By Jordan Lloyd
On October 2, Gareth Southgate named his first England squad since being named interim manager after the fallout of the Sam Allardyce saga.
Marcus Rashford’s promotion to the senior side, following an impressive hat-trick for the under 21’s against Norway, and Jesse Lingard’s first call-up were the only notable differences to a side who under-achieved at the European Championships.
With calls for change and fresh ideas from fans and pundits alike, we take a look at which players England should be looking at to help them overcome their major tournament hoodoo.
Of Southgate’s first England squad only Wayne Rooney (38), Daniel Sturridge (34) and Raheem Sterling (26) have more Premier League goals since the start of the 2013-14 season than Charlie Austin.
The 27-year-old striker was believed to be an outside chance for a place in Roy Hodgson’s Euro 2016 group after hitting 18 goals for QPR during the 2014-15 campaign, with many believing a big summer move would enhance his international chances.
A summer transfer failed to materialise but Austin joined Southampton in January 2016, scoring on his Premier League debut at Old Trafford.
After missing out on the European Championships, the striker has started the new season as deadly as ever, scoring four goals in a week, including two against Sparta Prague in the Europa League and followed this up with a dazzling display at West Ham with a goal and assist in a comfortable away win.
— Charlie Austin (@chazaustin10) September 21, 2016
Austin’s omission from the latest England squad has caused much debate, with The Sun even running an article sighting how Charlie Austin is a greater goal threat than struggling England captain Rooney.
With Sturridge and Harry Kane both prone to fitness concerns and Rooney operating a deeper role within the England line-up, now may be the perfect opportunity for Southgate to utilise Austin, with the striker in a rich vein of form and England drawn in a generous qualifying group.
Since Birmingham City’s Premier League relegation following the 2010-11 season, the formidable Scott Dann-Roger Johnson centre-back pairing have taken diverse paths.
While Johnson has struggled to keep sides in The Championship, Dann’s stock has dramatically risen with The Daily Mail linking the 29-year-old with a £20 million move to Chelsea during the summer.
Yet despite clear admiration from the Premier League’s top clubs, the Crystal Palace stalwart has continued to be overlooked at international level even with injuries and defensive frailties being a concern for Southgate.
In the new England manager’s first squad, only John Stones and Phil Jagielka have had solid starts to the season, with Chris Smalling in and out of a stuttering Manchester United side and Gary Cahill, who has made a series of high-profile errors already this season, deemed lucky to have retained their spots.
With consistency of the current centre-backs a problem, Dann could be the perfect solution to Southgate as his performances at club level have seen him awarded Palace 2015-16 Player of the Year award and selected as club captain for this season.
— Premier League (@premierleague) 19 September 2016
Dann could offer England reliability, a goal threat and the leadership so desperately needed from Southgate’s defence. If the 29-year-old can maintain his current form, it will be extremely difficult for him to be ignored for the next round of qualifiers.
October 6 saw England under 21’s, captained by James Ward-Prowse, qualify for Euro 2017 with a game to spare after a 1-0 win at Kazakhstan extended their impressive unbeaten campaign to five wins and two draws – a campaign largely led by Southgate.
— England (@England) October 6, 2016
Ward-Prowse, 21, has been a regular under Southgate with 25 caps for the young lions and became the first England captain since Jamie Redknapp, in 1994, to lift the Toulon trophy.
At club level the able midfielder has already amassed over 110 appearances for Southampton with previous manager Ronald Koeman hailing him as “brilliant” after a two-goal display against West Bromwich Albion.
With ageing England regulars such as James Milner and Rooney potentially playing in their last qualifying campaign, now could be the perfect time for Southgate to promote his under-21 stars, with Ward-Prowse surely high on the priorities.
The Saints star would follow under-21 team-mates Eric Dier and Dele Alli, who both have made a seamless transition into the senior squad, and could also bring with him a winning mentality, which England clearly lack.
Others to watch out for:
Tammy Abraham, Demarai Gray, Marc Albrighton, Troy Deeney, Callum Wilson