England manager Gareth Southgate has revealed his 23-man squad for this summer's FIFA World Cup in Russia.
“I believe this is a squad which we can be excited about,“ he said.
“It is a young group, but with some really important senior players so I feel the balance of the squad is good, both in terms of its experience, its character and also the positional balance.
- 14 June - 15 July 2018
“We have a lot of energy and athleticism in the team, but players that are equally comfortable in possession of the ball and I think people can see the style of play we’ve been looking to develop.
“The selection process has been over months really, it’s not just been the last few weeks. We feel the team are improving and we want to continue that momentum.
“The first call up for Trent Alexander-Arnold is well deserved. When we pick young players, it’s not just because they are young, it’s because their performances deserve it.
“We’ve also had a couple of injuries with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Joe Gomez, which is a huge blow for them personally and disappointing for us.”
However, as with any World Cup squad selection, there have been tough phone calls for Southgate to make, notably with the omission of Joe Hart and Ryan Bertrand, both regulars throughout the qualification campaign.
“Ryan and Joe have played a lot over the last two years so they’re not decisions we took lightly. I could’ve had easier conversations by keeping them involved," he added.
“With Joe, we’ve got three other goalkeepers who have had very good seasons and the decision I was faced with was do I keep Joe in and have experience around the group? Or give the three guys who have basically had a better season a chance? We felt the players all needed to be in on merit after their performances this season.
“Ryan is also very unfortunate in that it’s probably one of the strongest positions we have. Ryan has had a decent season but I just felt the others were ahead of him.
“Both calls were really tough. They’re both good guys and have contributed a lot throughout qualification, so it wasn’t an enjoyable part of the job and I feel it’s important to acknowledge their contribution in getting us to Russia.”
In addition to the 23, five players will be waiting in the wings should the Three Lions suffer a withdrawal between now and the tournament opener
Tom Heaton, James Tarkowski, Lewis Cook, Jake Livemore and Adam Lallana have all been formally put on standby.
“History tells us that one of those standby players may end up in the squad, as it’s very unusual for us to get through the end of the season and our two preparation games without any issues," explained Southgate.
“All of the guys on standby have been really professional in their approach to this. They recognise there’s still an opportunity and we’ve had a lot of conversations over a period of time with them about their situation.”