It’s been a while since I was this excited by an England squad heading to an international tournament.
OK, so the defence looks leakier than Boris Johnson’s cabinet briefings. None of the goalkeepers in the squad instill much confidence. And doubts still remain about Gareth Southgate as an international manager.
But other than that, wowzers.
Look at some of the attacking players we have. There’s youth, talent, pace and power all over the place. Trouble is, who do you leave out? Here’s my guide to the 26-man England Euro 2020 squad, and a few wildcards:
Any white smoke on the Pope yet?
Will that be enough to rule him out? Would Southgate gamble on his fitness? If not, the door is open for Sam Johnstone to join No 1 Jordan Pickford and Dean Henderson in the squad.
An embarrssment of riches here, and a Trent Alexander-Arnold-shaped conundrum for the England boss.
You get the feeling that Southgate doesn’t want to pick the Liverpool man, even with his improvement in form, instead plumping for the more experienced options of Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier.
The extra places opened up by the squad increasing to 26 gives Southgate an out, but even then Alexander-Arnold could miss out to Reece James if he chooses three right-backs. And that’s with Aaron Wan-Bissaka not even in the frame.
At last, an easy one. Luke Shaw and Ben Chilwell will both be in the party and fighting over the left-side berth in the starting XI.
Does Southgate take four or five? With Harry Maguire’s ankle injury meaning he may face a race to be fit for the opening game of the tournament against Croatia on 13 June, it could be that there is an extra body selected, although Walker can operate as a right-sided centre-half.
Maguire will be included, and will start alongside John Stones if fit. The other two or three berths are a shoot-out between Conor Coady, Tyrone Mings, Eric Dier and Michael Keane, you’d think.
Please, not Dier.
Jordan Henderson returned to the bench for Liverpool at the weekend and will be included, hopefully getting some minutes under his belt in the warm-up games against Austria and Romania at Middlesbrough.
However, he’s no longer the main man in that midfield. That honour now belongs to Declan Rice after his superb displays for West Ham and England this season. Rice will be the anchor in the centre of the park, with Leeds’ Kalvin Phillips (shoulder injury permitting) and Southampton’s James Ward-Prowse (roll him out for the obligatory penalty shoot-out) also in the frame for a squad place.
Count Mason Mount as a midfielder, though he can operate higher up the pitch, and Southgate has plenty options. Will he find a place for exciting teenager Jude Bellingham though? He’d better – if I hear Harry Winks’ name mentioned the laptop is going out the window.
Another embarrssment of riches. Let’s start with those nailed on. Captain Harry Kane will put himself firmly in the shop window, while Raheem Sterling and Sir Marcus Rashford will be included despite not scaling the heights this season. And you can’t leave out Phil Foden, who should be in the starting XI, captain and chief throw-in taker after the campaign he has had.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin will be Kane’s back-up but after that, it’s anyone’s guess. Jack Grealish should go, though you get the feeling Southgate isn’t fully convinced by his talents. Jadon Sancho offers width and pace, but what about Danny Ings, Patrick Bamford and Ollie Watkins?
Southgate isn’t short on options, but here’s four who could step up to the squad now there are 26 places to fill.
Mason Greenwood – looked to be bang out of the frame, the teenager finished the season strongly for Man United – but has his form come too late in the day? There’s a lot of competition for those forward berths but he offers explosive power and finishing from the bench.
Jesse Lingard – you’d have been laughed out of the pub six months ago (if they were open) had you dared to suggest the midfielder should be considered, but his stunning form since making a loan switch to West Ham is hard to ignore.
Bukayo Saka – so talented, so versatile, the Arsenal man offers an option out wide and as a wing-back. Southgate is a fan, he could sneak in.
Fikayo Tomori – there could be room for a shock centre-half call-up and Tomori, capped by Southgate previously, has become something of a forgotten man of English football. However, the Chelsea defender has enjoyed had a renaissance on loan at AC Milan, edging himself ahead of Aston Villa’s highly-rated Ezri Konsa.
Goalkeepers: Pickford, Henderson, Johnstone
Defenders: Walker, Trippier, Alexander-Arnold, Coady, Stones, Maguire, Keane, Shaw, Chilwell
Midfielders: Rice, Henderson, Phillips, Ward-Prowse, Bellingham, Mount
Forwards: Kane, Sterling, Rashford, Foden, Grealish, Calvert-Lewin, Sancho, Greenwood