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It’s getting very close to the deadline for when England boss Gareth Southgate cuts his 55-man squad down to a much smaller – but still larger than usual – 26. We’re all speculating about who will and won’t make the squad and it’s the same for the pundits. One of those to publish a predicted England squad is former captain and Alan Shearer. Here we look at who makes the cut.
Between the sticks Shearer has played safe with the usual trio of Jordan Pickford, Nick Pope, Aaron Ramsdale. Of those three, you’d expect Pickford to be nailed on as the starter with Pope and Ramsdale battling for the number two spot in case anything happens to Pickford. Shearer himself didn’t venture down this path but Ramsdale would get our nod for that backup keeper slot. Of the other English goalkeepers, only Dean Henderson was a real contender to make the squad.
Shearer’s picks: Jordan Pickford, Nick Pope, Aaron Ramsdale
If the goalkeeper situation is fairly straightforward the same is not true of the defensive unit. The Three Lions have been rocked by injury to Reece James leaving him out of contention for Qatar. That’s good news for Liverpool wing back Trent Alexander-Arnold though; he makes Shearer’s cut although it should be noted the Newcastle legend would “go with four” at the back, which is something that could leave Alexander-Arnold exposed. Kyle Walker and Magpies man Kieran Trippier are other right back selections in Shearer’s predicted England squad – albeit the latter can operate in the left back position; that could come in handy with Luke Shaw the only true left back named by Shearer.
Centre back is another area of great debate in this England side. Conor Coady has impressed for Everton this season although Shearer doesn’t believe his teammate James Tarkowski will make the squad despite being in the 55-man edit. Ben White, Eric Dier and John Stones do get the nod of approval from the MoTD pundit with the last defender boarding the plane to Qatar being Harry Maguire; Shearer cites the Man United defender’s inclusion as a “gamble” but he is vastly experienced on the international scene.
Shearer’s picks: Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier, Luke Shaw, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ben White, Harry Maguire, Conor Coady, John Stones, Eric Dier
In midfield there are a few selections that are seemingly nailed on with Shearer quick to confirm a place in the squad for the likes of Bukayo Saka, Phil Foden and Declan Rice – plus a few others. There are a couple of Shearer’s inclusions that will split opinion though. The first sees him name James Ward-Prowse ahead of Kalvin Phillips; that is largely down to the fitness and lack of game time of the former Leeds midfielder.
The other midfield selection that might trigger a few reactions is James Maddison. Most fans want him on the plane but even Shearer doubts whether that might happen; he’s put the Leicester City man’s lack of England game time down to Southgate seeing something he “doesn’t fancy” in the man. That said, Shearer has named him in his predicted England squad labelling Maddison as “incredibly talented” and even suggested he might start if he were manager.
Shearer’s picks: Bukayo Saka, Phil Foden, Jordan Henderson , Mason Mount, James Maddison, Jude Bellingham, Declan Rice, Jack Grealish, James Ward-Prowse
In truth there is only one absolutely nailed on striker for England’s squad and that’s Harry Kane. Raheem Sterling, who is yet to get going since his summer move to Chelsea, has a lot of credit in the bank with the Three Lions though and, in Shearer’s mind, will be on the plane. That leaves space for three more with at least five players battling for those positions. Shearer names Marcus Rashford and Tammy Abraham, who plays for Jose Mourinho’s Roma these days, in the squad with Callum Wilson, who dons the black and white stripes of Shearer’s dearly beloved Newcastle. Wilson’s inclusion was the big talking point of the strikers with Shearer favouring him over Brentford attacker Ivan Toney owing to the latter’s physical style of play.
Shearer’s picks: Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Tammy Abraham, Marcus Rashford, Callum Wilson