who looked like an international world beater a couple of years ago. That is just one or two who might re-emerge” – Sam Allardyce, July 31. The re-emerging process has begun.
32 (23) – Jack Wilshere
Two ladders ago (November 2015), Wilshere was as high as No. 7, but a club career is now facing a year-long recharge on the south coast (and that’s the positive spin). While Wilshere reboots the system, England selection should be ruled out, but I’m not convinced it will be.
33 (44) – Aaron Cresswell
The first in a clump of four Allardyce-induced risers in the lower reaches. He’d have more chance if he didn’t keep getting injured.
34 (33) – Kieran Gibbs
Has been passed by an ageing (and falling) Leighton Baines, but Gibbs still needs three left-backs to get injured to make the squad. Nacho Monreal getting knacked would be a helpful start.
35 (37) – Andy Carroll
The second in a clump of four Allardyce-induced risers in the lower reaches. He’d have more chance if he didn’t keep getting injured.
36 (47) – Ryan Shawcross
‘Ryan Shawcross, the Stoke City centre back, will be given an opportunity to stake a claim for an England place in front of the watching Sam Allardyce at Goodison Park today,’ wrote Henry Winter on August 27. He didn’t make the grade, but inevitably climbs for being in the manager’s thoughts.
37 (46) – Mark Noble
“I thought he was a great manager and I loved him as a person and I think he is the right man for the job,” said Noble last month. Wipe clean that brown nose and try again, fella.
38 (42) – Jesse Lingard
Injured, but did score in the Community Shield. Much depends on his Manchester United minutes.
39 (NE) – Nathan Redmond
The good news is that he’s back in the Premier League (and at a fine club for development). The bad news is that he’s playing as a striker.
40 (43) – Scott Dann
So what if he’s 29; he’s still got almost half a decade on Jagielka.
41 (34) – Michael Carrick
42 (NE) – James Tomkins
43 (40) – Wilfried Zaha
44 (29) – Leighton Baines
45 (NE) – Jordon Ibe
46 (NE) – Rob Holding
47 (42) – Saido Berahino
48 (30) – Phil Jones
49 (NE) – Alex McCarthy
50 (RE) – Kevin Nolan