When the latest England squad was announced, it was great to see Jarrod Bowen included but it was another big disappointment to not see James Ward-Prowse on the list. He’s in incredible form and it begs the question; what more can he do to get the call up and why is this happening?
The first point to consider is competition. Southgate has regularly spoken about choosing his squad based on form, however it is difficult to believe that is always the case, given the number of players in the most recent England side that have barely had game time in the last season, let alone proven themselves. Ward-Prowse is the hard done by from this perspective, with competition including Phillips, Henderson and Rice; two of which are barely playing at the highest level.
Kalvin Phillips is the perfect example of this, having had a total of 45 minutes split between just two Premier League appearances this season. He’s also featured for seven minutes in the Champions League at the time of writing. Even last season, he played 12 times in the Premier League, averaging 24 minutes on the pitch per appearance. There is a chance that he may get more game time with Rodri’s red card.
Henderson was also included in September’s England squad, but is now 33 years old and not playing at the top level, having moved to Al-Ettifaq in the Saudi Pro League.
Given that these two are being chosen ahead of Ward-Prowse, who as we’ve already seen, can contribute tremendously to goals, as well as in defence, it seems Southgate is missing a trick. On the flip side, Bowen had some big names to compete with, including Saka and Foden, who recently said he likes to play on the right.
And whilst Southgate could still pull Rashford or Grealish from the left to right, ahead of Jarrod, it was great to see him get the call up. Harry Maguire is another player who can’t have his presence justified by form, playing for only 24 minutes so far this season in one appearance for Manchester United.
However, it’s not only West Ham players that aren’t getting the call up, with Sterling being another player on top of his game, which we saw when we faced Chelsea, yet he joins the list of talented players that aren’t being given a chance. It appears that alongside form, key considerations for Southgate are loyalty to those who have previously been featured, as well as bias towards those playing for the ‘best’ clubs in the country.
Unfortunately, this is a shame for players in the Premier League who are consistently proving themselves in their performances, yet struggle to get a call up. For many footballers, playing for their country is something they’ve dreamed of since they were little. So when it appears that playing for the ‘less desirable’ clubs gives you less chance of playing for England, it’s just another thing that makes it harder for us to retain top talent.
That said, there are definitely benefits of not having players leave on international duty. They can continue to train with the club, as well as having less likelihood of injuries. But here’s hoping we can grow the quality of our own squad and when those players play for their national teams, it will be a fantastic reason to celebrate.