Allardyce & Lee Discuss Their England World Cup Wildcards

Jordan Edmonds

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Allardyce & Lee Discuss Their England World Cup Wildcards

Sam Allardyce and our partners at William Hill recently hosted episode one of the brand-new No Tippy Tappy Football podcast, with Sammy Lee as the first guest, discussing wildcard players that they’d take for the FIFA World Cup.

With Gareth Southgate set to announce his provisional World Cup squad ahead of next month’s tournament in Qatar, we’ve looked at four wildcards that could be worth a place on the plane and could make an impact for the Three Lions. Two of these are players that both Allardyce and Lee have chosen, whilst we have made two suggestions for the squad.

Big Sam’s Pick: Anthony Gordon

After breaking into the starting XI and making a name for himself last season, with four goals and two assists to help Everton survive the drop, forward Anthony Gordon could make a difference for Southgate’s squad in Qatar.

The 21-year-old has impressed and attracted attention from big clubs and was close to a blockbuster switch to Chelsea in the summer before that ultimately fell through due to the Toffees’ resistance to keep their star player.

After being a crucial player for Everton, many pundits feel Gordon could have a positive influence on the international stage. Legendary Premier League manager Sam Allardyce is one of those backing Gordon for England and named the attacker as one of his World Cup wildcards on William Hill’s recent NoTippyTappyPod podcast episode.

Allardyce said, “Even last season when they [Everton] were struggling really badly, he was the one lad who seemed to accept the ball and run at the defenders. It’s not easy to perform in a struggling team.”

Allardyce makes a strong point – if Gordon can perform well for an underperforming side, just imagine what he could do linking up with England’s best in Qatar. Gordon has continued that form into this season with three Premier League goals already in 2022/23.

The former Preston loanee is gaining more experience in the top flight each week and in total has seven goals and three assists in 60 appearances. At just 21 years of age, Gordon still has bags of potential, and can offer his youthful energy to freshen the England attack if needed. His direct running and pace with the ball continues to be a threat for Everton and could be worth taking to the World Cup.

Sammy Lee’s Pick: Conor Gallagher

Another player who could be worth taking to Qatar is Chelsea midfielder, Conor Gallagher. Gallagher burst onto the scene in his loan spells with West Brom and Crystal Palace but has recently started to become a first-team player for Graham Potter’s side.

Gallagher is another talent that Sam Allardyce and his former assistant Sammy Lee are admirers of and managed during their time at the Baggies.

Former Liverpool midfielder Lee said, “We had him [Gallagher] at West Brom, he was terrific for us, one of Sam’s favourites.”

“I think he can be a bit of a game-changer when you need that burst of energy. Sometimes a little bit erratic and his challenges sometimes are, and he sometimes gives free kicks away which can be a bit of a worry, but I’d take him along”.

The 22-year-old has managed to continue to improve and add some dynamism to Potter’s side this season, making 13 appearances across the Premier League and Champions League. Whilst he has only managed to start six times this season, he has offered plenty from the bench, adding pace and energy to the Blues midfield when needed.

He’s also a good technical player and is capable of the long-range screamer, such as the thunderbolt to win the game against his old club, Palace, at the start of October. Whilst England have some quality in midfield to choose from such as Jude Bellingham and Declan Rice, Gallagher could be brought in to effect games in midfield from the bench with his direct and technical qualities.

Our Picks: Chris Smalling & Callum Wilson

Chris Smalling

The England defence continues to be a talking point, with Southgate showing loyalty to player such as Harry Maguire and Tyrone Mings, who have been in poor form for their domestic clubs. If form is being taken into account, Chris Smalling is certainly a wildcard that could be brought to Qatar to bolster the back line.

Smalling has been one of the stars for Jose Mourinho’s Roma in the Italian Serie A, starting ten of their 11 games in Italy’s top-flight this season, as well as three of the four UEFA Europa League games so far. In that time Smalling has put in plenty of top performances to help his side to four league clean sheets this season.

The former Manchester United defender is also a big threat going forward and always a target in the box from corners. Smalling has averaged 0.17 non-penalty goals per game over the past year, which puts him in the top 99th percentile when it comes to central defenders.

With the fitness of some defenders being questioned and injuries to the likes of Maguire and John Stones in recent weeks, Smalling could be worth taking to Qatar, especially if Southgate continues to favour a three-at-the-back system.

Callum Wilson

Harry Kane will obviously lead the line for the Three Lions, and there is a plethora of attacking options to choose from with Tammy Abraham and Ivan Toney being called up to the last squad. However, one man that could make a difference if called upon, is Newcastle’s Callum Wilson.

The former Bournemouth frontman has had his injury worries in the past, but if he can stay fit, can offer something different going forward. Wilson has enjoyed a good start to the season with the Magpies, with four goals and an assist in eight Premier League appearances this season.

With Kane and Toney the target men that can link up play and bully defenders, Wilson offers an alternative with his speed and pace to get in behind defences. The biggest worry for the 30-year-old is his problems with injuries, but if he can stay fit then he should be in with a chance of going to Qatar and potentially having an impact for the Three Lions.

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