The November international break will soon be with us as football quickly heads towards the December festive fixture crush, and that, of course, means we now know England manager Gareth Southgate’s squad for the upcoming games against Malta and North Macedonia.
With the final two 2024 European Championship qualifiers now on the horizon for England, there are not any real great surprises in Southgate’s selections once again, as for all his past words about merit, consistency and playing at the highest level, it is pretty clear to most fans now that he has fallen into habit and has his favourites.
So, despite obvious injury concerns surrounding them, we again see Callum Wilson, James Maddison and Bukayo Saka selected, although it should be said, England have already easily qualified through to the next stage so these games are dead rubbers and do not really count for anything anyway. Many fans out there would have preferred some experimentation though and maybe some newbies being bloodied with a longer mind to the future.
It is what it is though, and Eddie Nketiah and John Stones miss out with their injuries, as does Raheem Sterling who has fallen well out of favour and now misses his fifth successive squad. Ollie Watkins retains his place, as do Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson.
Southgate insisted the door was not closed on Sterling, however.
“We don’t need to know about his quality, his personality. He is a crucial part of why we’ve had the journey we’ve had over the last few years. I can only repeat what I have said in the meetings, we’re playing exceptionally well and who can I leave out?”
Goalkeepers: Sam Johnstone (Crystal Palace), Jordan Pickford (Everton), Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal)
Defenders: Levi Colwill (Chelsea), Lewis Dunk (Brighton), Marc Guehi (Crystal Palace), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), Fikayo Tomori (AC Milan), Kieran Trippier (Newcastle), Kyle Walker (Manchester City)
Midfielders: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Jude Bellingham (Real Madrid), Conor Gallagher (Chelsea), Jordan Henderson (Al-Ettifaq), Kalvin Phillips (Manchester City), Declan Rice (Arsenal)
Forwards: Jarrod Bowen (West Ham), Phil Foden (Manchester City), Jack Grealish (Manchester City), Harry Kane (Bayern Munich), James Maddison (Tottenham), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Ollie Watkins (Aston Villa), Callum Wilson (Newcastle)
Sterling supporters will look at some of the names in that squad and would be more than willing to point out who he could ‘leave out’, and they probably would not be alone as they judge the actual strength of the squad.