The club season is just two all-English European ties away from its conclusion. The summer international break is a matter of days away now. St George’s Park has awoken from its dormant state of spring to welcome Lionesses and Lions, young and old.
Phil Neville has been with his women’s side as they prepare for the World Cup in France. Meanwhile, England’s U20s and U21s have begun their training for the upcoming Toulon Tournament and European Championships. For Gareth Southgate’s men though, there is also a chance of silverware in this odd-ending year. The UEFA Nations League Finals begin in just a week’s time.
Attempted preparations for that have been well-documented – it’s hard to train half a team when the other half are away in Europe preparing for the biggest game of their lives. To make matters worse, it was before these two finals kick off that Southgate needed to submit his final 23 to UEFA. He’s done that now, and here it is.
The four to miss out, having been called into Southgate’s week-old preliminary squad are James Ward-Prowse and Nathan Redmond of Southampton and Spurs duo Kieran Trippier and Harry Winks.
The England manager hasn’t made any changes in goal from his March squad, where Tom Heaton retains his spot alongside regulars Jordan Pickford of Everton and Stoke City’s Jack Butland.
At right-back, Southgate is still deciding on probably his hardest position to call. Trippier joined a list featuring only Sir Bobby Charlton and Gary Lineker last summer, of Three Lions players to score in a World Cup semi-final.
Nonetheless, just eleven months on it appears like the correct call to omit him here. His season has included a few defensive wobbles, and fewer assists than he would have hoped for. Trent Alexander-Arnold and Kyle Walker have enjoyed such strong ends to the season at both the title-chasing sides that Southgate was right to include them at his expense.
On the opposite flank, Danny Rose’s resurgence into one of the season’s most involved and athletic Champions League left-backs has propelled him past a not-yet-consistent Luke Shaw and into the squad. Shaw was voted Manchester United Player of the Season a week ago in a slightly bizarre result. He has had spells of brilliance this season, but Rose and Leicester City’s emerging youngster Ben Chilwell are again the right choice this time around.
Southgate will have found his pickings at centre-half a lot easier to make. His four best defenders are all fit to play again, and inevitably they all made the cut. These are World Cup titans Harry Maguire and John Stones, as well as Merseyside rivals Michael Keane and Joe Gomez.
Stones in particular may relish the opportunity of two starts next month, having often played second fiddle to Vincent Kompany in Manchester City’s backline as the season reached its climactic end.
Moving forward, few have seemed happy to hear that Eric Dier and Fabian Delph were called-up in the past couple of days. It certainly must be noted that the former has made a few rash decision for Tottenham this season, whilst the latter has struggled for any sort of consistent game-time under Guardiola.
Nevertheless, these two formed an outstanding partnership in holding-midfield as England reached the finals with that dramatic revengeful win over Croatia in November. There are English talents that have enjoyed better seasons than these two, but Dier and Delph are England players and Southgate has shown faith in sticking with them.
West Ham starlet Declan Rice and Liverpool’s rejuvenated captain Jordan Henderson join them as perhaps the two most likely to start in that pivotal anchor role. Ross Barkley played a starring role for the Three Lions on that emotional night in Montenegro. He has made it in as the first of three attacking-midfield options.
Alongside the Chelsea man are World Cup duo Jesse Lingard and Dele Alli. Neither have had outstanding campaigns at their clubs, but Alli has tended to look the more effective of the two – although, not yet for England.
The attacking options that lie before Southgate are perhaps the most exciting of all. Chelsea duo Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek ruled themselves out of contention earlier this month through injury, and so the potential sources of goals have had to come from elsewhere.
Raheem Sterling and Jadon Sancho have been tremendous all season for City and Borussia Dortmund respectively, and may well start as the width of the forward-most three in Southgate’s preferred 4-3-3 system. Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford has just completed his most prolific domestic season to date, and joins them as an option up-front or down either flank.
As the striker options, just two men make the final cut. However, these are two seasoned goalscorers. The first is Callum Wilson of Bournemouth – owner of 14 goals and nine assists in the Premier League this campaign. He scored a debut goal for England in November and will fancy his chances of adding to that next month.
Finally, captain Harry Kane has declared himself fit for the Champions League final, which means, barring an entirely new injury, he should be even fitter for England’s semi-final opener against the Netherlands on 6th June. It’s great news for England fans and was always on the cards given his record of returning from injury ahead of schedule.
Ward-Prowse and Redmond will continue to train with the England squad, helping to cover for any potential injuries to the eight players currently preparing for the Champions League or Europa League finals.
Southgate has started the process; he’s called his men into battle. The process will only truly finish if major silverware is placed into the England men’s dusty display cabinet in mid-June. The Young Lions and Lionesses have sealed the deal in recent years – can the Three Lions?
The Netherlands, Portugal and Switzerland have also announced their final 23s. All four squads for next month can be found below.
Jack Butland, Tom Heaton, Jordan Pickford. Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ben Chilwell, Joe Gomez, Michael Keane, Harry Maguire, Danny Rose, John Stones, Kyle Walker. Dele Alli, Fabian Delph, Ross Barkley, Eric Dier, Jordan Henderson, Jesse Lingard, Declan Rice. Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, Raheem Sterling, Callum Wilson.
Marco Bizot, Jasper Cillessen, Kenneth Vermeer. Patrick van Aanholt, Nathan Ake, Daley Blind, Virgil van Dijk, Denzel Dumfries, Matthijs de Ligt, Stefan de Vrij, Hans Hateboer. Donny van de Beek, Frenkie de Jong, Davy Propper, Marten de Roon, Kevin Strootman, Tonny Vilhena, Georginio Wijnaldum. Ryan Babel, Steven Bergwijn, Memphis Depay, Luuk de Jong, Quincy Promes.
Beto, Rui Patricio, Jose Sa. Joao Cancelo, Ruben Dias, Jose Fonte, Raphael Guerreiro, Mario Rui, Pepe, Nelson Semedo, William Carvalho, Danilo Pereira, Bruno Fernandes, Joao Moutinho, Ruben Neves, Pizzi. Dyego Sousa, Joao Felix, Goncalo Guedes, Diogo Jota, Rafa Silva, Cristiano Ronaldo, Bernardo Silva.
Yvon Mvogo, Jonas Omlin, Yann Sommer. Manuel Akanji, Loris Benito, Nico Elvedi, Michael Lang, Kevin Mbabu, Francois Moubandje, Ricardo Rodriguez, Fabian Schar. Edimilson Fernandes, Remo Freuler, Xherdan Shaqiri, Djibril Sow, Renato Steffen, Granit Xhaka, Denis Zakaria, Steven Zuber. Albian Ajeti, Josip Drmic, Breel Embolo, Haris Seferovic.