England should just have completed their final round of friendlies before Gareth Southgate was due to name his 2020 European Championships squad. But COVID-19 has seen to it that this hasn’t been the case.
The tournament had been due to take place in June but will kick off next summer instead. In a surprising turn of events, UEFA acted quickly and came to the only logical decision: postponing Euro 2020.
Moving the Euros back by 12 months has given domestic European leagues much-needed breathing space. Three Lions hopefuls also have a further year to press home their case for inclusion to Southgate.
So who could benefit?
There’s little doubt that, had the Euros gone ahead this summer, Jordan Pickford would have been England’s No.1. The Everton keeper’s form has been wretched. But Pickford is currently first-choice and retains his manager’s trust.
Henderson, meanwhile, has been superb. The Manchester United prospect has proven he can handle Premier League football. After winning promotion with Sheffield United, he has stepped up to perform consistently for the Blades with minimal fuss.
So good have Henderson’s displays been, there have been reports of interest from Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea. United, some have claimed, are even considering selling David de Gea to clear the way for Henderson.
Called up for the first time in October, Henderson now has a year to prove he is a more reliable pair of hands than Pickford.
The hype around Wan-Bissaka has grown steadily since his Crystal Palace debut towards the end of the 2017/18 season. Now Manchester United’s first-choice right-back, England honours are inevitable.
Wan-Bissaka earned his first call-up last August for qualifiers against Kosovo and Bulgaria. But injury denied the tackling machine his Three Lions debut and the wait goes on for his debut.
England are blessed at right-back and that is a problem for Wan-Bissaka. Trent Alexander-Arnold stars for Liverpool on a weekly basis but isn’t a guaranteed starter. Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier are knocking about too but at 29 their days are numbered.
In January 2019, Holgate was loaned to West Bromwich Albion. No longer a regular at Everton, the centre-back thrived on loan at The Hawthorns. But he played at right-back instead of centre-half.
Little more than a year later Holgate is being linked with Manchester City. Tall, commanding and good on the ball, he has benefitted hugely from working under Carlo Ancelotti.
The former Milan boss has coached some of the best defenders in modern history. Holgate has clearly taken the Italian’s advice on board but Southgate will need to make a decision soon. The 23-year-old qualifies for Jamaica as well as England.
The flying Arsenal winger has been one of the revelations of the 2019/20 season. Though it’s at full-back, rather than further forward, that the 19-year-old has really caught the eye.
Arsenal fans don’t remember Unai Emery fondly. But they do have the Spaniard to thank for Saka’s first-team introduction. The fleet-footed left-sider can defend as well as attack and became the first teenager since Cesc Fàbregas to record ten assists in a single season for Arsenal.
Ben Chilwell is first choice for England right now but, behind him, Danny Rose’s place is up for grabs. On loan at Newcastle United from Tottenham Hotspur, Rose has never quite made the England No.3 jersey his own. Saka could secure another Arsenal victory in the north London rivalry by edging ahead in Southgate’s thinking over the coming months.
The Aston Villa captain must be beginning to wonder if his time will ever come. Grealish has been the Villans’ most-important player this season. He’s their top scorer (7), top assist-maker (6) and biggest threat with 70 chances created.
This enforced break could have harmed the 24-year-old attacker’s chances. Grealish apologised after visiting a friend while the country was in lockdown. Villa fined their No.10 for his violation of government guidance, too.
It’s not the first time either. Grealish was warned by former Villa boss Tim Sherwood in 2015, after images of him inhaling nitrous oxide were published. The club’s previous chairman Tony Xia then condemned his behaviour the following year, after it emerged he had been at a party in a Birmingham hotel which had to be shut down by police.
Jamie Vardy, James Maddison and Çaglar Söyüncü have stolen the headlines at Leicester City this season. But don’t forget youngster Barnes, who has been a key man for Brendan Rodgers’ side.
The Leicester academy graduate has been in electric form for the Foxes and has made the left-wing spot his own. With six goals in 27 Premier League outings so far, the 22-year-old appears to have taken to the top-flight with ease.
The tricky winger faces stiff competition from Marcus Rashford, Raheem Sterling and co. But Southgate favours players who have been part of England’s youth teams and Barnes is an under-21 international.
In a Burnley side noted for its rigidity, structure and defensive discipline, McNeil is a welcome antidote. The academy graduate does things off the cuff and loves nothing more than cutting in from the right to unleash his left foot.
Linked with a big-money move to Juventus, it’s clear McNeil is destined for bigger things. The question is whether being a Burnley player means the 20-year-old is the victim of football snobbery.
Last year was a big one for McNeil who earned his first under-20 and under-21 caps for England. Had it not been for the COVID-19 outbreak, one suspects his senior debut would have soon been on the cards.
Another Everton player who has made the most of the club’s change in management. Calvert-Lewin’s remarkable surge in goalscoring form began when former Toffees No.9 Duncan Ferguson was appointed as caretaker manager.
Luckily for Ancelotti, it has continued. Calvert-Lewin has long showed promise but is now making good on it – he has eight in 12 since the former Real Madrid and Bayern Munich coach arrived at Goodison Park.
Tall, good in the air and with an eye for all kinds of finishes, this is already Calvert-Lewin’s best season in front of goal.
Pacey, direct, capable of playing off the left or through the middle and belongs to Manchester United? The teenager already sounds like Rashford and could soon rival his club-mate for England honours.
A genuinely two-footed striker, Greenwood combines pace and composure brilliantly and has already struck 12 times in all competitions this season – including five Premier League efforts.
An England youth representative who won Manchester United’s Academy Player of the Year award last term, Greenwood has long been tipped for the top. Even with Harry Kane, Tammy Abraham and Rashford to go through, England caps are a formality.