England boss Gareth Southgate shows ruthless side but recall for Leeds United midfielder Kalvin Phillips

Dropping Kieran Trippier just 26 days after the Atletico Madrid full-back captained England showed how fierce competition for places in Gareth Southgate’s squad is, but the manager insisted he was always going to bring back Leeds United’s Kalvin Phillips as soon as the midfielder was back from injury.

Like Marcus Rashford, whose last kick in international football was his ill-fated penalty in July’s European Championship final shoot-out, Phillips has come straight back into the squad but the absence of others is a sobering reminder of how tough staying in or breaking into the group is.

Although Southgate ought to be able to rest players for this month’s home game against Albania and trip to San Marino and still take the four points which will qualify England for the 2022 winter World Cup, he has gone with his best available players, and Phillips is certainly one.

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“It’s just over a calendar year since he first played for us and his contribution to the team and his impact on the team has been huge,” said Southgate of the Leeds-born player, who missed October’s matches with a calf strain.

England's Kalvin Phillips. Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire.England's Kalvin Phillips. Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire.
England's Kalvin Phillips. Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire.

“We’re of course keen that we have our best players available and he’s certainly been in that category over the last 12 months,” he said.

Trent Alexander-Arnold also missed England’s last batch of World Cup qualifiers through injury but since football returned from the 2020 Covid-19 shutdown there has been a sense that Southgate’s fondness for Trippier mirrored his lukewarm attitude towards the Liverpudlian.

On Wednesday, though, Alexander-Arnold made a case that could not be ignored, a brilliant assist and a Champions League goal against Trippier’s Atletico underlining how good his form is.

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Reece James and Sheffield-born Kyle Walker were the other right-backs picked.

Jadon Sancho, victim of Cristiano Ronaldo’s arrival at Manchester United, and Jesse Lingard drop out, as does former Hull City loanee Fikayo Tomori. The competition for places has also been to stiff for Arsenal’s Emile Smith-Rowe, who spent the first half of 2020 on loan at Huddersfield Town, and midfielder Conor Gallagher, who preferred a move to Crystal Palace over Leeds in the summer.

England squad: Johnstone, Pickford, Ramsdale; Alexander-Arnold, Chilwell, Coady, James, Maguire, Mings, Shaw, Stones, Walker; Bellingham, J Henderson, Mount, Phillips (Leeds United), Rice, Ward-Prowse; Abraham, Foden, Grealish, Kane, Rashford, Saka, Sterling.

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