West Ham United midfielder Declan Rice has earned his first call-up to the senior England side, with Gareth Southgate naming a 25-man strong party ahead of their opening Euro 2020 qualifiers.
Rice, who yesterday was awarded the Ireland Young Player of the Year award after earning three caps under Martin O’Neill in friendlies, made the decision a month ago to switch allegiances following interest from the Three Lions.
The London-born midfielder has impressed for Manuel Pellegrini’s side this season, establishing himself in the middle of the park and has now seen his form rewarded by receiving a call-up at the first opportunity.
Elsewhere, Burnley goalkeeper Tom Heaton is also back in the squad after regaining his place in the starting XI at Turf Moor, with the Clarets enjoying a turnaround in form since his return. His club teammates Nick Pope and Joe Hart are both left out.
There are also returns for Danny Rose, Harry Maguire and James Tarkowski, all of whom were absent for their win over Croatia in the Nations League in November. Jesse Lingard and Harry Winks both miss out through injury.
One player who will be extremely disappointed to have missed out is Southampton midfielder James Ward-Prowse, who the England staff have been keeping a close eye on in recent weeks. The 24-year-old has scored in each of his last three appearances and in six of his last 10 for the Saints, but has missed out in midfield to the likes of Ross Barkley, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Fabian Delph.
Everton’s Michael Keane is also included in defence, with Southgate selecting no less than six full-backs in this squad. One name not amongst that vast selection of full-backs is Crystal Palace’s Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who has been in outstanding form for Roy Hodgson’s side, but will likely be forced to settle for a place in the Under-21s.
Southgate has a number of strong options in attack, with Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford likely to be the starting trio up front if their performance away in Spain is anything to go by. They also have the luxury of one of Europe’s top young players to choose from in Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho, who will be bidding to win his fourth and fifth caps at the age of 18.
England first take on the Czech Republic next Friday at Wembley, before then travelling to Montenegro for their second qualifier on Monday.
Full England squad for Czech Republic and Montenegro games:
Jack Butland, Tom Heaton, Jordan Pickford
Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ben Chilwell, Michael Keane, Harry Maguire, Danny Rose, Luke Shaw, John Stones, James Tarkowski, Kieran Trippier, Kyle Walker
Ross Barkley, Dele Alli, Fabian Delph, Eric Dier, Jordan Henderson, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Declan Rice
Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, Raheem Sterling, Callum Wilson