I’m no fan of Gareth Southgate, a man popular because of his intelligence and professionalism rather than his coaching ability.
But credit where credit is due and no-one can accuse the England boss of taking soft options when picking his squad for the World Cup later this year.
Axing Wayne Rooney was the first good decision of Southgate’s tenure and not taking Joe Hart or Jack Wilshere to Russia is also sound practice.
It would have been easy to justify Hart’s inclusion on the grounds of his experience, but he’s a spent force now so why not take a goalkeeper like Nick Pope to give him worthwhile knowledge.
Southgate’s main blunders are to select past-it Gary Cahill and useless pair Danny Rose and Danny Welbeck.
My take on the squad:
Jordan Pickford: Good, should start, best shot-stopper, good distribution.
Jack Butland: Meh. He must be shell-shocked after his season with Stoke.
Nick Pope: Strong season, deserves his chance to see what international football is all about.
Trent Alexander-Arnold: Not in Walker or Trippier’s class yet, but worth a look.
Gary Cahill: Dreadful. Now a clumsy and error-prone centre-back.
Fabien Delph: Awful. A hacker and the one Man City player unreliable in possession.
Phil Jones: The best of a very average bunch.
Harry Maguire: Over-rated, but better than Smalling.
Danny Rose; Hopeless. Not even the best left-back at his club.
John Stones: Will be fine until he has to defend against good players when he will be a liability.
Kieran Trippier: Strong selection.
Kyle Walker: Excellent player even before he went to City and now he’s even better.
Ashley Young: He will start if we play wing-backs and he should. Better than Rose and Delph which isn’t actually saying a lot.
Dele Alli: Will get more cautions for diving than assists or goals.
Eric Dier: An important screen for the dodgy defence.
Jordan Henderson: He’s no Steven Gerrard even if he thinks he is. Proof of the lack of quality in this squad.
Jesse Lingaard; An attacker improved by Jose Mourinho makes him a rarity at least.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek: Lucky to be picked on the back of one friendly international. JonJo Shelvey would have been a better selection.
Harry Kane: A shoo-in for a start. The best finisher in the Premier League.
Marcus Rashford: Here’s hoping Mourinho hasn’t coached the danger out of him.
Raheem Sterling: Pep Guardiola’s pet has to play. If only his finishing matched his pace.
Jamie Vardy: Second best English striker around now.
Danny Welbeck: An astonishing selection. Utter rubbish, rarely scores.