Date published: Thursday 16th March 2017 3:04
Gareth Southgate sprung several shocks when he named his first England squad since becoming permanent manager, including Jermain Defoe, Jake Livermore and Luke Shaw as well as four uncapped players.
The 26-man group to face Germany and Lithuania includes Southampton pair James Ward-Prowse and Nathan Redmond, both of whom have played for Southgate at under-21 level but have yet to feature for the seniors, along with the uncapped Michael Keane and Michail Antonio.
Marcus Rashford, Phil Jones and Ross Barkley have also earned recalls to the international stage but there is no place for skipper Wayne Rooney, who is currently recovering from a knee problem.
Injuries to Rooney, Daniel Sturridge and Harry Kane have led to Sunderland’s Defoe – last capped in November 2013 – being brought back into the fold at the age of 34 while Rashford, 15 years his junior, has also been named in Southgate’s group rather than the under-21s.
Perhaps the biggest surprise is the presence of West Brom midfielder Livermore given his sole cap came in the summer of 2012. In 2015 Livermore tested positive for cocaine and was cleared to return in September that year less than two weeks after the Football Association took the death of his newborn son as exceptional mitigating circumstances.
Meanwhile, left-back Shaw has played just twice for Manchester United since November, though an injury to Tottenham’s Danny Rose has also left Southgate short in that department.
Southgate has turned to Defoe and he thinks the striker has a point to prove.
Thanks to everyone for your messages! Playing for @England has been my dream since day one so to be back in the squad is so special for me.
— Jermain Defoe (@IAmJermainDefoe) March 16, 2017
“Year after year he’s phenomenal, but this year in particular, in a team that aren’t creating as many chances as other teams, his strike rate is outstanding,” Southgate said of the Sunderland forward.
“I didn’t want to just look at his age and think he’s finished with England. He’s somebody that is immensely proud to have represented England at every age group. I think you get young players with a point to prove and older players with a point to prove.”
Speaking at a press conference after announcing his squad the England manager also pointed to the new names in his squad.
He said: “We are definitely nodding towards the future with some of the decisions we are making.”
The full squad: Fraser Forster (Southampton), Joe Hart (Torino, on loan from Man City), Tom Heaton (Burnley); Ryan Bertrand (Southampton), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Nathaniel Clyne (Liverpool), Phil Jones (Man Utd), Michael Keane (Burnley), Luke Shaw (Man Utd), Chris Smalling (Man Utd), John Stones (Man City), Kyle Walker (Tottenham); Dele Alli (Tottenham), Michail Antonio (West Ham), Ross Barkley (Everton), Eric Dier (Tottenham), Adam Lallana (Liverpool), Jesse Lingard (Man Utd), Jake Livermore (West Brom), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Nathan Redmond (Southampton), Raheem Sterling (Man City), James Ward-Prowse (Southampton); Jermain Defoe (Sunderland), Marcus Rashford (Man Utd), Jamie Vardy (Leicester).