Who should be England’s new captain? Here’s the top five contenders…

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After Steven Gerrard announced his international retirement on Monday, the English national team are now looking for a new captain.

Gerrard, 34, has skippered the side since 2012 when Roy Hodgson took charge of the Three Lions but after 114 appearances for England he is finally calling it quits.

[RELATED: Gerrard retires from England duty]

Growing up, every Englishman dreams of captaining their national team but only a handful get to make that dream a reality.

Who will follow in Gerrard’s footsteps? Here are five fellows that I believe could be worthy of the sacred armband.

Wayne Rooney

Despite his spotty form for club and country of late, 28-year-old Rooney is the prime candidate to replace Gerrard as skipper. Sure, he’s had some tantrums and got silly red cards which have let down the national team in the past, but in recent years he has matured and is on course to become not only England’s leading appearance holder (currently has 95 caps) but also the leading goalscorer in the nations’ history. Roy Hodgson believes Rooney is a key cog in England’s machine and it is highly likely the Manchester United forward will wear the armband for the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign and beyond.

Joe Hart

Hart is 27 and already has 43 England caps to his name. If England are looking for continuity from their leader then the Man City ‘keeper is the way to go. With no real pressure being put on him as England’s number one, Hart could easily break the all-time caps record and play for the Three Lions for another decade. At least. He is a leader, has plenty of big game experience and with the likes of Gianluigi Buffon, Hugo Lloris and Iker Casillas handed the captaincy for other national teams, don’t rule this out.

source: Getty Images
Will Hart, left, take over the captain’s armband from Gerrard?

Gary Cahill

One of the few players to come out of England’s World Cup campaign with his head held high, Cahill is a ‘proper’ English center half. Throwing his body on the line time and time again to block shots, make tackles and get attacks going, the Chelsea man inspires others with his actions. At the age of 28 he is just coming into his prime and would be a great captain of the national team. If he can get a decent partner in central defense for England, Cahill will lead England’s resurgence from the back.

Jack Wilshere

Bit of a controversial choice here, but Wilshere has all the tools to be a future England captain. Just 22, this is a bit of wildcard selection but I love the way Wilshere puts his heart and soul into every game. As we’ve seen in recent months he still needs to clean up his act off the field… but the Arsenal youngster is so good on the ball in midfield and has the ability to both pass and tackle his way out of trouble. He could be seen as the perfect character to get England to roll their sleeves up and turn the nations fortunes around. Controversial but worth a punt.

Theo Walcott

Yeah, throwing this one out there as Walcott will be one of the most experienced players left on the squad (how crazy is that!?) when the September qualifiers arrive. Theo has now missed out on the 2010 and 2014 World Cups through injury but when he is fit you’d expect him to be an integral part of England’s squad. Just 25, think how many more caps the Arsenal winger would have had he stayed injury free. Walcott has scored only five times in 36 games but on his day he’s a match-winner. Plus, he’s yet to reach his prime. Level-headed off the field and a perfect rode model, could the likes of Luke Shaw, Raheem Sterling and John Stones flourish from the example he sets?

Report: Newcastle activates $12m release clause of ex-Arsenal youth

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Reports out of Turkey say Newcastle United have finally struck the transfer market for a new No. 10.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Aksam reports that Rafa Benitez got the Magpies hierarchy to activate a near $12 million release clause for Besiktas midfielder Oguzhan Ozyakup.

The 25-year-old was part of Arsenal’s youth set-up until 2012, making two League Cup appearances in 2011-12 before moving to Besiktas.

Dutch-born Ozyakup is 35-times capped with a goal for Turkey, twice captaining the Crescent-Stars.

Ozyakup lost playing time to Talisca this season, and registered just four assists in 24 appearances. In 219 appearances for Besiktas, he’s posted 27 goals with 50 assists.

Like the move for Newcastle?

Lukaku pens inspiring post on hard-scrabble upbringing

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Manchester United and Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku has an inspiring and emotional post in The Players’ Tribune which tugs at the heart strings and explains his competitive fire.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Lukaku talks about how his family’s poverty caused him to become a fierce competitor in the hopes of meeting his dreams head-on and providing for his family.

The Belgian, 25, scored twice in his side’s 3-0 World Cup-opening win over Panama earlier this week, and is now far removed from his youth, but he tells his story as if it lives fresh in his mind.

From The Players’ Tribune:

There were even times when my mum had to “borrow” bread from the bakery down the street. The bakers knew me and my little brother, so they’d let her take a loaf of bread on Monday and pay them back on Friday.

Lukaku also talks about racism in football, his debut for Anderlecht, and that aforementioned competitive drive. It’s 100 percent worth the read.

West Ham signs club record center back from Toulouse

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West Ham has reportedly set a club record with its latest signing under new manager Manuel Pellegrini.

Issa Diop is the player, the 21-year-old Toulouse captain and center back costing the Irons around $29 million.

[ MORE: Arsenal signs Leno ]

Diop scored three goals with an assist and eight yellow cards in 31 Ligue 1 matches this season, giving the young defender 95 apps, six goals, three assists, and 23 yellows since debuting with the senior team at 18.

Capped by France at every level below the senior team, Diop’s 2.2 interceptions per game ranked sixth in Ligue 1.

Toulose finished 18th in Ligue 1, but won its promotion/relegation playoff to stay in the French top flight.

From WHUFC.com:

“I am very happy to sign for such a historic, English club, and I hope to show my best here. I am a very ambitious player and West Ham is a very ambitious club, as we’ve seen with the appointment of the new coach. I hope to help the team win lots of games and make the fans happy.”

Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show: Episode 3

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In the third episode of Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show, England pulls out a massive win while VAR finds its way into the World Cup spotlight.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ] 

There will be plenty more to come over the next few weeks, with the show coming via the Men In Blazers.

Click play on the video above to watch the first episode in full.