Since his bow as England manager back in October 2016, Gareth Southgate has handed debuts to 26 new players from his 33 games in charge. Here we rank those 26 new players from worst to first, it’s been a mixed bag.
26. Jack Cork, 1 cap (Debut vs Germany 10-Nov-17)
The workmanlike midfielder will almost certainly prove one of England’s stranger one cap wonders. Cork was called up for the November friendlies prior to the 2018 World Cup, when England’s midfield options were so limited Jake Livermore got two starts. Cork got 4 uneventful minutes against Germany, but headed back to Burnley with an England cap in his kit bag.
25. Nathan Redmond, 1 cap (Debut vs Germany 22-Mar-17)
Another strange cap that reminds us just how far England have come in two years. When taking over as England manager, Southgate identified his old Under 21 favourite Redmond as one to watch. The Southampton forward got 34 minutes in Dortmund to strut his stuff. However despite 38 Under 21 caps, Redmond never convinced Southgate he was good enough for the seniors and with the recent emergence of Sancho and Hudson-Odoi it looks unlikely he’ll return.
24. Aaron Cresswell, 3 caps (Debut vs Spain 15-Nov-16)
The West Ham left-back was an early inclusion from Southgate and made his debut from the bench against Spain at Wembley. Cresswell then got a second brief appearance against France that summer and finally got his only start against Lithuania as Southgate switched to a 3-5-2 formation. The tactical switch seemed to suit Cresswell, but he found himself fourth in a three-horse race for the World Cup squad. Now no longer a regular for West Ham we can safely say Cresswell won’t be adding to his three caps.
23. Nathaniel Chalobah, 1 cap (Debut vs Spain 15-Oct-18)
Capped a staggering 97 caps at junior level, Chalobah was in the England called up in August 2017 after a successful start to his Watford career. However a serious knee injury curtailed his season and Chalobah had to wait more than a year for a second call up. This time he made his debut in injury time in England’s famous win over Spain in Seville. Chalobah has struggled to get his career restarted since that injury, but his obvious talent means Southgate won’t forget him, if he gets a regular start for his club he will be back.
22. Alex McCarthy, 1 cap (Debut vs USA 15-Nov-18)
The basic rules with English goalkeepers is, if you get a regular start in the Premier League you will get an England cap. McCarthy won the Southampton gloves and got his debut aged 28 last autumn when he played the second half of a friendly win over the USA. That might have put him in the frame to be England’s number three, but McCarthy has since lost the Southampton gloves to Under 21 star Angus Gunn whom we can assume will be on this debut list early next season.
21. Lewis Dunk, 1 cap (Debut vs USA 15-Nov-18)
Having hauled himself from League One to Premier League with Brighton, Dunk was awarded his first call up in October 2018. He made his debut in the USA friendly a month later, playing the entire 90 minutes and keeping a clean sheet against an admittedly poor American attack. Dunk was omitted from the latest England squad but remains in contention for the fourth centre back slot in the squad.
20. James Tarkowski, 2 caps (Debut vs Italy 27-Mar-18)
Tarkowski enjoyed an outstanding 17-18 season as Burnley rose to a surprise seventh in the Premier League. He was recognised with a first England call up and started the friendly with Italy that March. He made a solid start but made a costly error that lead to Italy’s equalising penalty via VAR. Tarkowski narrowly missed World Cup selection and was placed on stand by. He won a second cap when he started against Switzerland in September and remains on the fringes of the squad.
19. Tammy Abraham, 2 caps (Debut vs Germany 10-Nov-17)
The Chelsea academy product made his debut after a good start to his loan spell with Swansea City. He started the Wembley friendly against Germany and played the opening 60 minutes, winning a second cap from the bench four days later against Brazil. His Swansea form tailed off and despite a productive spell with Aston Villa, Abraham has yet to reappear in the senior squad. He does remain with the Under 21s with whom he’s made 22 appearances and is a certain traveller to a second Euro Under 21 Championships this summer. If he can make the grade at Premier League level more caps will follow.
18. Dominic Solanke, 1 cap (Debut vs Brazil 14-Nov-17)
Having been the star of the Under 20 World Cup win in 2017, it was always likely Solanke would get a senior cap sooner rather than later. He got 15 minutes against Brazil and almost struck a late winner during an energetic cameo. Solanke fell down the Liverpool pecking order this season and made a £19million move to Bournemouth in January. Solanke is too well-regarded by England to be forgotten and has been prolific at Under 21 level, but he needs to get amongst the goals with Bournemouth to get back in the senior side.
