England now ‘gung-ho’ with James Maddison but where’s their Rickie Lambert?

Including James Maddison has made Gareth Southgate ‘gung-ho’ but there’s one man who wants to know where the ‘big man’ is…


Madd about the boy
After years of being described as a conservative coach, Gareth Southgate – thanks in part to being allowed another three picks for his England squad – has pretty much picked the squad that many demanded by including James Maddison.

And what does that make this squad, as described by the back page of the Daily Mail:

‘Southgate picks gung-ho squad to spark dreams of World Cup joy.’

Gung-ho? Bloody hell. He’s gone from John Major to Colonel Kurtz in the space of a squad announcement. A squad announcement, by the way, that still named nine defenders and four pretty defensive-minded central midfielders.

The Daily Mail now even claim that ‘Maddison could start opener’, just 24 hours after the same writer told us that ‘James Maddison is set to miss out despite his scintillating form for Leicester City’. That’s quite some recovery.

Did Southgate say that Maddison could start v Iran? Well, he asked why “any of the 26” would turn up without thinking that so kind of. But by that measure he also said that Conor Coady, Conor Gallagher and Callum Wilson could start the opener too…because he’s not quite gung-ho enough to rule anybody out of the starting XI just after naming them in his 26.

You know what is pretty gung-ho? Sami Mokbel claiming credit for ‘mooting’ the selection of Gallagher on the Mail’s back page on Friday when we can all see that he did not include him in his ‘probable squad’ on Thursday.


Listen, do you want to know a secret?
Over on The Sun‘s back page, we are told that ‘JAMES MADDISON was picked for the World Cup two weeks ago – but England manager Gareth Southgate kept his decision a secret’.

You mean like the selection of his entire 26-man squad? Did anybody expect the England manager to start publicly shouting about one of his inclusions two weeks before the rest? That would have been ludicrous. Though possibly not as ludicrous as claiming now that it was a ‘secret’.

For ‘secret’ read ‘decision that we didn’t know about’. Not the same thing, guys.


One lump or two?
On the inside pages of The Sun are the thoughts of Troy Deeney, who has actually been paid to write that the England squad is limited by a lack of a ‘big man’. It’s all well and good picking all these excellent technical footballers but where is the giant? Where is the bully?

‘Southgate’s system has taken England to a level we’ve not seen for a long time at the last two tournaments.

‘But what if that comes unstuck late on in a game?

‘In England squads of old there would always be a Peter Crouch figure – or even Rickie Lambert – who could come on and be the focal point for a late bombardment.

‘We’ve got some incredible crossers of the ball in Kieran Trippier and Trent Alexander-Arnold, but there isn’t really anyone for them to hit when England need to mix things up.’

England did indeed take Crouch to the 2006 and 2010 World Cups. Crouch played six times across two tournaments and scored one goal. That one goal absolutely did not come when he entered the pitch to ‘be a focal point for a late bombardment’ as England drew dire games with the United States and Algeria.

And England did indeed take Lambert to the 2014 World Cup, where England were f***ing awful and Lambert barely had a kick.

Meanwhile, Gareth Southgate did not take a ‘big man’ to either the 2018 World Cup or Euro 2020 and England reached a semi-final and an actual final.

Still think we need a ‘big man’, Troy, you massive dinosaur?


Know what I mean, Harry?
Anybody claiming to be surprised/confused by the inclusion of Harry Maguire is a fool, a naif or simply trying to generate clicks. There was no point at which Maguire was not going to make this World Cup squad. None at all.

But Charles Watts is on one on Goal:

‘Quite how Southgate can use a loss of form as the reason for Abraham’s omission from the squad and then turn around and take Maguire over Tomori is anyone’s guess. It just doesn’t stack up.

‘Tomori will understandably feel very hard done by and it is tough not to come to the conclusion that the only reason he isn’t going is because he’s playing in Italy, rather than England.’

Excuse us a minute while we quote extensively from our own 16 Conclusions on the squad:

‘It’s apples and oranges: Maguire is a long-established member of Southgate’s first-choice starting XI all things being equal, and Tammy Abraham is a back-up striker who even at his very best doesn’t notably stand above other assorted back-up striker options.

‘You can absolutely believe that Maguire’s form means he shouldn’t be there – although you’d have to be pretty daft not to have known it was utterly inevitable that he would be – there really is no inconsistency in a manager using different methodology to select established players and those on the fringes.

‘Indeed, such flexibility is not only understandable and desirable but absolutely necessary. Otherwise, squads would either never change enough and grow stale or always change too much and lack any cohesion. It’s also the precise sort of flexibility Southgate has so often been accused of lacking.’

Oh and Mediawatch would gently like to suggest that if Tomori – a fringe England player – wanted to make England’s World Cup squad, he would have been well advised not to be absolutely toilet in a 3-0 defeat at Chelsea before getting himself sent off 18 minutes into the return match in Milan.

Though apparently Southgate should not have judged him on those high-profile Champions League games and should have instead watched him v Cremonese…

Fikayo Tomori will not be part of Gareth Southgate’s 26-man England squad named later. Great shame for him and feels a bit harsh if the judgement came as a result of the two CL games v Chelsea.

— Matt Law (@Matt_Law_DT) November 10, 2022


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