LONDON: England manager Gareth Southgate took a notable step into the future in naming his squad to face Iceland and Denmark in the UEFA Nations League.
Included in midfield was Manchester City’s Phil Foden whose potential promised such a reward when he was named player of the tournament when they won the Under-17 World Cup three years ago.
The 20-year-old showed glimpses of his brilliance for Manchester City last season as he prepared to fill the vacancy left by David Silva.
Southgate has also called on teenage talent from the other side of the city in Manchester United’s 18-year-old striker Mason Greenwood, who scored 17 goals last season.
Leeds United’s Kalvin Phillips may be older at 24 but he has been touted for high honours for the past two seasons as a key component in Marcelo Bielsa’s midfield – a calm, composed presence with outstanding use of the ball who can act both as a shield and a creator.
This trio now have every chance of being the beneficiaries of the decision to postpone the Euros by 12 months as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Mancheser United’s Harry Maguire was named and then withdrawn after the guilty verdict were delivered at his trial in a Greek island court.
Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish may have been the main factor in their Premier League survival but he has clearly not done enough to convince Southgate of his worth at full England level.
There was surprise at the 24-year-old’s exclusion but, like Leicester City’s James Maddison – out injured this time – Grealish is discovering it can be a frustrating battle to break into Southgate’s plans.
Instead, the manager has gone for the steadier Southampton captain James Ward-Prowse and Tottenham’s Harry Winks along with Chelsea youngster Mason Mount and Declan Rice of West Ham. He is without injured Liverpool pair Jordan Henderson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Southgate has demonstrated, however, that the door is never closed as Everton centre-half Michael Keane and Manchester City’s Kyle Walker will testify. They are recalled after it looked like their England careers were behind them.
The manager’s decision to select Spurs’ Eric Dier, another member of England’s old guard, as a centre-half option is another surprise, prompting outrage from supporters of Burnley and Brighton who see their men James Tarkowski and Lewis Dunk as preferable options.
Southgate, however, has seen plenty of Dier and trusts him to deliver what he wants either in defence or midfield.