The Traditional England Clamour is already galloping away with Cole Palmer to ruin the summer

Steven Chicken
Cole Palmer and Jack Grealish with the England badge.
Cole Palmer and Jack Grealish with the England badge.

There have been tournaments, too many to count, where England would have whooped and hollered about the emergence of a player like Cole Palmer just in time for a major tournament.

The Chelsea star’s ascent to the top of the Premier League top scorers’ table, right alongside former teammate Erling Haaland with 20 apiece, comes courtesy of 10 goals in his past five outings. This is a player who has already taken his first steps into the England set-up showing he is now at a full-on sprint to meet the Three Lions’ plane to Germany.

Cole Palmer’s rapid ascent as much impediment as benefit to England hopes

Only…this isn’t like so many years gone by.

Palmer’s competition for a place in Gareth Southgate’s starting line-up are as follows: England’s top scorer of all time, currently the leading scorer in all of Europe by some way. The reigning two-time England player of the year. The player who is so good that Palmer feared he might never get his chance at Manchester City and opted to move to Chelsea instead. And last but not least, the current favourite to win this year’s Ballon d’Or. And that’s just the four we expect to start.

We’re simply not used to this wealth of attacking talent, and so what we always get is The Clamour. We saw it with Jack Grealish at the last two tournaments, too: regardless how talented the front line in his first XI on their own merits, Southgate is at fault if he fails to go full Garth Crooks by shoehorning yet more of them into the side.

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The popular suggestion is to move Jude Bellingham back alongside Declan Rice in more of a box-to-box midfield role to accommodate Palmer, a suggestion that conveniently ignores that Bellingham is no slouch in front of goal either: he has a combined 30 goals and assists in 34 appearances for Real Madrid this season.

It’s the kind of suggestion that makes sense on paper but its folly becomes quickly apparent in reality. However athletic Rice and Bellingham might be, there is no way to get the best out of Bellingham’s talents in the final third without exposing enormous swathes of the pitch to counter-attacks. But tell Bellingham to stay back and you remove all his potency.

To be very clear, there is no question whatsoever that Palmer has shown himself to be a supremely talented player this season, and the arguments made in his favour should not be dismissed out of hand. If Southgate decides to capitalise on his red-hot form by finding a place in his side for Palmer, you shall hear no complaints from us. He’s brilliant.

But we will also understand if the timing simply does not work for Southgate. If Palmer had been in this form 18 months ago, the England manager could have experimented through qualifying to find a way to fit him in.

Unfortunately, the very precipitous rise that makes Palmer feel so irresistible also counts against him. Back in November, the latest edition of our very famous World Cup ladder (our estimation of Southgate’s thoughts, not our own personal view) had Marcus Rashford, Grealish, James Maddison and Ollie Watkins ahead of Palmer, who was ranked 25th.

Words are the last thing I would want to put in Dave Tickner’s mouth, but I daresay a revised and up-to-date edition would probably put Palmer ahead of all of them – particularly Maddison, who has never really seemed to have Southgate’s full approval.

📣 TO THE COMMENTS! How can Southgate get Palmer in his England team for the Euros? Join the debate here

England rivals to Cole Palmer are no chumps

As it is, Southgate has precious little opportunity to gather a body of evidence that Palmer would be as potent on the international stage in the immediate term as he has been at club level.

That can take time. Look at Bellingham: he did not get his first international assist until his 17th England cap, or his first international goal until his 18th. He now has two goals and three assists in his past four England outings.

Nor can arguments be made about poor form elsewhere in the squad. Bukayo Saka has four goals and two assists in his past six; Harry Kane has failed to score in just one of his past ten England starts.

Phil Foden has been unable to match those numbers in a white shirt, and of the four, he maybe looks the most vulnerable to the whims of The Clamour. But the same arguments that apply to Palmer at club level also fit Foden, who  is enjoying his most productive season yet for Manchester City. Even in the here and now, Foden has scored four goals in his past two outings, completing his second Premier League hat-trick of the season against Aston Villa before notching against Real Madrid.

What we are really seeing is a frustration that England cannot simply field 12 players this summer. Having checked the Laws of the Game, we can confirm that Southgate is going to have to leave someone out.

The choice Southgate makes is not permanent, just the one that he feels is best for this tournament. Palmer is 21 years old; he’s not going to expire if they don’t use him this summer.

And if one of the old reliables actually turns out to be rubbish and out-of-sorts? There Palmer will be, perhaps the best plan B any side will have at this summer’s tournament. We hear having good options from the bench is actually quite handy.

It should be a source of confidence and pride, not consternation, that the England ranks are so richly stocked. But inevitably, The Clamour will have it otherwise – whatever Southgate does.

READ NEXT: Five weird Cole Palmer transfer nuggets: Chelsea wanted Arsenal outcast instead after Burnley ‘agreement’

📣 TO THE COMMENTS! Is Palmer a Plan B for England? Join the debate here

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