There always seems to be noise surrounding Jordan Pickford when he reports for England duty, usually drummed up from those who do not see him perform very often. Yet, the Everton No 1 is the only one of the three goalkeepers in Gareth Southgate’s squad who appears guaranteed to play at club level this season.

Aaron Ramsdale finds his place at Arsenal under scrutiny after the loan arrival of David Raya, while Sam Johnstone will come under pressure at Crystal Palace, with Dean Henderson — also hoping to force his way back into England contention — having arrived from Manchester United for £20 million. England could benefit from the competition for places that will now play out at The Emirates and Selhurst Park, but as Pickford demonstrated with a stunning save against Sheffield United last weekend he remains in good form.

England still have to make sure of a place at Euro 2024, but no one believes they will not qualify for Germany next summer, so there is no need for Southgate to contemplate a change to his No 1 at this juncture.

Pickford made an outstanding late save from Sheffield United’s Oli McBurnie to earn a point for Everton

Pickford made an outstanding late save from Sheffield United’s Oli McBurnie to earn a point for Everton



A lack of depth at centre half has become an issue for England, though Southgate could be justified in starting to feel that fresh options are beginning to emerge. The absence of John Stones is a blow given his peerless performances for the national team of late, but it does present Southgate with the opportunity to find out a little more about some of his other players.

Fresh from his first minutes of the season in Manchester United’s defeat by Arsenal on Sunday, Harry Maguire seems likely to start against Ukraine in Poland on Saturday, but the identity of his partner brings some intrigue. Crystal Palace’s Marc Guéhi was Maguire’s partner in the 4-0 stroll against Malta in June and will hope to collect a fifth cap in Wroclaw.

Lewis Dunk is back in the squad having been forced to pull out of June’s internationals because of injury, and the responsibility he has for Roberto de Zerbi’s Brighton & Hove Albion makes him a very modern defender. Adam Lallana, his Brighton club-mate, likened Dunk’s role to that of a quarterback. For an England team that now expects to dominate possession, such qualities will appeal to Southgate.

However, most interesting is the development of Levi Colwill, the young Chelsea centre back who spent last season at Brighton on loan and was around the England senior squad for experience in the summer but is now here in his own right. In between, Colwill was influential as the under-21s won the European Championships in Georgia and he is highly regarded within the England set-up.

Dunk has shown for Brighton that he is a defender who is very comfortable on the ball

Dunk has shown for Brighton that he is a defender who is very comfortable on the ball


Colwill, 20, did not train with the main group on Tuesday to help manage his workload, yet the belief is that he will soon be able to take the strain of regular matches. With that in mind, there seems little time to waste in blooding him straight away, and an axis of Dunk and Colwill would have the added bonus of familiarity from their time at Brighton.

Maguire has most to fear from the youngster’s rise and, given his situation at United where he is down the pecking order, he could find himself usurped by Colwill in the countdown to the Euros.


Trent Alexander-Arnold had reported to St George’s Park on Monday afternoon before withdrawing from the squad due to the hamstring injury he sustained for Liverpool against Aston Villa the previous day. The fact that he made the trip knowing he would be sidelined for three weeks highlights his determination to cut it for England after several false starts.

One of the downsides of his absence is that Southgate will be unable to continue the experiment of the right back playing as a No 8 in midfield. It also means another month will go by with England deprived of the opportunity to road test a triumvirate of Declan Rice, Jude Bellingham and Alexander-Arnold in the engine room, and there are only three more camps after this before the Euros start. That would appear to be a combination which boasts a little bit of everything — aggression, dynamism, stardust — but it needs to be moulded in practice.

It would be nice to see Phil Foden in a deeper role given some of his performances for Manchester City, while Eberechi Eze will hope to add to the 20-minute runout he was handed against Malta. Otherwise, it is difficult to see what Southgate will learn from this camp in terms of his midfield except an insight into Jordan Henderson’s fitness now that he is playing in the lower-intensity Saudi Pro League.

Foden has impressed in a deeper role so far this season for City

Foden has impressed in a deeper role so far this season for City



Patrick Bamford, Tammy Abraham, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Ollie Watkins, Ivan Toney and Callum Wilson. When Eddie Nketiah, the latest striker to be called up by England, surveys that list, he should be acutely aware that how he trains and acts around the camp this week will be crucial, given game time does not always come easily.

The 24-year-old Arsenal forward was something of a surprise inclusion and, as with all those forwards to whom Southgate has turned in recent times, is on a bit of a hiding to nothing. Harry Kane continues to reign supreme and the suspicion lingers that in the event of the England captain being absent, Marcus Rashford would be his understudy. There have also been suggestions that Southgate has considered playing Foden as a false nine.

Toney’s lengthy suspension for breaching FA betting rules means there is a window of opportunity for Nketiah, but the fact he has been named in the squad does not necessarily mean that a first senior cap will follow.

Nketiah was a surprise call-up but still may not earn his first senior cap

Nketiah was a surprise call-up but still may not earn his first senior cap


The manager

The contrast to how England ended last season compared to the campaign before could not have been more stark. Humbled 4-0 by Hungary in 2022, England swatted aside North Macedonia 7-0 in a display brimming with aggression, control and a clinical edge.

England have become deeply uncomfortable to play against, especially with their hunger to win back the ball quickly — one area to which Southgate has been paying close attention. The mentality in the squad now is to crave more and more, a culture that survives whatever tweaks there are in personnel.

There was a new face on the training pitch at St George’s Park with Chris Jones, the former Chelsea and Everton coach, having joined the senior set-up after the departures of Ben Rosenblatt and Bryce Cavanagh.

Ukraine v England, Saturday 5pm, Euro 2024 qualifier
Scotland v England, Tuesday 7.45pm, friendly
Both games live on Channel 4 and talkSPORT