Gareth Southgate is looking forward to getting a closer look at Jarrod Bowen and James Justin ahead of the World Cup after including the uncapped pair in England’s Nations League squad.
This is an international year unlike any other given the impact of the winter tournament in Qatar, meaning June is the penultimate camp before the tournament gets under way in November.
It also means England are having to squeeze in four Nations League group matches in 11 days next month, with trips to Hungary and Germany followed by Molineux matches against Italy and Hungary.
Southgate has named an expanded 27-man squad as a result of that testing schedule, with the Three Lions boss handing in-form West Ham forward Bowen and versatile Leicester full-back Justin maiden call-ups.
“We were certainly thinking about involving him in March before he got injured,” he said of Bowen, who had a foot injury at that point.
“I think he’s a goal threat, he’s direct and his journey is really interesting in terms of the experiences he’s had – it’s a reminder that you don’t just have to be at an elite academy and come through that pathway.
“To play in the lower divisions and have that experience is also a great route to go.
“He works incredibly hard for the team, which we want all of our forward players to be able to do, so he’s thoroughly deserved this call-up.
“(Justin) is a player that we’ve followed for a long time and he obviously had a very serious injury and has now, we feel, played the number of matches (required after his anterior cruciate ligament injury).
“He’s comfortable playing left or right-back and very comfortable with the ball, super athlete, very good person – all my feedback on him from the under-21s and people who have worked with him (is good).
“We’re really looking forward to working with him more closely.”
Bowen and Justin were the only new faces in a squad that is dealing with defensive absentees and injury doubts.
Justin and the returning Kieran Trippier help fill in for unavailable left-backs Luke Shaw and Ben Chilwell, while AC Milan’s Fikayo Tomori has been recalled after winning Serie A as Aston Villa skipper Tyrone Mings drops out.
“We’ve picked extra numbers there,” he said. “We’ve got quite a few doubts at the back.
“It’s a bit of a minefield in terms of players that have missed football, coming back from injury. Some have only had one 90 minutes.
“We’ve a couple unavailable in terms of Luke Shaw and Ben Chilwell that haven’t played anything at all, really, so that is a bit complicated. Marc Guehi is a doubt, I’d have to say.
“Fikayo has had a very good season with Milan.
“I talked in March about wanting to look at some of the younger centre-backs coming through and I just think [Guehi and Tomori] have had very good seasons and at this moment in time are slightly ahead of Tyrone, who has always played well for us.
“His record with us has been excellent, so they’re always difficult calls because you’ve got a sense of loyalty to players who’ve done well.
“But also we have to make opportunities for good young players so that we can see them and see what they might be capable of.”
Another club captain absent from Southgate’s selection was Jordan Henderson, with Trent Alexander-Arnold the only representative from Champions League finalists Liverpool.
“We’re only six matches away from a World Cup so we want to be successful in the Nations League,” he said. “We found it a really good tournament to play in – high level of games, we’ve really learned a lot from it.
“But also there’s a chance to see some players that we want to see a bit more of, so the decision around Hendo, for example, where he’s had 60-plus games this season, he’s going into the Champions League final as well, he’s 32 years old. I don’t need to know any more about him.
“Everybody else is getting a week off now. Him and Trent are still going, so Trent will probably be with us for the first part of the camp and then we think that’ll be enough for him.”
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