5 players who will make their England debuts soon

Switzerland U21 v England U21 - European Under 21 Qualifier
Gareth Southgate has shown a willingness to blood young players for England

Another international break is upon us and that means that all eyes are on Gareth Southgate’s England, who take on Germany and Brazil in friendly games after their successful qualification for the World Cup last month. With the hard work done, the focus now moves to working out exactly what the best England side going into Russia is, and basically, it’s not that easy.

With a lot of England’s experienced players – Gary Cahill, Jordan Henderson, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, to name three – coming under fire recently for a ton of mediocre performances for their country, the chance for new players to break into the side is definitely there. And thanks to Southgate’s willingness to experiment with younger players, as well as players from unfashionable clubs, suddenly an England spot is a possibility for anyone.

With everything hanging in the balance leading into the World Cup, here are five – sorry, six – players who I think will make their debuts for England soon.

Honourable Mention: Jack Cork

Burnley v West Ham United - Premier League
Jack Cork's form for Burnley has earned him a call-up to the current England squad

This one is an honourable mention as I was initially planning to write about five players. That was until two days ago, when a spate of injury withdrawals left England’s current squad threadbare. Southgate turned to more experienced players such as Jake Livermore initially, but when numbers continued to thin out, Burnley’s Jack Cork was a surprising late call-up.

A versatile midfielder who can also play in defence, Cork’s call-up is surprising mainly because he’s already 28 years old and hadn’t really shown any signs of breaking onto the international scene prior to this week. But he has started the season impressively with his new club, who he signed for in the summer from Swansea. Burnley currently sit in the upper reaches of the Premier League and Cork has practically been an ever-present for them thus far.

Whether he ends up playing a role for England in these friendlies – and in the future, too – is up in the air right now given the late notice of his call and the amount of players ahead of him in the pecking order, but he’s done well to make it this far – while he’s represented England at youth levels up to U21, that was obviously quite a long time ago.

His age and lack of recent international experience will probably count against him for a possible World Cup spot, but due to his presence in the current squad, he clearly belongs on this list.

#5 Tammy Abraham

England v Bosnia - UEFA European U21 Championship
Tammy Abraham has been outstanding for Swansea thus far this season

For the current England squad, Gareth Southgate has called upon three young, uncapped stars, and arguably the brightest shining one right now is striker Tammy Abraham. Currently at Swansea on a season-long loan from Chelsea, Abraham has been the lone plus point of the Welsh side’s Premier League season thus far. Swansea have scored just seven league goals thus far and Abraham has been responsible for four of them whilst creating one too.

Most recently, the young striker was linked with a change in national representation – Abraham is eligible to play for Nigeria through his father, but after being watched closely by Southgate and representing England U21’s for a season, he’s chosen to pledge his future to the Three Lions. Judging by the talent he’s displayed thus far – excellent finishing instincts, a strong ability to hold up the ball, and impressive maturity for a young player – England fans should be extremely happy with his decision.

Could he get into the World Cup squad? If he continues to perform well for Swansea, I don’t see why not. Outside of Harry Kane, England aren’t blessed with many striking options – Jamie Vardy is a given, as is Marcus Rashford, although he’s been used more as an attacking midfielder lately – and with both Daniel Sturridge and Jermain Defoe not lighting up the Premier League, the time could be now for Tammy. I expect him to play a part in at least one of the games against Germany and Brazil to gain his first cap.

#4 Ruben Loftus-Cheek

Bosnia U21 v England U21 - European Under 21 Qualifier
Ruben Loftus-Cheek could start for England against Germany

Current rumours suggest Southgate is ready to start Loftus-Cheek – currently plying his trade at Crystal Palace on a season-long loan from Chelsea – against Germany in a deep-lying midfield role, which would make him probably the first man on this list to gain a cap. Based on the flashes of potential we’ve seen from him thus far, he’s definitely worth taking a chance on.

Loftus-Cheek can essentially play any role in central midfield, both as a creator or a holding man, and he’s been compared to German legend Michael Ballack in the past. 2017/18 has been the first season we’ve had a real chance to see him in action, though, as despite making some cameo appearances for Chelsea in the past couple of seasons, chances at first-team football are always hard to come by for a young player at Stamford Bridge. At Crystal Palace though, he’s looked excellent – arguably their best player in a disappointing campaign thus far.

