West Ham midfielder Rice named in England squad
Newly-eligible Declan Rice was the only new face in Gareth Southgate’s England squad for this month’s Euro 2020 qualifiers.
The Three Lions kick off Group A against the Czech Republic at Wembley next Friday before heading to Podgorica to take on Montenegro.
Southgate has named a 25-man squad for the Euro 2020 double-header, with West Ham midfielder Rice, as expected, the headline inclusion.
— Simon Peach (@SimonPeach) March 13, 2019
The 20-year-old appeared for the Republic of Ireland’s youth teams and won three senior caps, but FIFA last week ratified his switch to England as those three appearances came in friendlies.
Rice was the only uncapped player in the squad as Southgate favoured the tried and tested on the whole.
There was a recall for Tom Heaton, whose impressive form for Burnley has seen him selected alongside fellow goalkeepers Jordan Pickford and Jack Butland.
Southgate has kept faith with Kieran Trippier, despite questions over fitness and form, while James Tarkowski and Harry Maguire returned to the squad as Lewis Dunk and the injured Joe Gomez dropped out.
Harry Winks and Jesse Lingard were not risked due to groin and hamstring issues respectively, but Callum Wilson did enough on his return from a seven-week lay-off to be included again.
Rice was on Tuesday named the Republic of Ireland’s Young Player of the Year and Southgate recognised his decision to play for England was a very significant one.
He said of calling up the West Ham player: “His form warrants it. It’s obviously been a well-publicised situation. We’ve tracked him for quite a while.
“They’re really big decisions. When you’re asking a player to transfer association, you’ve got to make sure they’ve got a future with you. We like what we’ve seen. I think he’ll fit very well into the way that we work.
“There aren’t many players of his age playing as well as he is the Premier League.”
Of Heaton’s return, Southgate added: “He’s played well. He’s had a really consistent run of games. We know Tom, he’s been a really impressive character to have around our squad in the past.
“This is a good opportunity for him to come back with us. He’s had a frustrating period where he missed out on a World Cup.”
Heaton will provide competition to Pickford, who has had a number of difficult games for Everton, including last weekend.
Asked if Pickford was still guaranteed to be number one, Southgate said: “Jordan has played extremely well for us. You could look at any players across our squad and say at moments they’ve played well and at moments they’ve had difficult afternoons.
“There’s no question that was the case for Jordan at the weekend. I’m never keen to say this player is number one, because you’ve always got to have competition. We’re pleased with what’s Jordan done. Like everybody else, he has to train well and perform well.”