Jack Grealish gets first England call-up from Gareth Southgate

Marcus Rashford and Harry Winks withdraw from squad for Nations League games against Iceland and Denmark

Jack Grealish 4:49
Sky Sports News reporter Rob Dorsett explains why Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish has been called up to the England senior squad for the first time

Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish has been given his first England call-up following the withdrawals of Marcus Rashford and Harry Winks from Gareth Southgate's squad.

The 24-year-old could make his international debut in England's Nations League matches against Iceland and Denmark, which are both being shown live on Sky Sports.

Reacting to the news, Grealish described the call up as a "dream come true" on Twitter.

Grealish impressed as he captained Aston Villa to Premier League safety last season, but once more was left out as Southgate named his initial squad last week.

Southgate explained Grealish's omission was down to the presence of "incredible players" in the squad already who play in the same position, with the England manager mentioning the likes of Mason Greenwood, Jadon Sancho, Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford.

Gareth Southgate
Image: Gareth Southgate explained last week why Grealish missed out on his initial squad

Manchester United forward Rashford took to social media to explain his absence shortly after his withdrawal was confirmed on Monday.

"Gutted - never want to let this team down but these fixtures just came a little too soon for me," Rashford wrote on Twitter.

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"I tried my best but I have to focus on starting the season at my strongest for club and country. Good luck boys, I'll be cheering you on from home."

Grealish's addition follows Saturday's call-ups for Wolves defender Conor Coady and Arsenal full-back Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who are both also included for the first time.

England face Iceland in Reykjavik on Saturday in their first fixture since last November, before travelling to Copenhagen to face Denmark three days later.

'Big opportunity for Grealish'

Jack Grealish
Image: Grealish's wait for an England call is finally over - but will he play?

Sky Sports News' Rob Dorsett:

This has been a hot topic ever since Gareth Southgate named an England squad without Grealish in it - Aston Villa fans were furious and plenty of others questioned the decision.

Southgate now thinks it is time - but it is partly because of some withdrawals.

When asked six days ago why he hadn't included Grealish, Southgate said that he saw him not as a No 10 but as a wide left attacking player where there is a lot of competition.

But look at his stats - nine goals and seven assists in the Premier League last season - and bear in mind that Villa were among the lowest scorers in the division last season. He was also the most fouled player in any of Europe's top five divisions - that could be a plus if he wins free-kicks around the box.

He divides opinion but the absence of Rashford means Grealish gets his chance. It's a big opportunity. Southgate demands a strong character; there have been one or two concerns with Grealish off the field that Southgate hasn't spoken about directly but this is a chance for Grealish to prove he can be in that elite group.

Will he get any game-time? He has to get past some big names before he can get near that starting XI."

What is Grealish's best position?

Sky Sports' Gerard Brand:

Grealish was slow to get going after the restart, but his fine performances in Villa's final four games dragged his boyhood club out of the drop zone and safe for another year. Only two players received more Sky Sports Premier League man-of-the-match awards in the 2019/20 season than Grealish's nine, and his form throughout last season had Manchester United and others keeping a close eye.

The previous doubt surrounding his inclusion has been less about form and more about positioning. Grealish has played in several positions for Villa but performed best on the left of a front three. Even then, the 24-year-old had a relatively free role as Villa's talisman. The team was focused around him, but that won't be the case for England.

GREALISH POSITIONS PLAYED

If Southgate wants to use him, pinning him to the left of a midfield three or at No 10 may not be advised, and that's where Grealish's inclusion gets tricky.

If England play 4-3-3, Raheem Sterling is cemented to the left of the three, Jadon Sancho to the right. If they play 4-2-3-1, the No 10 spot may be up for grabs. That's likely to be the furthest forward Grealish could play, even if Southgate goes back to a five-man defence.

GRAPHIC

Southgate will want to pick a playmaker capable of doing it all with discipline. Though Grealish is defensively-minded - he can often be found tracking back before pulling Villa up the pitch 40 yards - his best work in the final third comes with freedom.

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