With this summer’s World Cup drawing close, the discussion about which players will be occupying the seats on England’s plane to Russia is becoming more intense. Gareth Southgate has the unenviable task of trying to please, or at least placate, a nation of would-be commentators and analysts. Jordan Pickford is the only Everton representative in Southgate’s most recent squad for the matches against the Netherlands and Italy, but some of his domestic teammates may still yet stake a late claim to join a squad that has relatively few guaranteed travellers.
The debate about England’s starting goalkeeper continues to bubble; most consider Pickford to be a worthy occupant of the starting berth, but there is an abiding concern that Southgate will ultimately select the experienced and theoretically safer pair of hands belonging to Joe Hart. David Seaman is one of the few critics standing by Hart because of his experience, but Hart has proven to be anything but reliable in protecting West Ham’s goal. Southgate electing to start Pickford against the Netherlands has alleviated some of the concerns about England’s last line of defence.
At the start of the season, the smart money would have been on Michael Keane not only being a member of the England squad but a fierce contender for a starting slot. However, he has struggled to translate his Burnley form into the Everton blue and has seen the odds on him making the England squad rise to 6/1 in some places. Yet England are not currently blessed with outstanding options in central defence, and Keane will hope that a strong end to the season will propel him into Southgate’s thoughts. Keane has made four England appearances, with ninety minutes against Germany an indication of the defender’s pedigree.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin is frequently overlooked in the discussion for England strikers, with his recent form and the arrival of Cenk Tosun contributing factors to his relative demise this season. However, Calvert-Lewin started the season as an effective Premier League operator, with his pace an asset that never seems to be abundant in an England squad. Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy are the only strikers guaranteed a spot on the plane if fit, although the betting markets place Marcus Rashford on a similar degree of certainty. It is an indictment of the lack of striking options for England that a player often unfavoured at club level can almost start packing his bags.
Any English striker in the Premier League who hits a vein of form at an apposite time will have genuine designs on making the World Cup. Calvert-Lewin has an advantage over Glenn Murray in that his youth makes him a long-term prospect for the Three Lions. If he can force his way back into a regular starting spot for Everton then his price on making the plane to Russia will shorten dramatically. Few will feel confident of predicting Southgate’s squad at this stage, which is why punters will want to stay on top of football betting tips from 101 Great Goals. With special offers and predictions available for the World Cup, bettors will stand a greater chance of trying to successfully read Gareth Southgate’s mind.
It could be that 2018 is too soon for Calvert-Lewin, but the squad for 2020 could see the striker and fellow England Under-21 and Everton player Jonjoe Kenny making the step-up to a major tournament. Kenny is priced up at around 16/1 to make this summer’s squad, odds reflecting his current distance from contention but also his potential to force his way up the pecking order in future. Pickford looks like he will be a safe bet for being England’s number one in Russia and beyond. England have been waiting on a penalty shootout hero for a good few years, and if Pickford can maintain his form and fitness for Everton then maybe he can be part of something special in Russia.