Brentford’s Ivan Toney has been handed his first England call-up by Gareth Southgate for the Nations League games against Italy and Germany later this month.
Toney, who has scored 13 Premier League goals since January, has been called up following doubts over Marcus Rashford’s fitness.
The 24-year-old Manchester United forward is still feeling the effects of an injury picked up in the 3-1 Premier League victory over Arsenal on September 4, when he scored twice to take his season’s tally to three.
Having sat out United’s opening Europa League game, a 1-0 home defeat to Real Sociedad, Rashford will again be missing for their second group game away to Sheriff Tiraspol on Thursday.
Toney, 26, has scored 17 top-flight goals and registered six assists in 39 appearances for the Bees since the start of last season, and scored a 28-minute hat-trick in the thrilling 5-2 win at home to Leeds on September 3.
He has not been capped by England at any youth age group and was reportedly courted by the Jamaican Football Federation last year in an attempt to persuade him to declare his allegiance to them.
There is no place in the squad for Rashford’s Manchester United team-mate Jadon Sancho either, despite his impressive start to the season under Erik ten Hag.
The 22-year-old has scored twice in six Premier League appearances this term, but last featured on the international stage when he played 72 minutes of England’s 5-0 World Cup qualifying win over Andorra on October 9 2021.
Meanwhile, Tottenham’s Eric Dier, who has not earned an international cap since November 2020, has been recalled to the squad to bolster Southgate’s defensive options.
England face Italy away on Friday September 23 at 7.45pm, before hosting Germany on Monday September 26 at 7.45pm.
England’s 28-man squad in full
Goalkeepers: Dean Henderson, Nick Pope, Aaron Ramsdale.
Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ben Chilwell, Conor Coady, Eric Dier, Marc Guehi, Reece James, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, John Stones, Fikayo Tomori, Kieran Trippier, Kyle Walker.
Midfielders: Jude Bellingham, Mason Mount, Kalvin Phillips, Declan Rice, James Ward-Prowse.
Forwards: Tammy Abraham, Jarrod Bowen, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Harry Kane, Bukayo Saka, Raheem Sterling, Ivan Toney.
‘Penalty king Toney has more than justified his inclusion’
Sky Sports’ Dan Long:
“It has been 83 long years since a Brentford player last won a senior England cap. There are precious few Bees fans still with us who will have been alive when Les Smith made a substitute appearance against Romania on May 24 1939, less than four months before the outbreak of World War Two. Even fewer, if any, will remember the occasion.
“But that near century-long wait is likely to soon come to an end.
“It is a more than justified inclusion for 26-year-old striker Toney, who was playing in League One just four seasons ago. Before his move from Peterborough to west London, he made it abundantly clear that he was so confident in his ability that he could step up to the Premier League. The claim was scoffed at by many.
“In 2021/22 – the Bees’ first top-flight season since 1946/47 – he led the line admirably, with 17 goal involvements in 33 league appearances and he has started this campaign with an added spring in his step, with five goals from just six shots on target – including a superb hat-trick in a 5-2 win over Leeds – and another two assists.
“He is not afraid to get stuck in elsewhere on the pitch, which often goes unnoticed. He is often a key presence when Brentford defend set-pieces, has won 20 aerial challenges so far and attempted six crosses. There is a certain selflessness to his game.
“But what is most interesting, from an England perspective, is Toney’s penalty record. He has been Brentford’s first-choice spot-kick taker ever since joining the club and he has scored every single one of the 18 he has taken. Back in March, Bees head coach Thomas Frank said he is the ‘best penalty taker in the world at this moment in time’
“Toney has often been, lazily, dubbed a penalty merchant and nothing more. But as has been the case in the past, he has had the last laugh.”
The case for the defence…
Sky Sports’ Lewis Jones:
“One massive area of concern for Gareth Southgate will be the personnel and structure of his defence in Qatar. Kyle Walker, John Stones, Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw played every minute of England’s knockout games at their run to the Euro 2020 final. Having such a consistent team selection in a side that base their game around being solid down the centre of the pitch was a huge help for Southgate in the big moments of that tournament.
“Now that area of the pitch looks brittle.
“Walker is in the latest squad but missed Manchester City’s Champions League win over Borussia Dortmund with an injury whilst Maguire and Shaw have played just 324 minutes of Premier League football between them this season with both losing their first team spots to new signings in the Erik ten Hag era.
“Stones has started the last three Premier League matches for City at centre-back but was moved out to right-back in the absence of Walker in the midweek clash with Dortmund.
“So, what does Southgate do in these two pivotal games before departing for the World Cup? Does he stay loyal and use the opportunity as a way of getting 90 minutes into the legs of Maguire and Shaw or try something new?
“Eric Dier has become an absolute mainstay of Antonio Conte’s Tottenham side playing as the central figure in a back three – a formation Southgate has regularly used in big games for England. Meanwhile, the form of Fikayo Tomori and Marc Guehi can’t be ignored, especially if Maguire is deemed too rusty to be relied upon at international level.
“There is so much for the England boss to ponder. Not ideal with a tournament that England are expected to go deep in just around the corner.”
England’s World Cup group B fixtures
November 21: Iran (Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan) – kick-off 1pm
November 25: USA (Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor) – kick-off 7pm
November 29: Wales (Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan) – kick-off 7pm
Gareth Southgate has unveiled his final pre-World Cup England squad – but who would make your starting XI?
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