by Dom Smith
Gareth Southgate has named Brentford striker Ivan Toney in the England squad for the first time. Included too are Manchester United’s benched duo Luke Shaw and Harry Maguire — and there is also a recall for Tottenham defender Eric Dier who hasn’t played for England since November 2020.
Toney makes England’s final squad before the World Cup this winter following a strong goalscoring start to the season at his club. He has five goals from six games in the Premier League this term; only Erling Haaland and Aleksandar Mitrović have scored more in England’s top division.
Manchester United fans were hopeful that upturns in form for both Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho might see them return to the national team, but Rashford became an injury doubt this week despite rumours Southgate wanted to pick him and so has been left out. Sancho has not been selected either.
Jordan Pickford is nursing a thigh injury and so isn’t included in the squad to face Italy in Milan and Germany at Wembley in the Nations League double-header later this month. Neither is Jordan Henderson who is also left out due to injury.Embed from Getty Images
Henderson was left out of the last England squad in June, though Southgate said that was down to him needing to rest after a long season.
His Liverpool teammate Trent Alexander-Arnold is one of a number of players who feature despite their form being called into question in recent weeks. Mason Mount falls into that category, as does Jarrod Bowen.
Three players feature who do not ply their trade in England — AC Milan’s Fikayo Tomori, Roma’s Tammy Abraham, and Jude Bellingham of Borussia Dortmund.
The squad is 28 players long — a large number of players considering England only play twice this month. However, Southgate’s thinking is probably that, given the choice, it’s better to see as many of his potential World Cup players as possible given that England’s opener against Iran is now only 67 days away.Embed from Getty Images
Southgate’s press conference has been cancelled as The FA observe the period of mourning following the passing of The Queen last Thursday.
He gave The FA a statement in the absence of a press conference.
He said: “We recognise the country is still in a period of mourning and my thoughts remain with the Royal Family.
“While it is important to explain some of our decisions around selection, we didn’t feel it appropriate to hold a full press conference, when it might divert attention from where people’s minds should be at this time.
“This is a bigger than normal squad and part of the rationale is that we are very close to a World Cup and we feel, although our results were disappointing in the summer, we have picked on the basis of form and capability over a long period.
“There were certain players we wanted to keep involved this time, but that said it doesn’t mean that this is the end for some of the others who aren’t involved. Marcus Rashford, for example, has shown some encouraging signs recently. He is a player we know well so if he can perform at a high level in the next few weeks, he of course will be under consideration.Embed from Getty Images
“Clearly, we have a number of players including Ben Chilwell, Luke Shaw, Harry Maguire and Kalvin Phillips who are not playing a lot of minutes with their club. It is not ideal, but we feel they have been, and can be, important players for us. It is not a perfect situation but there is still a lot of football to be played before Qatar.
“With Eric Dier, he has been playing well for a period of time. We think it is a really close call across our centre-backs and he has deserved to be picked back in the group. We know what a good character he is. He fits in with the culture and has great international experience and leadership qualities.
“With Ivan Toney, we have been tracking him for a long time. I had a good chat with Thomas Frank about him last season. His form and his qualities — not only his goalscoring but his technical ability, build-up play and aerial prowess — gives us a different threat to some of the other players we could pick.
“Reflecting on the last couple of months, clearly as an international manger you don’t have any games to quickly put the disappointment behind you. We have had a long period to reflect but now we are really looking forward to two high-quality matches that will be a great test for us and a crucial part of our preparation for the World Cup. It is only eight weeks until we will be naming our squad for Qatar so every minute counts.”
Squad in full
Goalkeepers: Dean Henderson (Nottingham Forest), Nick Pope (Newcastle United), Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal)
Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Ben Chilwell (Chelsea), Conor Coady (Everton), Eric Dier (Tottenham Hotspur), Marc Guéhi (Crystal Palace), Reece James (Chelsea), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), John Stones (Manchester City), Fikayo Tomori (AC Milan), Kieran Trippier (Newcastle United), Kyle Walker (Manchester City)
Midfielders: Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund), Mason Mount (Chelsea), Kalvin Phillips (Manchester City), Declan Rice (West Ham United), James Ward-Prowse (Southampton)
Forwards: Tammy Abraham (Roma), Jarrod Bowen (West Ham United), Phil Foden (Manchester City), Jack Grealish (Manchester City), Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Raheem Sterling (Chelsea), Ivan Toney (Brentford)