17. James Ward-Prowse, 2 caps (Debut vs Germany 22-Mar-17)
Back in December Ward-Prowse would have been at the bottom of this list, but things have turned around dramatically since Ralph Hassenhuttl arrived at Southampton. Ward-Prowse captained Southgate’s Under 20s squad to victory at the 2016 Toulon Tournament and won his debut 9 months later with 8 minutes against Germany. But Ward-Prowse’s career stagnated along with his club until the arrival of Hassenhuttl. Since then Ward-Prowse has become the heartbeat of Southampton and won a late recall to the Euro qualifiers last month, winning his second cap with a substitute appearance in Montenegro. England’s increased options in midfield will make it tough for Ward-Prowse to become a regular, but he remains well placed to add to his two caps.
16. Callum Wilson, 2 caps, 1 goal (Debut vs USA 15-Nov-18)
Whilst Southgate prefers to promote from England’s youth ranks, Wilson has proved the manager will bring players in purely on club form. Wilson was rewarded for his excellent Bournemouth form with a call-up in November and started against the USA at Wembley. After some initial struggles, Wilson settled into his first cap and grabbed his debut goal with a neat finish. Wilson retained his place in the squad and a second cap came off the bench in Montenegro. As it stands Wilson is the back-up to Kane at number nine and should make the Nations League squad in June.
15. Nick Pope, 1 cap (Debut vs Costa Rica 7-Jun-18)
The first player on this list to make the World Cup squad, Pope won a place in Southgate’s World Cup 23 after a breakout season with Burnley and travelled to Russia at the expense of Joe Hart. Number three goalkeepers don’t get many caps and Pope got his solitary game as a second half substitute in England’s warm up win over Costa Rica at Elland Road. In preseason Pope suffered a dislocated shoulder and has barely figured at Turf Moor this season. However the summer should bring fresh opportunity and a chance to claim a second cap.
14. Lewis Cook, 1 cap (Debut vs Italy 27-Mar-18)
England’s Under 20 World Cup winning captain has only 19 minutes in the senior side to his name, but has the potential for far more. Despite his lack of minutes Cook made the standby list for the World Cup, eventually spending his summer captaining Aidy Boothroyd’s squad to a third straight Toulon title. Sadly his promising season at Bournemouth was curtailed by an ACL injury. However at just 22 Cook already has 128 senior league appearances to his name and will likely get further chances when he’s back to full fitness.
13. Callum Hudson-Odoi, 2 caps (Debut vs Czech Republic 22-Mar-19)
Hudson-Odoi became England’s youngest ever debutant in a competitive match, breaking a record set by Duncan Edwards in 1955. The fearless winger terrified the Czech’s with his speed and trickery and his fierce drive forced an own goal to complete the 5-0 rout. In his first start against Montenegro, Hudson-Odoi was partly responsible for England conceding the opener but more than made up for it with his attacking dynamism as England ran riot. Whether or not he stays with Chelsea remains unclear, but regardless Hudson-Odoi appears to have the world at his feet.
12. Michael Keane, 7 caps, 1 goal (Debut vs Germany 22-Mar-17)
Having won 16 Under 21 caps, Keane made his senior debut on the back of an impressive Premier League season with Burnley. Keane’s debut coincided with Southgate’s first experiment with a back three and the defender impressed with his stout defending and ball playing skills from the back. It seemed Keane was nailed on for the 2018 World Cup when he made his £30million move to Everton. However a lousy debut season at Goodison saw Keane fall out of contention. This season has again been erratic but Keane did enough to win a recall in the autumn and was pressed into service as a starter in both recent Euro qualifiers. Keane scored his first England goal in Montenegro and is currently fourth in the centre-back pecking order.
