England European Championship
Harry Kane doesn’t have to worry about making the England European Championship squad, but here are five players who should make it and probably won’t. Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

“Football’s coming home lads!” There are certain times I’m glad not to be still living in Ireland. This summer is one of them as England prepare for the European Championships. Luckily for me, Gareth Southgate will pick his England European Championship side based off name value rather than merit, meaning they will win absolutely nothing yet again.

England are heading to the European Championships during the summer after it was rescheduled from last year due to the pandemic. For manager Gareth Southgate it would have been easier picking a squad in 2020 than it will now in 2021. It’s a nice headache to have but likely Southgate sticks to the players he knows. Therefore today’s article is five players who should be in the England European Championship squad but might miss out.

James Ward-Prowse

The Southampton midfielder has been a standout performer this season and a major reason the Saints are hanging around the top ten. Ward-Prowse has four goals and five assists so far this season and is averaging a .44 shot on target to goal percentage. Not bad for a player who plays as a quarterback style midfielder, picking up the ball in his own half and starting attacks. His goals to expected goals is also a +2.8 on a team that has only begun to struggle in the last few weeks, losing their last three games played.

It’s his passing that stands out most though. A pass completion rate of above 90% for both short and medium passes speaks volumes. These are passes between 5 and 30 yards and to put it into perspective his completion rate is higher than Kevin De Bruyne, a player considered by many (including myself) to be the best currently in the game.

At 26 years old Ward-Prowse is also entering into his prime years. Don’t be surprised if he is at a top four team next season (looking at you Manchester United). Also don’t be surprised if he’s not at the Euros, unfortunately.

James Justin

The former Luton Town and current fullback has been getting a lot of love from the English media lately so I feel less confident about this pick than I did six months ago. And I couldn’t be happier. Obviously, as a former Luton Town player and academy graduate my opinion of Justin is biased, but he’s the best fullback currently in the Premier League and I won’t hear a word against it.

I wasn’t surprised when Justin left Luton in the summer of 2019 as he was head and shoulders above most of our players during the League One Championship winning season. The only surprise is how long it’s taken for others to take notice. This obviously had a lot to do with the amount of game time he received at Leicester last season, but with Ben Chilwell moving on to Chelsea in the summer he has been a regular this season for high flying Leicester.

Ironically if he makes the England team and starts it could be in place of Chilwell at left back. Equally strong on either side it might be harder to oust Trent Alexander-Arnold on the right. Either way, Justin should be making the squad but will Southgate agree?

Nick Pope

Okay, it’s possible Pope makes the squad. I’d be beyond surprised if he didn’t if I’m being honest. However, he makes this list because not only should he make the squad, he should be England’s starter.

Pope has been the best English goalkeeper in the Premier League this season hands down. He’s also doing it all on a really bad team in Burnley. Pope has faced 88 shot on target attempts (SoTA) compared to Jordan Pickford’s 69. 

Pickford has a .696 save percentage (SV%) on a team in the top half of the table while Pope rocks a .818 SV% with Burnley who are moving away from the relegation zone thanks to him. Seems a pretty straight forward decision. Unfortunately for Pope, it matters more who you play for rather than how you are playing. Just ask Ricky Hill who faced the same problem in the 1980’s.

Luke Shaw

This is where it gets difficult. Luke Shaw deserves to be at the Euros especially given recent performances for Manchester United. But it’s never that easy when it comes to Shaw.

Firstly he would have to get past Alexander-Arnold, Kyle Walker, and Ben Chilwell who seem to be favorites of Southgate. Then he also needs to get past an earlier entry in James Justin. His previous injury troubles also mean there will always be a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when making the decision.

All that aside he has been fantastic for United this season. Probably their best defender, but let’s face it that’s not saying a lot. He also adds an attacking presence on a left side England have never been strong in.

Ollie Watkins

He won’t start, that position is reserved for Harry Kane, but the performances of Ollie Watkins for Aston Villa should be enough to get him in the squad. Unfortunately for Watkins there is a lot of talent in the attacking third for England. Not only is he up against Kane but has Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood, and the impressive Dominic Calvert-Lewin to get past and that’s without mentioning Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden, and Aston Villa teammate Jack Grealish. If there is one position England are stacked with talent in it’s the final third.

The case for Watkins would be his impressive form on a team who struggled last season. Aston Villa went all the way to the last day of the season before securing their Premier League status. Watkins has come in from a league lower and not looked out of place with a .42 goals per 90 minute ratio. That won’t be enough to make the England European Championship squad I fear but if he continues to improve he should be a lock for the next World Cup squad.