England have no more competitive matches left before Euro 2020 but boss Gareth Southgate may yet spring a surprise in his squad for the tournament.
The current England boss himself was handed his first international cap seven months before the home Euro 96 finals, and came firmly into Terry Venables’ plans just 10 weeks before the tournament.
Now as boss, the former defender has shown a proclivity for rewarding strong club form with international call-ups, which could yet see some surprise names make a late entry for the finals.
Here, Sportsmail takes a look at the names of those players who may yet make the cut for the finals in the summer.
England boss Gareth Southgate may yet spring a surprise in his England squad for Euro 2020
Southgate was a late pick himself having been selected just seven months before Euro 96
Alex McCarthy (Southampton)
Perhaps the least flattering of all the names on the list, the 30-year-old could well be the surprise in the goalkeeping department given that his competitors also lack experience at the international level.
The Southampton stopper has kept four clean sheets in the Saints’ opening eight Premier League games, and has contributed to Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men currently occupying the final Champions League spot in the Premier League.
McCarthy does have an England cap to his name after coming on as a half-time substitute in a 3-0 friendly win against United States in November 2018.
Alex McCarthy’s first and only England cap came in a friendly against USA in November 2018
That cap came five and a half years after his first call-up to the senior side for friendlies against the Republic of Ireland and Brazil, while he was also summoned by Sam Allardyce to replace the injured Fraser Forster in 2016 for 2018 World Cup qualifiers.
While his current competitors certainly have the talent, the likes of Nick Pope and Dean Henderson, and to a lesser extent Jordan Pickford, are relatively new to the international scene.
Henderson may not see too many more minutes this season as and when Manchester United head deep into competitions later on in the campaign, and that may well open the door for McCarthy to steal a third goalkeeper spot given that he appears to be Southampton’s undisputed No 1.
McCarthy has been in fine form for Southampton, keeping four clean sheets in eight games
Luke Shaw (Manchester United)
The left-back has not featured for his country since the defeat by Spain in the opening Nations League fixture at Wembley in September 2018.
The 25-year-old has been a regular for Manchester United since his last international appearance but has yet to convince Southgate that he deserves to add to the eight caps he has won since making his England debut in 2014.
Shaw was also a key member of the Under-21 side when Southgate was in charge of them, and last month said he has the potential to be the country’s best left-back.
‘The door is certainly open. I don’t think we’ve ever closed the door on any player – and we certainly wouldn’t on Luke.
Luke Shaw has not featured for England since a defeat by Spain in the Nations League in 2018
‘He’s more than capable of being the best left-back in the country in my opinion.’
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has also deployed Shaw on the left-side of a back three – a position where Southgate could also look to use him as he ponders whether to play 4-3-3 or 3-4-3 next summer.
But he certainly faces a fight on his hands with Ben Chilwell having begun life at Chelsea well while Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka earned his first competitive England cap in that position against Belgium on Sunday.
But there is no doubt that there is admiration from Southgate’s side and with plenty of matches to go Shaw will hope to pick his form up again when he returns from injury to convince his former boss to give him a go.
Shaw has been deployed in a back three at Manchester United which may appeal to Southgate
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Liverpool)
Fitness issues have hindered the Liverpool midfielder from making the desired impact at Anfield and at international level.
The 27-year-old is now a Premier League and Champions League winner but his last England appearance came as Southgate’s men finished their qualifying campaign for Euro 2020 by beating Kosovo in November last year.
A series of setbacks have not only limited him to 87 Liverpool appearances since joining from Arsenal in 2017, but also dashed any hopes of featuring for his country post lockdown.
Oxlade-Chamberlain’s latest injury came with a ‘knock to his knee’ during pre-season training with Liverpool and he has missed 14 competitive matches for Jurgen Klopp’s side this season.
Injuries have meant Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s last England game was in November 2019
It has allowed the likes of Declan Rice and even James Ward-Prowse to stake their claim, but there is no doubt Southgate is a huge supporter of him.
