LONDON: Brentford forward Ivan Toney has been handed his first England call-up siince serving an eight-month suspension for breaching FA betting rules ahead of friendlies against Brazil and Belgium.

Everton defender Jarrad Branthwaite and Newcastle United forward Anthony Gordon were called up for the first time by manager Gareth Southgate, who said Arsenal defender Ben White had asked not to be considered for the squad.

The 27-year-old Toney won his lone cap for England as a substitute against Ukraine last March, and has scored four goals for Brentford since his return from suspension on Jan. 20.

“He’s shown straight away getting back into Brentford’s team the quality and impact he can have,” said Southgate.

The 21-year-old Branthwaite has been a bright spot in Everton’s roller-coaster season.

“He’s played consistently well,” Southgate said. “His development, we watched him as a back-up centre-half for the under-21s, if you said a year ago he would consistently play in the Premier League, I would’ve been surprised.”

Midfielder Kalvin Phillips, on loan at West Ham United from Manchester City, missed out on a call-up due to a lack of form.

“A good version of him is an important player for us. We don’t have many players of that profile,” Southgate said. “Unfortunately, his form just hasn’t been good enough. I’ve spoken to him, he knows that.”

England will host Brazil on March 23 and Belgium on March 26 at Wembley Stadium.

“If we’re going to look at players, we need to see them against the very best or they could play well but we wouldn’t know if they were ready to take the next step,” Southgate said. “We can’t do that in May or June so we took the best games we could.”

England are ranked third in the world, while Belgium are fourth and Brazil, fifth.

“You could never get a better test,” said the manager.

Arsenal defender White, who has not featured for England since leaving the World Cup camp in November 2022, asked not to be considered for the squad.

“It’s a great shame,” Southgate said. “He is a player we really like, a player who we took to the World Cup. I spoke to him post-Qatar and there was reticence from his side. I don’t know why that is, but I respect that. I leave the door open because he’s a good player.”

Southgate all but ruled him out of Euro 2024 however.

“Clearly to come in for June now would be difficult because others have been in the squads and playing regularly,” he said. “You have to assess those who have been on your journey the whole way through.”

England are missing a few players to injury including Manchester United defender Luke Shaw, who could miss the remainder of the Premier League season with a muscle problem.

“In some positions we have a lot of depth, in others we’re short. Left back is one,” Southgate said. “We have other players who might adjust in that role. We hope Ben Chilwell comes through this week. Luke Shaw being out is a problem for us.”

Southgate said Chelsea’s Chilwell and United defender Harry Maguire were back in training.

“So we have to see how that goes,” he said. “We obviously have contingency plans in other areas in the pitch. Some are in under-21s — the likes of Kobbie Mainoo, Harvey Elliott, Rico Lewis, Archie Gray at Leeds. It’s important we have depth with the seniors first.”

The squad

Goalkeepers: Sam Johnstone (Crystal Palace), Jordan Pickford (Everton), Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal)

​​Defenders: Jarrad Branthwaite (Everton), Ben Chilwell (Chelsea), Lewis Dunk (Brighton & Hove Albion), Joe Gomez (Liverpool), Ezri Konsa (Aston Villa), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), ​​John Stones (Manchester City), Kyle Walker (Manchester City)

​​Midfielders: Jude Bellingham (Real Madrid), Conor Gallagher (Chelsea), Jordan Henderson (Ajax), James Maddison (Tottenham Hotspur), Declan Rice (Arsenal)

Forwards: Jarrod Bowen (West Ham United) Phil Foden (Manchester City), Anthony Gordon (Newcastle United), Harry Kane (Bayern Munich), Cole Palmer (Chelsea), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Ivan Toney (Brentford), Ollie Watkins (Aston Villa)

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