Fans and pundits have taken to social media to give their takes on the latest England squad, as manager Gareth Southgate cut his 33-man shortlist down to a squad of 26 that will attempt to win this summer’s European Championship.
The final group was announced just after 5pm local time in England, with Southgate speaking to explain his selections an hour later.
“You never want to give bad news,” he explained.
“It’s lovely to give people debuts and bring them into the squad for the first time, but it’s much harder to deliver difficult news.”
“With the lads this time – there were three who knew they were coming in for the experience of training with us and for these two matches – and we’re really pleased with Ben White, Ben Godfrey and Aaron Ramsdale. They have added a lot to the group.”
“For me personally, it was very difficult to speak to Jesse Lingard, who has given so much for England over a long period of time. James Ward-Prowse, who has captained the under-21s, and Ollie Watkins, who has had a tremendous season with Aston Villa,” Southgate went on.
“[With] those three, I gave them the option of going home, but they were all adamant they wanted to stay and be a part of the group. I think Jesse will probably start tomorrow [against Austria].”
“Their commitment and professionalism has been exemplary and it meant yesterday afternoon when I had the conversation with those players, although they were disappointed, they knew where they stood and the atmosphere around the camp has stayed positive,” he concluded.
What a time to be a right back!! “ No-one wants to grow up to be Gary Neville “ will go down with “ you can’t win anything with kids “ in Punditry folklore @carra4 Right backs in the Squad! https://t.co/ArXO4XK5pI
— Gary Neville (@GNev2) June 1, 2021
One of the biggest shocks is that the head coach has opted to take four right-backs to the tournament, who are namely Champions League winner Reece James, runner-up and Premier League king Kyle Walker, Trent Alexander-Arnold and La Liga victor with Atletico Madrid Kieran Trippier.
“What a time to be a right back!!,” beamed Gary Neville on Twitter as the hashtag #fourrightbacks trended.
“‘No-one wants to grow up to be Gary Neville’ will go down with ‘You can’t win anything with kids’ in punditry folklore,” he said, while tagging fellow Sky Sports analyst Jamie Carragher who came out with that particular chestnut, and including a quip from Liverpool legend Alan Hansen made during Neville’s Manchester United heyday when the Class of ’92 proved him wrong.
TAA had to go…but you don’t need 4 right backs. One should have missed out. Great that Bellingham and Saka are in.
— Jonathan Northcroft (@JNorthcroft) June 1, 2021
“Well, I think we went though this last week,” Southgate said, when probed on the matter.
“Yes we have four players who play sometimes at right-back for their clubs but Kieran’s here, who’s been playing as a wing-back as well as right-back.”
“Reece James has played right of a three or right wing-back. Trent plays at right-back and Kyle Walker has, as you know, played at center-back on the right of a three for us and has also played at left-back during a match for us against Denmark.
“Reece James has also played in midfield in a match against Aston Villa. Basically they’re all in the squad because they’re all really good footballers and if I could have picked five or six right-backs I probably would have done,” he finished, laughing.
It’s not four of the same right-backs:Reece James – comfortable as RCB, RB, RWB; attack-mindedTrent Alexander-Arnold – RB, can probably play CM; attack-mindedKieran Trippier – RB, RWB; attack-mindedKyle Walker – RCB, RB; more conservative?Versatility is 🔑
— Tom Worville (@Worville) June 1, 2021
4 right backs? Seems excessive. Who would you have left behind & taken instead?
— Bianca Westwood (@beewestwood) June 1, 2021
Some agreed on the versatility offered by the quartet, others found picking them “excessive”.
What found universal agreement was the inclusion of 17-year-old Jude Bellingham, who has enjoyed a breakout season in the Champions League for Borussia Dortmund alongside fellow youngster Jadon Sancho.
As Rio Ferdinand predicted that “this is a player who can go on to be a mainstay in the England squad”, others dubbed him “already better than Ryan Giggs” and sadly “the only player that was a good pick”.
Some warned against getting overexcited, though.
“It’s too early. England always get too impressed early and start over hyping players,” one party said.
Once a scapegoat for his pedestrian performances for England and Manchester United, a pity party was thrown for new folk hero Jesse Lingard, who has turned his career around with a return of nine goals in 16 appearances while April’s Premier League Player of the Month.
“How does he make the squad for the World Cup with worse stats back then? Makes no sense,” pointed out one confused fan.
“How is [Bukayo] Saka there and not Lingard?,” someone else asked, in reference to the Arsenal star.
“[Raheem] Sterling ahead of Lingard is the sort of thing why England never win anything,” started a more elaborate point, while Lingard’s Austria selection was branded a “humiliation”.
“Form over past reputation for me. He was banging [in] goals and assists, whereas Sterling was warming the bench. Pep [Guardiola] found [out] the hard way, it is Gareth’s turn now.”
Jesse Lingard misses out on a place at Euro 2020 💔The only forward in England’s squad with more Premier League goals this year is Harry Kane. pic.twitter.com/PhTtiYEIzZ
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) June 1, 2021
Southgate has just said that despite being cut from his 26-man squad, Jesse Lingard is set to start England’s first warm-up game against Austria tomorrow night. Err…
— Matt Law (@Matt_Law_DT) June 1, 2021
Sadly, a Sterling post celebrating his call-up by saying “Can’t wait to get going” was laden with replies such as “Get going out of my club” from City fans, plus general abuse calling him the “world’s most overrated player”.
Chelsea supporters also popped up, goading him for being kept in James’ pocket in the Champions League final which Chelsea won 1-0 against City in Porto.
On England’s chances of winning their first continental crown, Southgate said: “We can’t look any further than the group stage at the moment.”
“We play World Cup finalists [Croatia] in our first game, we have a derby with Scotland, and then we have the Czech Republic, who are one of the best teams in Europe.
“Our focus us on Croatia in a couple of weeks time and then everything builds from there. But there are eight to 10 teams who could win the tournament. We have proved that we can beat anyone on our day – but we have to show that consistently in the tournament.”
With the Three Lions kicking off their campaign on June 13 then, it seems Southgate will be crucified for his choices with anything less than absolute glory.