England faced with dilemma over former Leeds United star Ben White

AFTER settling upon Ben White to replace the injured Trent Alexander-Arnold as the final name in England’s European Championship squad, Gareth Southgate may well be facing another dilemma.

Brighton defender Ben White has been added to England's Euro 2020 squad. Photo: Lee Smith/PA Wire.

Namely, whether to further reward the former Leeds United loan centre-back with a maiden competitive start at Wembley in Sunday’s Group D opener with Croatia in the likely continued absence of Harry Maguire.

It is a prospect not as outlandish as it seems.

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Manchester United captain Maguire has only just started running again after injuring his ankle last month and significant questions remain over the fitness of the Sheffielder.

Ben White playing on loan for Leeds United in 2020. Photo: Dave Howarth/PA Wire.

With Manchester City’s John Stones – one of seven members of the squad who featured in the Champions League final and were not involved in England’s two warm-up friendlies at Middlesbrough – looking a certainty to fill one central defensive position, speculation will centre on who will step in alongside him.

That is presuming England stick to a four-man defence and do not play three centre-backs.

Either way, Brighton defender White, who produced a composed performance on his full Three Lions debut against Romania on Sunday, has surely entered the thoughts of Southgate at the very least.

As it stands, Conor Coady and Tyrone Mings appear ahead of White in the pecking order, but the latter in particular produced two unconvincing displays in England’s two friendlies at the Riverside Stadium.

In essence, Coady is also a midfielder who has been converted into a centre-back and the international experience of the Wolves captain and Mings extends to a combined total of 15 caps and none in a major tournament.

White was chosen ahead of Everton’s York-born defender Ben Godfrey and Southampton captain James Ward-Prowse – who both started Sunday’s final friendly – and Manchester United’s Jesse Lingard and Aston Villa’s Ollie Watkins.

On his call-up, the 23-year-old – part of the final squad who have now relocated to St George’s Park from Teesside – tweeted: “Beyond proud and honoured! I’ll give it my everything @England.”

After a testing build-up ahead of England completing their final friendlies, Southgate will be grateful to fully reintegrate his Chelsea and City contingent of Ben Chilwell, Reece James, Mason Mount, Kyle Walker, Phil Foden, Raheem Sterling and Stones, who trained at the Riverside after Sunday’s final whistle.

Harry Kane was also not involved in the game against the Romanians – and was an unused substitute with England taking no chances ahead of the priority business of this coming Sunday at Wembley.

Despite a build-up which has been far from straightforward, England’s talisman striker believes that the nation are in a better position heading into the finals than they were for their run to the 2018 World Cup semi-final.

The 27-year-old, who won the golden boot in Russia, feels England are now better suited for tournament football, having gained more experience for club and country.

“I’d say so,” said the Tottenham striker when asked if the squad is stronger than in 2018.

“We’re probably in a better place. Going into that World Cup, we maybe weren’t sure where we were as a team, but we performed really well and stepped up to the occasion. I feel like now we’ve had a bit more experience, players in the biggest games for their club and obviously players who have played in that World Cup have had that experience as well.

“I feel like we are in a good place.

“We know there is still a lot of hard work that goes into it.

“We don’t just turn up and win the tournament. We haven’t won a tournament as a country for a long, long time, so there needs to be a lot of good mentality along the whole way as it is a long, tough journey to get to the later stages of a major tournament.”

Alongside the much-publicised issues regarding the fitness of Maguire and Jordan Henderson in particular, the youthfulness of England’s squad has been identified as a potential Achilles heel going into the tournament.

Kane, an ‘elder statesman’ in a squad which has just three players over 30, begs to differ and has a point, with the likes of Jude Bellingham and Jadon Sancho having rapidly made their mark not in England, but on the continent.

Others such as Foden and James, both just 21 and Mount, a year older at 22, can also boast keynote experience already, including participation in the recent Champions League final.

Kane said: “Everyone gets on really well and the group is great. We’ve got a great balance between young and experienced players.

“We’ve got players who have been playing in the best games, the biggest games, cup finals and we have a great team.

“To be one of the best teams in the tournament, you have to have great depth in positions and that’s what we have got.”

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