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Why there could and arguably should be a place for Jadon Sancho in Gareth Southgate’s England World Cup squad

Why there could and arguably should be a place for Jadon Sancho in Gareth Southgate’s England World Cup squad

Not since Wayne Rooney burst through at Everton has an English player looked so destined for the top at such a young age.

THEO WALCOTT was just 17 when he was called up to Sven Goran Eriksson’s England squad for the 2006 World Cup. He hadn’t even made a single appearance for Arsenal at the time.

He found out of his selection after sitting the theory section of his driving test, the theory goes. In every sense, he was untried, untested. The ultimate World Cup wildcard.

12 years on and the Three Lions might be about to call upon another cub. Jadon Sancho has represented England at U16, U17 and U19 level, but has yet to even receive a call up to the senior squad. However, recent reports speculate that the 18-year-old could be a surprise name in Gareth Southgate’s World Cup squad when it is finally announced on Wednesday.

Of course, Sancho wouldn’t be as wild a wildcard as Walcott was back in 2006. The former Manchester City academy graduate has made quite the impression in the Bundesliga this season, making 12 first team appearances and scoring once. This has been a breakthrough year for Sancho, living up to his billing as one of England’s most exciting young prospects. Now, it’s possible that he could be heading to the World Cup.

Sancho isn’t the only uncapped player supposedly on Southgate’s radar ahead of Wednesday’s squad announcement, with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Ryan Sessegnon also reportedly being considered for a call up. The England team that travels to the World Cup this summer will be the youngest in a generation and Sancho could be a standout name.

Everything we have seen from Southgate so far suggests that he will pick his England squad for this World Cup with one eye on future major tournaments. In many cases, this will be about giving young players experience of the elite level of the international game in the hope that it stands them in good stead for World Cups and European Championships to come.

In Sancho, England boast a talent that could blossom into a superstar. The teenager has demonstrated his potential in the Bundesliga this season and at Borussia Dortmund he is in the perfect place to develop and grow as a player. Everything is in Sancho’s favour. Perhaps not since Wayne Rooney burst through at Everton has an English player looked so destined for the top at such a young age.

But far from being a token selection, Sancho could offer England a different dimension. He is a wide forward, much like Marcus Rashford, but with more of a propensity for creating space for others around him. Signed as an £8 million replacement for Ousmane Dembele at Dortmund, that gives an indication of his style. Not a winger, not an out and out striker, a distinctly modern forward. On that basis, there could, and perhaps should, be a place for him.

If England are to take six forwards to Russia this summer, then five names are all but nailed on. Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy, Rashford, Dele Alli and Raheem Sterling will almost certainly be named in Southgate’s 23-man squad. But that leaves one space up for grabs and there is no obvious candidate to fill it.

Danny Welbeck will feel aggrieved should he miss out, but does he really offer anything that much different from someone like Rashford? Does the Arsenal forward offer any great diversity as an option? Andy Carroll and Peter Crouch have also been put forward as potential picks, giving England an archetypal ‘Big Man With Good Feet,’ but both players would be stylistic misfits in this England side.

Daniel Sturridge is injury prone, and in something of a career slump at the moment, with this particular World Cup coming a little too soon for Tammy Abraham, Dominic Solanke and Dominic Calvert-Lewin. Southgate has a number of options to fill that sixth spot in attack, but none are as enticing, and none come with as big a potential payout, as Sancho. 

Eriksson was reckless to name Walcott to his World Cup squad so early in his career. It was a gimmick that heaped unnecessary pressure on the shoulders of a teenager still learning his trade. But Sancho looks far better-equipped to deal with a call up. To call him a World Cup wildcard might actually do him an injustice.






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Graham Ruthven
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