11. Ruben Loftus-Cheek, 10 caps (Debut vs Germany 10-Nov-17)
Named player of the tournament as Southgate’s youngster won the 2016 Toulon, it was always likely the manager would bring Loftus-Cheek into the senior squad. Loftus-Cheek got his debut after an impressive loan spell with Crystal Palace and was named Man of the Match for his attacking display on debut. Despite missing a chunk of the season through injury, Southgate recalled Loftus-Cheek for the World Cup, where he made an impactful substitute appearance against Tunisia. His club future has been the cause of plenty of speculation this season but Loftus-Cheek has scored 8 goals this term, his talent is obvious although he can drift in games. With competition for places increasing, Loftus-Cheek needs a regular start if he’s to stay in the squad.
10. Declan Rice, 2 caps (Debut vs Czech Republic 22-Mar-19)
The most controversial debut Southgate has given came last month when three-time Ireland international Rice wore the Three Lions. Rice impressed against the Czech Republic, earning himself a first start in Montenegro. Rice has settled surprisingly quickly into Southgate’s side at the base of midfield and remains a leading contender for Young Player of the Year. Rice’s energy and passing offers Southgate a new option in midfield and is a certainty for the Nations League squad.
9. Harry Winks, 3 caps (Debut vs Lithuania 8-Oct-17)
Long trailed as Tottenham’s next big star, Winks was promoted to the senior squad in October 2017 and won his first senior cap as a starter in a dead rubber with Lithuania. Winks responded with a man of the match performance and looked set to be in the World Cup squad before an ankle injury curtailed his season. Winks regained his place for club and country this autumn and played a pivotal midfield role in the Nations League win over Spain. Injury kept him out of the March internationals but Winks appears to be earmarked as Jordan Henderson’s long term replacement.
8. Ben Chilwell, 6 caps (Debut vs Switzerland 11-Sep-18)
England’s most surprising success of the season has been Chilwell. Having secured the left-back slot at Leicester, Chilwell won his first cap at his home stadium in September. He went on to start the next five internationals including the Nations League wins over Spain and Croatia. Chilwell’s crossing ability has never been in doubt since his impressive Under 21 days, but his defensive improvement has been critical to his promotion for club and country. Chilwell was dropped in favour of Danny Rose in Montenegro but he appears to be England’s go to leftback; less error prone than Rose and less injury prone than Luke Shaw.
7. Joe Gomez, 6 caps (Debut vs Germany 10-Nov-17)
After an early season run a right-back with Liverpool, Gomez was a surprise call up for the November 2017 friendlies. Gomez made his debut from the bench against Germany and then got his first start against Brazil, winning man of the match as he kept Neymar in check. Injury then derailed Gomez’s progress and he missed the World Cup, however the new season saw Gomez form an impressive club partnership with Virgil Van Dijk and an England recall followed. Gomez impressed against Spain and Croatia before a broken leg saw him miss the March internationals and potentially the Nations League finals. Despite the setbacks Gomez looks set to compete with Harry Maguire for the left-sided centre-back slot with England.
6. Trent Alexander-Arnold, 5 caps, 1 goal (Debut vs Costa Rica 7-Jun-18)
The breakout star of last season, Alexander-Arnold had been selected for both a Champions League Final and a World Cup squad before winning his first cap. He made hid debut in the World Cup warm up win over Costa Rica, playing from the start and putting in an accomplished 64 minutes. Alexander-Arnold’s only World Cup action came in the Group G dead rubber loss to Belgium. Since then Alexander-Arnold made a brief cameo in Seville and two friendly appearances, scoring his first goal against the USA and winning man of the match plaudits. For now Alexander-Arnold remains on the fringes of the England team, but with both Trippier & Walker approaching 30, his long term future seems assured.
5. Jadon Sancho, 4 caps (Debut vs Croatia 12-Oct-18)
The brightest breakout star in Europe this season may well be the best new cap Southgate ever awards. Having settled in Germany with Borussia Dortmund, Sancho started the new season on fire and was promptly moved up from England’s Under 19s to senior squad in October. His debut was quite literally a muted affair when he came off the bench to play the final 12 minutes of England’s behind closed doors draw with Croatia. A month later came a first start against the USA and an impactful appearance from the bench as England came from behind to beat Croatia and qualify for the Nations League finals. He dazzled again as England thrashed the Czechs, but Southgate is easing him into the side gently and he didn’t figure against Montenegro. 8 goals and 13 assists in the Bundelsiga tell the tale of how far Sancho has come, still aged just 19 he will be a paramount player for England for the next decade.
