Gareth Southgate took England to the World Cup semi-final in his first tournament as manager, emulating Sir Alf Ramsey and Sir Bobby Robson in 1966 and 1990.
He has prepared for his second tournament with warm-up matches against Austria and Romania – both of which ended in 1-0 victories – before finalising his 26-man England squad for Euro 2020 which, after a delay of 12 months due to the Covid-19 pandemic, finally began on Friday night in Rome.
It may only be three years since Russia but only nine survivors remain from the squad who finished fourth, with 16 newcomers to tournament football plus the left-back Luke Shaw, who played one game at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and who might, as Telegraph Sport revealed, feature in this tournament at centre-back. Given the churn, injuries and the emergence of a new cadre of talent, there have been some surprising inclusions and omissions.
Here’s the full rundown of Southgate’s squad and what each player can bring to the team.
The first choice in a position not very well-served. “Pickers” as Southgate affectionately calls him once famously replied to a question that he might have “over-thought” a situation by pointing out that over-thinking was not a danger for a man regarded as one of the squad’s simpler characters. A brave goalkeeper who is sometimes reckless. It was his wild challenge on Virgil van Dijk that ended the Liverpool captain’s season. But Pickford is also the best Southgate has in terms of distribution. His penalty-save won England the 2018 World Cup last 16 tie against Colombia.
Do say: loves a penalty shoot-out (and getting the rave on).
Don’t mention: a tendency to lead with his feet in moments of high anxiety.
At last, one game into Euro 2020 he became a fully paid-up member of the 26-man squad with the withdrawal of Dean Henderson. The former England Under-21s goalkeeper, he became the second of the seven stand-by players to make the leap. He was given the option to leave the squad prior to the pre-tournament friendlies against Austria and Romania but opted to stay in the camp, impressing Southgate and his staff. A welcome boost after a Premier League relegation season with Sheffield United. He was, nevertheless, voted the Blades’ player of the season.
Do say: great attitude has been rewarded – always been available for England junior teams.
Don’t mention: two consecutive Premier League relegation seasons with Bournemouth and Sheffield United. Two of Southgate’s three goalkeepers were in relegated sides this season.
Would have been left at home were it not for the injury to Nick Pope that has seen Henderson promoted to No 2. Another United academy boy who has had a standout season at relegated West Bromwich Albion where he made more saves than any other Premier League goalkeeper – which says a lot about him and maybe a lot about the state of West Brom’s defence. Good on distribution which is important to the way Southgate plays. At 28 he has experience, even if most of it is in the Championship and League One.
Do say: zero errors leading to goals conceded this season in the Premier League.
Don’t mention: 76 goals conceded in the Premier League this season.
At 30, one of the key senior players, and coming off one of his best seasons at Manchester City. His aggression, pace and athleticism, as well as the technical qualities he always had, make him stand out, Southgate played him as a right-sided centre-back at Russia 2018. Away from football his life has looked messy at times. He became a tabloid regular by fathering a child with a woman who is not his partner. Then he had to apologise for one of the more memorable lockdown transgressions – hiring sex workers. Strangely enough, his football has never been better. Given the strict Covid bubble conditions in the England camp he may have no option but to behave himself.
Do say: great performance against Kylina Mbappé in Paris this season.
Don’t mention: that second yellow against Iceland in September – what was he thinking?
A favourite of Southgate and a versatile modern full-back or wing-back. Has the dubious distinction of being one of the few high-profile players to be banned by the Football Association for gambling offences. That was over bets by friends placed on his move away from Tottenham Hotspur in 2019. His delivery from wide positions remains excellent and he is a Liga champion with Atlético Madrid where he played 27 league games this season, even with the FA ban. He was a standout performer in Spain. His days as a useful tipster hopefully now behind him.
Do say: An Englishman playing abroad and winning a league title. How refreshing.
Don’t mention: “Lump on it”.
A mainstay for Southgate as a first-choice centre back in a problematic position – which makes his ankle ligament injury a major concern. A determined, physical type of defender, who is also nice on the ball, although there is that nagging concern that he belongs outside the very highest calibre of international centre-halves. Will be hoping for a better summer than the last which saw him enter the Greek criminal justice system after a holiday there went awry and obliged him to protest his innocence of charges on BBC News at Ten. Another Russia 2018 hero who saw his career take-off at that World Cup but goes into the Euros with a higher profile, and carrying an injury.
Do say: neat on the ball, powerful in the tackle, head of slab in the air.
Don’t mention: “Fancy a pre-season friendly in Mykonos?”.
One half of the best defensive pairing in the Premier League by a long way. Has resurrected his Manchester City career alongside Ruben Dias and has played as well as he ever has for much of the season. As with many of his City team-mates, however, the Champions League final could have been better. There have been some highs and lows since Russia 2018 when he, Maguire and Walker were the back three. Will always be the first choice to bring the ball out of defence by Guardiola and does it as well as any midfielder when he is in form. Once again the question is whether he can avoid those moments when the concentration slips.
Do say: carry it out of defence and look for the ball in between the lines.
Don’t mention: that nagging fear he might just overcomplicate it.