‘In terms of the attributes for the position, Alex is perfect because you need guys that can defend, and it’s obvious the attacking talent that he has,’ Southgate said after the Kosovo game last year.
‘Against the top teams, we needed people who could do both sides of the game and he really fits that profile brilliantly.’
His absence at club level has seen Xherdan Shaqiri take a more prominent role, but once fit if he can dislodge the Swiss and have a strong second half of the season, Southgate could well be tempted into putting his name down ahead of next summer.
But Southgate said Oxlade-Chamberlain was ‘perfect’ for his England midfield last year
Patrick Bamford (Leeds)
‘You know what? If that happens, then it’s a dream come true.
‘I’ve got to push and try to compete with the others. We’ve got a very good group of English strikers so it’ll be a good competition. Let’s see if I can put my name in the frame.’
These were the words the Leeds striker said when he was asked by Sportsmail‘s Jamie Redknapp about an England call-up and berth at the Euros.
The 27-year-old has taken to the Premier League well and has netted on seven occasions in eight top-flight games so far this season.
Patrick Bamford admitted it would be a ‘dream come true’ if he was selected for his country
This campaign marks Bamford’s fifth spell in the English top flight, following difficult loan spells at Crystal Palace, Norwich and Burnley, while he also made little impact at Middlesbrough in the second half of 2016/17.
But the variety and number of goals he is currently putting away has led for calls for the former Chelsea academy graduate to be considered by Southgate, who may yet include him for England’s friendlies in March.
Bamford has already suffered heartbreak at the hands of Southgate after being left out of the final squad for the 2015 UEFA European Championship.
But as a late bloomer the striker may well provide as much variety as is present with his goals to the England setup as backup to Harry Kane.
Bamford’s goal against Crystal Palace saw him score his seventh league goal in eight games
Ollie Watkins (Aston Villa)
Just a few months ago Watkins was a high flyer in the Championship with Brentford but his form for new club Aston Villa following his £33million move has been devastating.
The 24-year-old has already netted eight goals for the West Midlands outfit, including six in the Premier League, the latest of which came by scoring twice at the Emirates Stadium to help beat boyhood club Arsenal in the last game before the current international hiatus.
Watkins has combined brilliantly with the likes of Ross Barkley and Jack Grealish through combinations which put the Gunners defence to the sword, and when asked to finish he has made no mistake.
Ollie Watkins has been on fire for Aston Villa since joining the club from Brentford
There will no doubt be some bumps in the road for the striker as his Premier League career follows its natural course, but there is no reason why he could not force his way into England contention, especially if Villa continue on their current trajectory.
Villa boss Dean Smith explained last month that Watkins has tasked him with helping him break into the England set-up.
And should he be successful the country will be able to exhibit the array and depth of firepower they have at their disposal.
He has already netted eight goals for Villa this season including a double at Arsenal
Jamie Vardy (Leicester)
Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers is under no illusions that Vardy has had a blistering start to this season – which has seen him score nine goals in eight top-flight matches – because of his England exile.
Vardy stepped back from international football after the 2018 World Cup, having netted seven goals from 26 appearances for the Three Lions.
Southgate has always held out hope of coaxing him back to the England set-up and last month did not rule out a future recall for the 33-year-old, stating he maintains contact with the forward.
Striker Jamie Vardy stepped back from international football after the 2018 World Cup
Vardy did not officially announce that he had retired from international football but told Southgate he no longer wanted to be considered for selection unless he was really needed.
He did however leave the door open by stating he would return in case of an injury crisis, while Southgate said last month: ‘I’m not in any way ruling him out if it’s the right thing at the right time to bring him back into the fold.’
Vardy stepped aside to allow Southgate to begin a youthful reorientation of his squad, and while injuries nor form appear to be an immediate concern for England, there can still be no discounting last year’s Premier League Golden Boot winner from earning a recall as one of the top flight’s most deadly strikers.
But Southgate has failed to rule out bringing about an England recall for the 33-year-old