4. Kieran Trippier, 16 caps, 1 goal (Debut vs France 13-Jun-17)
One of only three Englishman to score in a World Cup semi-final…so far. Few would dare predict England would be in a World Cup semifinal a year earlier on the event of Trippiers debut, the Tottenham fullback acquitted himself well but England were dismal in a 3-2 loss to France. Trippier’s England prospects increased when Kyle Walker switched to the right side of the back three, opening up the right wingback spot. Trippier got England’s World Cup up and running with his corner leading to Harry Kane’s injury time winner against Tunisia, he then started the thrashing of Panama by setting up John Stones for the opener. By the time he blasted home his free kick in the semi final, Trippier was a contender for the team of the tournament and was regarded by many as England’s best player in Russia.
This season has seen the ‘Burnley Becks’ endure mixed fortunes and England’s switch to a back four has seen him fall behind Walker. However he was excellent against Spain and remains ahead of Alexander-Arnold and Aaron Wan-Bissaka. He will need to rediscover his best form to stay in the squad for Euro 2020, but Trippier has already made a significant mark on the National Team.
3. Jesse Lingard, 22 caps, 4 goals (Debut vs Malta 8-Oct-16)
One of Southgate’s few successes from the Euro Under 21s of 2015, Lingard made his bow with the senior side in Southgate’s curtain raiser against Malta. Lingard’s first 8 caps passed with little of note, but as one of the few Manchester United players to actually benefit from the management of Jose Mourinho he cemented his World Cup place with a goal and man of the match award against Holland in Amsterdam. Lingard started every meaningful game of England’s World Cup run and scored a goal of the tournament contender with his rasping strike against Panama.
England’s switch to 4-3-3 has worked against Lingard with Sterling and Rashford preferred on the flanks. Lingard remains a prominent squad player and blasted home a carbon copy of his Panama goal against the USA at Wembley. He then came off the bench to tap home England’s equaliser against Croatia to set them on their way to the Nations League finals. Lingard withdrew injured from the recent Euro qualifiers which saw Sancho and Hudson-Odoi push their claims, Lingard for now remains ahead of both but can’t rest on his laurels if he is to stay in the squad.
2. Harry Maguire, 18 caps, 1 goal (Debut vs Lithuania 8-Oct-17)
Sadly Maguire riding an inflatable unicorn won’t be depicted on the fifty pound note, but the player who attended Euro 2016 as a fan has become emblematic of the new more down to Earth squad. Maguire won his first cap when England switched to three at the back in Lithuania. But it was Maguire’s second outing against Germany that showcased the Leicester defender’s ability to bring the ball forward and instigate attacks. Maguire made the World Cup squad and beat our veteran Gary Cahill to start on the left of the back three. Maguire became integral to England’s defence and set piece prowess at the other end of the pitch, scoring the opening goal in the quarterfinal win over Sweden. Despite an erratic season at Leicester Maguire’s England career has gone from strength to strength, coping easily with the transition to a back four. Maguire faces competition from Gomez but has started five of England’s last six competitive games and remains a key figure in the squad.
1. Jordan Pickford, 17 caps (Debut vs Germany 10-Nov-17)
Whilst his choice of Sunderland nightspot may be questionable, Pickford’s emergence as number one goalkeeper has been central to England’s improvement. After a fine Euro Under 21s that included a big penalty save in the semi-final shootout and move to Everton, Pickford was handed his debut against Germany in November 2017. His distribution skills from the back gave England a dimension that neither Joe Hart nor Jack Butland could provide and despite winning just three caps was made number one for the World Cup. At the tournament Pickford produced the best display by and English goalkeeper since David Seaman at Euro’96. The highlight inevitably was the vital penalty save in the shoot-out against Colombia, but Pickford produced another outstanding display to deny Sweden a comeback with a clutch of athletic saves.
Pickford’s Everton form has been patchy this season although has improved of late, Southgate meanwhile has shown unstinting faith in his new ‘keeper and has picked him for fourteen of the last fifteen internationals, including all competitive fixtures. Pickford is not yet at a point where he can be considered amongst the world’s elite due to the odd mistake and he was very fortunate to escape a red card in Seville, but is worth remembering how far the 25-year-old has come in such a short career. It’s also easy to forget the panic that surrounded the England goalkeeper after Joe Hart’s gaff riddled Euro 2016, a worry that remained until Pickford’s assured World Cup debut.