With the Wayne Rooney saga an on-going feature, Gareth Southgate announced his final squad of a very successful 2018 for England. November’s agenda includes two fixtures. First is Wayne Rooney’s Wembley send-off against the USA on Thursday. Then, on Sunday, England face Croatia in a match that could have winning the group, staying put or even relegation in store for The Three Lions. After Croatia’s semi-decisive tie with Spain on Thursday, England will know one of those three is no longer a possibility.
In terms of the squad, it is one of Gareth Southgate’s largest, with 28 players included. The recent goalkeeping quartet of Jordan Pickford, Jack Butland, Marcus Bettinelli and Alex McCarthy has been recalled this month. Jordan Pickford has saved two penalties in the Premier League since England last joined up; Marcus Bettinelli has played just once, conceding four goals to Cardiff City.
The biggest blow to Southgate is the injury which forced Harry Maguire off in Leicester City’s heartfelt win over Cardiff, after the tragedy a week prior. Slabhead has not been risked, and so will remain with Leicester to acquire the right treatment. His deputies at the back are Brighton’s Lewis Dunk and Everton’s Michael Keane. Southgate will be pleased that Keane has waved goodbye to the prolonged injury troubles that kept him out of England’s plans in Russia
Joining them are young star Joe Gomez and John Stones, who has gone from out-of-favour choice to first-teamer with league leaders Manchester City this season. Burnley manager Sean Dyche has said his centre-back James Tarkowski may need surgery for a sustained groin injury. The Burnley player is omitted from the squad for that reason.
England’s left-back pairing is Ben Chilwell and Luke Shaw. Aged twenty-one and twenty-three respectively, these two could be in the England set-up for years to come – although some have tipped Crystal Palace prodigy Aaron Wan-Bissaka to swap wings in an attempt to force his way into Gareth Southgate’s plans. The 20-year-old is currently still with the Under-21s. In his chosen position, right-back, England really are spoilt for choice. The manager has kept faith with Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold, while call-ups for class-acts Kieran Trippier and Kyle Walker are a given.
In midfield, Jordan Henderson will return after two bookings kept him out of October’s win over Spain. Eric Dier’s emergence as a Spurs starter means he has earned a recall and so has his club teammate Harry Winks. Manchester City’s Fabian Delph is included. Gareth Southgate has shown faith in goalscoring duo Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Ross Barkley from Chelsea, too. To complete the midfield, England fans will be relieved to see Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard back after missing about a month of football each through injury.
Finally, we come to England’s attackers. Wayne Rooney’s 120th and final cap will come as a cameo appearance against the United States. Thus, he joins up with England for the last time. Captain Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling have been in excellent form. They are both in, as is Marcus Rashford of Manchester United. Danny Welbeck was originally included but has since been admitted to hospital after a nasty looking ankle injury he suffered in Europa League action against Sporting Lisbon.
Borussia Dortmund starlet Jadon Sancho has merited a second call-up through his goalscoring exploits in the Champions League, but the final player included provides the real headline – Bournemouth talisman Callum Wilson. The forward was near to an England call-up under Roy Hodgson, before some lengthy spells on the sideline cut his momentum dead. The 26-year-old has come back fighting and, with 6 goals and 4 Premier League assists so far, only Raheem Sterling, Sergio Agüero and Eden Hazard are ahead on direct contributions to goals. Fans have been calling for his, and teammate Josh King’s, inclusion for a long time now. Wilson thoroughly deserves the call; King is Norwegian.
Overall, Gareth Southgate has named a largely predictable but still exciting squad. The average age of the group [excluding Welbeck] is just 24 years, whilst the average number of England outings is also low at 21. Southgate continues to stick with youth and is blooding young talent. Maybe this is why the Wayne Rooney case has become such a hot topic for debate…