Trent Alexander-Arnold left out while Jude Bellingham included despite Gareth Southgate's doubts the midfielder can travel; Sam Johnstone handed first call-up but Patrick Bamford misses out; England kick off their World Cup qualifying campaign against San Marino, Albania and Poland
Thursday 18 March 2021 18:55, UK
Ollie Watkins and Sam Johnstone have been named in Gareth Southgate's England squad for the first time, with Jude Bellingham included and Jesse Lingard, Luke Shaw and John Stones all earning recalls for the March internationals.
Liverpool defender Trent Alexander-Arnold, who withdrew from the last England squad due to injury, has been left out of the 26-man squad, with Southgate citing right-back as a "remarkable position of strength".
"There's some areas of the pitch where we've got incredible competition for places. Trent is very unfortunate," said Southgate, whose side kick off their World Cup qualifying campaign against San Marino, Albania and Poland.
"I don't think he has played at the level that he found in the last couple years, but I think he's getting very close to that now. The last few weeks he has taken steps in the right direction.
"It's simply that we think Reece James and Kieran Trippier have had exceptional seasons really with their clubs, Kyle Walker is in great form with Manchester City. We've got other players in the league who are also playing well in that position - (Matty) Cash at Villa and (Luke) Ayling at Leeds.
"It's a remarkable position of strength. What I said to Trent earlier today, I've made those calls to Kyle (Walker) and Kieran (Trippier) in the past, their response was a good one and they took up the challenge and found themselves back in the squad.
"Trent is of course a super talent, I'm certain he'll play a big part for England in the future. He misses out this time but we could quite conceivably be sitting here before the summer and he's with us."
Southgate said it was a "very close" decision between Aston Villa's Watkins and Leeds striker Patrick Bamford, who had been widely tipped for a first England call-up after injuries to Danny Ings, Tammy Abraham and Callum Wilson.
Patrick is unfortunate. He's a player we're very much looking at as well.
"Both Ollie and Patrick, their goals record has been good, we like the personalities of both," added Southgate. "Ollie is a player we've had less interaction with in the past, it's going to be good to get to know him.
"We like his pressing, the speed and runs in behind. He's got some improvement to make in linking the game, but for his first season in the Premier League at a big club, he has done exceptionally well.
"That has been a really close call. All of the things I said there about Ollie I could have said about Patrick as well. He is very unfortunate. Who knows, we could be sitting here in a few days' time and we've had a problem, and Patrick is a player we're very much looking at as well."
Seventeen-year-old Borussia Dortmund midfielder Bellingham has been included despite regional restrictions in Germany, which at present would make it compulsory for him to self-isolate for 14 days on return to the country.
Dortmund have said none of their players will be allowed to travel with their country if it means they cannot train and play for their club when they return.
"We don't [know what part he will play]," Southgate said. "We've left him in the squad. At this moment in time, it looks as though we won't be able to take him. The quarantine rules in Germany look like they'll rule him out, but as we're seeing those rules can change so quickly, while we're still investigating what's possible we wanted to name him in the squad.
"We've got a really good relationship with Dortmund so no issues between us and the club. I've explained to Jude we're leaving him there but we know it's looking doubtful at this moment in time, unfortunately, that he will be able to join up."
One option under consideration was for Bellingham to play solely in the away game in Albania, thereby avoiding a trip to the UK.
Southgate also said he "never questioned the quality" of Lingard, Shaw and Stones, who have all earned recalls after impressive spells for their respective clubs.
|England caps (goals)||Last appearance|
|Jesse Lingard||24 (4)||vs Switzerland, June 2019|
|Luke Shaw||8 (0)||vs Spain, September 2018|
|John Stones||39 (2)||vs Montenegro, November 2019|
"Jesse, of the three, is a little more fortunate to be in," said Southgate. "We've got injuries which have opened up an opportunity for Jesse, but his performances for West Ham have been excellent.
"He has scored goals for England, there's no doubting his quality. Ideally, you'd be saying you need to do it for a little longer, but we've lost two others that haven't been with us but have been performing well - Harvey Barnes and James Maddison."
Goalkeepers: Dean Henderson, Sam Johnstone, Nick Pope
Defenders: Ben Chilwell, Conor Coady, Eric Dier, Reece James, Harry Maguire, Tyrone Mings, Luke Shaw, John Stones, Kieran Trippier, Kyle Walker
Midfielders: Jude Bellingham, Phil Foden, Jesse Lingard, Mason Mount, Kalvin Phillips, Declan Rice, James Ward-Prowse
Forwards: Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka, Raheem Sterling, Ollie Watkins
Sky Sports' Peter Smith:
After days of speculation about Patrick Bamford and news of Michail Antonio's switch to Jamaica, it was Ollie Watkins who ultimately got the available striker's spot in Gareth Southgate's England camp for their World Cup qualifiers against San Marino, Albania, and Poland. And what an opportunity it is for the 25-year-old - who was playing in the Championship last season - to make his mark.
The Aston Villa frontman is one of two fresh faces in the group, along with West Brom goalkeeper Sam Johnstone, while Jesse Lingard is a familiar name returning to the international stage, after reviving his career on loan from Manchester United at West Ham, and John Stones has earned a recall too.
Johnstone, Lingard, and Watkins have benefitted from injuries, with Jordan Pickford, Jack Grealish, and Tammy Abraham out, but they are timely call-ups - and come with the opportunity to seize a place in the squad for the European Championships later this summer. This, after all, will be the last major audition ahead of that tournament.
With five centre-backs selected - plus a couple of full-backs who can fill-in - it is clear Southgate intends to continue with a three-man defence, but further up the pitch, with Jordan Henderson injured, the midfield make-up is far from clear, although the manager's admiration of 17-year-old Jude Bellingham is plain to see.
Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, and Marcus Rashford appear to be the likely forward combination, with Jadon Sancho sidelined and Mason Greenwood, Callum Hudson-Odoi joining Emile Smith Rowe in the U21 squad for their European Championship games. However, Phil Foden and Bukayo Saka offer exciting options on the front foot.
This may be the final round of England fixtures before the Euros - but there's still lots to be decided. Key players are out injured. Now it's down to their replacements to show what they can do.