Defenders Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Tyrone Mings have been rewarded for excellent starts to the new Premier League season with first senior call-ups to the England team.
In his 25-man squad for next month’s Euro qualifiers at home to Bulgaria and Kosovo, Gareth Southgate has also included uncapped midfielders James Maddison of Leicester and Chelsea’s Mason Mount.
There is also a recall for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, a midfielder plagued by injury and last seen representing his country in March 2018.
Goalkeepers Jordan Pickford and Tom Heaton have retained their places as the country’s two best in their position. Joining them, in the absence of an out-of-form Jack Butland, is Burnley’s Nick Pope. The six-foot-three keeper has tough competition at both club and country but has merited a recall.
At left-back, continuing injury issues for Luke Shaw means he misses out on yet more international football. Ben Chilwell is involved though, despite missing Leicester’s run of recent games because of a niggling hip injury. Danny Rose of Tottenham joins him.
John Stones won’t play any part for England next month as he hasn’t proven fit enough for Pep Guardiola to name him in any of Manchester City’s recent matchday squads. That allows space for a new centre-back.
James Tarkowski and Lewis Dunk have been denied recalls by a new inclusion altogether – Aston Villa’s Tyrone Mings. The 26-year-old gained many plaudits last season as a solid figure at the back for Villa in the Championship. He actually considered quitting football soon after being released by Southampton as a youth player, only to join non-league Chippenham Town as recently as 2012.
“He’s an outstanding athlete and I see a lot of potential and time for growth.”Gareth Southgate on Tyrone Mings
Joining Mings are the more experienced trio of Joe Gomez, Michael Keane and Manchester United’s £80million summer signing Harry Maguire. All three made positive contributions to Southgate’s side in either March or the Nations League Finals in June.
At right-back, unsurprisingly, one of the world’s best young talents Trent Alexander-Arnold returns. He seems like a seasoned international now, at just 20 years of age.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s highly anticipated first senior call-up is finally here. The Manchester United signing impressed at Crystal Palace and subsequently England at youth level. Back in 2015, he actually appeared once for DR Congo’s U20 side – in an 8-0 defeat to England U17 at St George’s Park (SGP). That day he missed a hatful of chances playing as a Number 9.
In just a few days, in what really is a remarkable turn of events, the 21-year-old will return to SGP, this time representing the other team, and at senior level. He’s enjoyed a meteoric rise to prominence over the past two years; this call-up is a deserved one.
In a less predictable choice by Southgate, 48-cap mainstay Kyle Walker has failed to make the squad. Picked instead of him is England’s World Cup star Kieran Trippier, whose start to life at Atletico Madrid has been very promising indeed. Trippier suffered a difficult season last term with Spurs but impressed Southgate on Sunday, who flew out to watch him face Leganes in La Liga.
To show just how deep the English right-back talents lie, behind Alexander-Arnold, Trippier, Wan-Bissaka and Walker lie three other outstanding youngsters. These are Max Aarons of Norwich, Kyle Walker-Peters of Tottenham and Arsenal’s Ainsley Maitland-Niles.
Another player dropped is Tottenham midfielder Eric Dier. The signing of Tanguy Ndombele has limited Dier to substitute appearances this season and Southgate has thus left the Euro 2016 goal scorer out. Jordan Henderson has become a trustworthy and dependable engine for Liverpool and has made it in.
Young Declan Rice of West Ham United is another expected recall, but perhaps less anticipated was a return for Harry Winks. The Spurs midfielder has struggled with fitness in recent months but played a starring role as England won in Spain last October.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is back of course, as are young uncapped creative talents James Maddison and Mason Mount. Maddison created more chances than anyone else in Europe’s top five leagues last term. And that statistic includes the tireless efforts of a certain Lionel Messi.
Jesse Lingard and Mount’s Chelsea midfield teammate Ross Barkley both return, whilst Dele Alli and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are still to return to the field following injuries.
Further up the pitch, captain Harry Kane is a cert, alongside Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling. Joining those two and completing the 25-man squad are Bournemouth’s Callum Wilson and Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho.
That means the likes of Ashley Barnes at Burnley and Chelsea’s Tammy Abraham don’t receive the call-ups they may feel their efforts deserve. Young Callum Hudson-Odoi is still out of action.
This England squad has an average age of 24.5 and an average tally of less than 16 caps per player.
As another weekend of Premier League action looms, a couple of these players may pick up knocks that they (or their club doctors) deem too serious to allow for a week of international football.
Either way, any players that come in are sure to deserve a call-up just as much, and England fans are likely to see two impressive victories in September, as the Three Lions move closer to confirming almost inevitable qualification for Euro 2020.
Although, we’ve heard that before…