An incredible XI of English ballers to make us (& Gareth Southgate) feel alive again
Euro 2024 is suddenly around the corner and before we know it, we’ll be fully invested in a month or so of pure summer vibes and tournament football once again.
England have undergone one of their most successful eras in recent history during Gareth Southgate’s tenure as manager.
What started with a surprising yet equally impressive run to the 2018 World Cup semi-final turned into the Three Lions being a penalty shootout away from winning Euro 2020, before a run to the last eight of the 2022 World Cup.
For all his success, Southgate’s squads are rather predictable. That’ll likely continue into his curtain call at Euro 2024, but what about if his hand is forced and he has to incorporate a few new faces?
Based on who we think might realistically find a way in based on attributes and experience, we’ve crafted an XI of English players who have an outside shout of getting on the plane next summer.
GK: Dean Henderson
A toss-up between himself and Burnley’s James Trafford, Henderson just edges it with him playing in a team less likely to be relegated or concede quite as many goals.
Trafford is gaining invaluable experience at Burnley regardless of their fortunes since making the move from Manchester City and undoubtedly has a future in the England senior squad, but the under-21 European Championship winner’s time isn’t yet.
Henderson, albeit injured currently, has been capped once and – when back fit – absolutely has the tools to force his way past Sam Johnstone and into the pecking order, now he’s at Crystal Palace.
RB: Tino Livramento
Livramento looked like an exceptional bit of business by Southampton when they whisked him away from Chelsea in 2021, but again injuries have proven incredibly unkind.
An ACL injury in April 2022 was a cruel way to end a promising first season on the south coast, but Livramento bounced back and earned a move to Newcastle a year later, where he’s slowly broken into the side and cemented his place at right-back.
The 21-year-old is eligible to represent Scotland through his mother but has played for England at most youth levels and could provide Southgate with familiarity, versatility and attacking thrust – especially if Reece James breaks down with injury again.
CB: Jarrad Branthwaite
It feels like we’re fast approaching another John Stones situation with Branthwaite at Everton.
Having returned to the club this season after a loan spell at PSV, the 21-year-old is the blueprint of a modern central defender with crisp passing and clean tackling.
He was a part of the under-21 European Championship winning squad in 2023, but feels like exactly the type of defender Southgate would trust if needed, given his Premier League experience.
CB: Max Kilman
Being made Wolves’ captain ahead of the 2023-24 campaign was the latest in a very nicely blossoming career for Kilman, who was the subject of reported interest from a number of big sides.
Another ball-playing defender with a giant six-foot-four frame, Kilman isn’t a spring chicken at 26 but boasts leadership skills as well as Premier League experience. Probably a player that could slot in fairly seamlessly if an injury crisis ensues.
LB: Rico Lewis
Breaking through at Manchester City in 2023, Lewis already looks like an absolute star in the making at just 18 years old.
Treble-winner Lewis has represented England at various youth levels and has earned his first senior call-up in the final international break after 2023.
While many wouldn’t have been expecting him on the plane next summer, him grabbing Southgate’s attention might just have given him a shot.
CM: Angel Gomes
Please, Gareth. If there’s one more good thing you do for English football before you leave your post, it’s got to be integrating Gomes into the senior setup.
Leaving Manchester United in 2020 despite being considered the club’s crown jewel, Gomes has torn it up for England at all youth ages and lifted the under-21 Euros this summer off the back of a quietly exceptional season with Lille.
He’s a press-resistant monster and the kind of profile the Three Lions’ midfield is desperately lacking. A one of a kind player whose next step has to be the senior squad.
CM: Sean Longstaff
From a midfielder England are crying out for to a midfielder England are most likely to integrate first, Longstaff is bossing it for high-flying Newcastle and provides physicality and energy from box to box.
He’s not managed to force his way into Southgate’s plans just yet, but if his midfield continues to grow stale with Kalvin Phillips and Jordan Henderson flattering to deceive, Longstaff feels a rather like-for-like replacement.
CM: Morgan Gibbs-White
Gibbs-White just sneaks our final midfield spot ahead of Liverpool’s Curtis Jones, who has been the victim of Jurgen Klopp’s midfield rebuild and finds himself used more as a rotation arm currently.
The Nottingham Forest midfielder, meanwhile, is the lynchpin for Steve Cooper. Boundless energy from box to box, exceptional passing and a wicked technique when it comes to having a pop from distance.
He’s been sensational since moving to the City Ground and could provide a serious upgrade for England next summer, despite not being someone at the top of the reserves list.
RW: Solly March
The longer March continues to be snubbed by England, the more likely it feels that his time for a callup has simply passed – which is incredibly unfair.
The Brighton wideman has unlocked new levels to his game in the last year or two and provides a consistent end product down the flank, vast experience and versatility.
Southgate could throw him in and he’d be unfazed. If injuries occur, March allows him to continue playing with a number of shapes and formations.
ST: Eddie Nketiah
Overlooked for the final international break of 2023, Southgate explained that the Arsenal forward was slightly behind Callum Wilson and Ollie Watkins right now.
Fast forward to next summer, though, and it could well be a different story. Nketiah has made a habit of proving doubters wrong, is consistently good for a goal and has been the perfect rotation/substitute striker for Arsenal this season.
Watkins is probably a sure thing, but Wilson’s injury record is shaky and Southgate does have faith in the 24-year-old. Don’t be surprised if he sneaks in.
— Planet Football (@planetfutebol) August 12, 2023
LW: Michael Olise
Born in Croyden, Olise has grown up representing France at youth level, but is also eligible to represent England and even Algeria and is yet to nail his mast to a nation permanently.
An injury has stopped him from ripping up the Premier League from the off in 2023-24, but by the time he’s back and firing on all cylinders, it might just align perfectly with crunch time for impressing Southgate.
If England don’t try to call him up soon, they risk losing out on an exceptionally gifted footballer. They cannot afford to let him slip through the net.