SOUTHEND United striker Lee Barnard is backing England to spring a surprise at this summer’s World Cup — and is in a unique position to know just why.
The Blues forward played alongside four members of Roy Hodgson’s squad – Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – while at Southampton.
And he feels that quartet, along with the other talented youngsters in the Three Lions squad, can help England reach the latter stages of the competition, which gets underway in Brazil in nine days time.
“For the first time in my lifetime there isn’t any expectation on England going into a World Cup and I think that could work in our favour and allow us to surprise a few people,” said Barnard.
“That’s certainly what I want to happen but I played with Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain at Southampton so I know just how talented they all are.
“They’re in the squad on merit and I think everyone is this time.
“The squad is the right squad which has been picked on form rather than who they are, which I think is the way it should be.”
England will continue their preparations for the World Cup with a friendly against Ecuador tonight. The clash, which is being played in Miami, could well see new Liverpool striker Lambert given a go in attack.
And Barnard, who enjoyed a prolific partnership with Lambert while at the Saints, is particularly thrilled to have seen the striker work his way up the leagues.
“It’s unbelievable how well Rickie has gone through every division to get to the very top of the game,” said the 29-year-old.
“When I played with him we were in League One and you could tell he had the talent to play higher.
“People have doubted him each time he’s gone up but he’s shown he can deal with it and has done brilliantly.
“It’s great to see because he’s an old fashioned centre forward and they don’t always get the credit they deserve.
“He works incredibly hard on his game and we swapped a few texts after he joined Liverpool and I hope he continues to do well.”
But Barnard is also keen to start impressing himself on a more regular basis and is already back in training ahead of the new campaign.
“I had a few days off but after that I was back in training and I’m determined to get in the best shape I can before we report back in for pre-season,” he added.