The only glaring weak point in Loftus-Cheek’s game seems to be a tendency to fade later down the stretch, but that's most likely down to a lack of experience at the very top level – something that a season of Premier League action should easily remedy. With England’s central midfield lacking genuine world-class talent right now, World Cup spots are certainly open, and if he plays well in these friendlies, Loftus-Cheek could snatch one up for sure.

#3 Joe Gomez

England U21 Training Session and Press Conference
Joe Gomez could feature for England after impressing with Liverpool recently

The third of Southgate’s young uncapped trio for the Germany and Brazil games, Liverpool defender Joe Gomez was actually the captain of England’s U21 side prior to his recent call-up – a tremendous honour in its own right. While Liverpool’s defence has come under a lot of criticism this season for leaking questionable goals, the rise of Gomez has been one of the few plus points for the Reds – he hasn’t been found wanting for most of those incidents and for the most part, he’s shown maturity beyond his years against tough opposition.

Although he’s more of a natural central defender, Gomez has actually been used by Liverpool primarily as a right-back, where he’s been competing with fellow young gun Trent Alexander-Arnold for the first team slot while Nathaniel Clyne – himself an England international – remains on the shelf with injuries. Right-back probably isn’t his best position, so it’s a nod to his talent that he’s been able to break into the England squad because of his performances there.

Could he make the World Cup squad? Personally, I doubt it. He has both Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier ahead of him at right-back, and both men are two of the Premier League’s most outstanding defenders. And in his preferred central defensive position, the likes of John Stones, Phil Jones and Harry Maguire have shown excellent form this season while Gary Cahill and Michael Keane have the experience factor over him. But he’s certainly one for the future and to see him receive a first cap in the upcoming fixtures – most likely as a substitute – wouldn’t be surprising at all.

#2 Nathaniel Chalobah

England U21 V Norway U21 - European Under 21 Qualifier
Nathaniel Chalobah has bags of experience with England's youth squads

Watford midfielder Nathaniel Chalobah was actually called into September’s England squad for the World Cup qualifiers against Slovakia and Malta, but didn’t end up playing a part after picking up a knock. He’s since been on the shelf with a knee injury, but is expected to return before the New Year, and when he does, I have no doubt that Southgate will call him back into his squad. And it’s with very good reason, too.

Firstly, he knows Chalobah well from his days with the England U21 squad – Chalobah picked up a remarkable 40 caps with the U21s and has 96 overall with England’s youth squads, with whom he usually played a key role in their midfield. Secondly, talent has never been a question with him – it has always been an issue of him getting first team football, and since his move from Chelsea to Watford, he has been an ever-present until his injury.

With Southgate’s other options for England’s deep-lying midfield spot being extremely limited players like Jordan Henderson and Jake Livermore, the chance for Chalobah to make the spot his own once he’s fit seems very high. He’s got the athleticism, quickness and range of passing that those two players lack. If Chalobah hasn’t been capped by England by the end of the season, it would be gobsmacking.

#1 Dominic Calvert-Lewin

Dominic Calvert-Lewin was outstanding this summer for England's u20 side
Dominic Calvert-Lewin has been outstanding for Everton

One of the outstanding players from England’s successful U20 World Cup campaign of the summer, Everton striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin has been one of the few players from that squad to truly break into the first team for his club thus far in 2017/18. While he hasn’t been an ever-present starter for Everton, the Toffees have looked better when he has featured due to his pace and knack for getting into dangerous areas on the pitch.

Calvert-Lewin already has five goals in all competitions this season – more than Daniel Sturridge and Jermain Defoe, both of whom have been in recent England squads, and the same amount as Tammy Abraham who has been called into the current squad. Admittedly, only one of them has come in the Premier League, but his performances in the U20 World Cup suggest he can handle the pressure in big games – he scored the winning goal in the final, after all.

The time for Calvert-Lewin to break into the England senior squad may not come just yet – in terms of young strikers, Abraham is ahead of him in the pecking order and it would be hard for him to jump over veterans like Sturridge and Defoe so easily – but if he can keep playing for Everton and continue to perform well, a cameo role in England’s next set of friendlies – due in March – could be a possibility. It’d certainly be a chance for Southgate to give more youth opportunities, after all.

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Edited by Arvind Sriram
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