Ranking England’s 15 benchwarmers on their chances of gatecrashing Gareth Southgate’s first XI

Lewis Oldham
Gallagher, Shaw, Gordon and Mainoo looking to start for England.
Gallagher, Shaw, Gordon and Mainoo looking to start for England.

Gareth Southgate’s England team for Euro 2024 will surely change as they get deeper into the tournament. But who is most likely to gate-crash the starting XI?


15) Dean Henderson
The ex-Manchester United goalkeeper benefited from Sam Johnstone’s injury as he shone for Oliver Glasner’s Crystal Palace during the run-in. But two of his England teammates must be in the treatment room at the same time if he’s to have a sniff of action at Euro 2024.


14) Aaron Ramsdale
Ramsdale’s lack of appearances for Arsenal this season means he’s fortunate to make it into Southgate’s final squad. Especially considering England’s “best goalkeeper” (according to Graeme Souness, anyway) missed out completely. 

The transfer-bound Gunner’s assigned Euro 2024 shirt number (No.13) suggests he’s ahead of Henderson (No.23) in the mind of Southgate. But Jordan Pickford is one of the manager’s favourites and the Everton stand-out justified his selection *once again* in England’s tournament opener against Serbia.


13) Ivan Toney
A beneficiary of Southgate being allowed to select 26 players for Euro 2024 instead of 23, Toney’s form during the run-in was underwhelming after all the bells and whistles that came with his supposedly glorious post-betting ban return in January.

This is not dissuading Premier League clubs from moving for him, with Tottenham Hotspur reportedly likely to beat Manchester United to secure his signature. But the two strikers he’s competing with were among the most in-form across Europe this season, so his hopes of a start are extremely slim.


12) Ollie Watkins
The Aston Villa stand-out is coming off the season of his life as head coach Unai Emery has helped develop him into a complete centre-forward.

Watkins’ differing approach to the No.9 in front of him should make him a useful option when Southgate inevitably has to consider a Plan B when things are going awry in a testing game. Yet as good as the Villa man has been, he’s no Harry Kane and it’s not a *bad* thing that he’s becoming the new Erling Haaland for England.


11) Lewis Dunk
The Brighton man’s disasterclass against Belgium in March
can’t have done his chances of starting at Euro 2024 any good and he’s fortunate to be in the squad ahead of Everton’s Jarrad Brantwaite.

Dunk is one of few veteran heads in this England squad and his calm presence behind the scenes could come in handy, but with other more in-form and versatile defensive options able to be called upon, he’ll likely have to settle for the role of training ground morale-booster rather than doing anything of note on the pitch.


10) Cole Palmer
England could have perhaps done with Palmer’s unwavering swagger in possession when Serbia was causing Southgate one too many headaches on Sunday, but the manager opted for safer options in Conor Gallagher, Jarrod Bowen and Kobbie Mainoo.

Palmer’s remarkable debut season form for Chelsea made it a fair call for Southgate to opt for the 22-year-old over Tottenham Hotspur’s James Maddison as his back-up No.10. Yet the performance of Jude Bellingham and Bukayo Saka against Serbia further established them as sure-fire starters in Southgate’s 4-2-3-1 formation, so the Chelsea youngster will likely have to settle for being an impact substitute.


9) Adam Wharton
It was refreshing to see Southgate include Wharton in his squad after the Crystal Palace newcomer remarkably burst onto the scene during the second half of the season.

While Southgate has often previously gone against his insistence on player form being a key factor when selecting a squad, this complaint cannot be laid at his door for this tournament. But Wharton is very much on the periphery with a couple of teammates more likely to replace Trent Alexander-Arnold when that time comes.


8) Eberechi Eze
Palmer’s form this season means he perhaps deserves to be a few places higher on this list, but he is a victim of Bellingham and Saka’s brilliance through the centre and the right respectively.

The left-wing spot is more up for grabs, though. Phil f***ing Foden’s form for Man City got England supporters giddy at the prospect of seeing him combine with Bellingham, Saka and Kane. But his form internationally has almost always paled in comparison and he was frustratingly ineffective on the left flank against Serbia.

He is obviously a superb footballer and should have a similar status in this squad to Bellingham and Saka as a definite starter. But the door will open for other wide options to take his place if his sub-par performances continue. Eze is one such candidate to fill in on the left after his stellar end-of-season showings earned him a spot in Southgate’s spot over an out-of-sorts Jack Grealish.

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7) Jarrod Bowen
There were very few positives to come from England’s second-half performance against Serbia, but Bowen’s impressive off-bench cameo briefly boosted spirits.

Bukayo Saka’s injury issue was one of several concerns for England heading into this tournament and should his muscle problem flare again, Bowen would be the next man up on the right.


6) Ezri Konsa
The Aston Villa defender was used pretty regularly by Southgate in the lead-up to this tournament and has operated all across the back four.

Luke Shaw’s injury woes forced Southgate’s hand with a square peg in a round hole at left-back with Kieran Trippier, and Konsa’s priceless versatility makes him a leading candidate to step in across the back four in times of need.


5) Joe Gomez
Same as Konsa, really. With Shaw out of the picture *for now*, Gomez makes a serious case to start ahead of Trippier at left-back, especially as the Newcastle man endured a rare below-par season in 2023/24.


4) Kobbie Mainoo
The Manchester United star boy has come from nowhere to being on the brink of starting for England and that’s bloody impressive.

He’s the more fun of two candidates to start alongside Declan Rice when Southgate inevitably gives up on his Alexander-Arnold project later in the tournament.

📣TO THE COMMENTS! How far will England progress at Euro 2024? Join the debate here


3) Anthony Gordon
Another midfield tweak would see Bellingham played in a deeper role with Rice, while Foden can be moved centrally after he masterfully guided Man City to another title while playing this role in the absence of Kevin De Bruyne.

But Southgate is seemingly being stubborn in his stance that Foden will play on the left and Bellingham will be his No.10. On one game’s evidence, this is to the detriment of the City man and should the manager opt to switch it up, Gordon – who is one of ten Premier League stars to watch at Euro 2024 – could provide England with more balance on the left flank as – like Saka – he’s an out-and-out winger who is not insistent on drifting inside.


2) Luke Shaw
Marc Guehi’s assured performance against Serbia eased some pre-tournament concerns about England’s issues at centre-back, but the left-hand side is a problem.

Gordon would be a potential solution in an attacking sense if Southgate decides against persisting with Foden, but the left-winger does not get much support when Trippier is at left-back.

The Newcastle man is Mr Reliable from a defensive standpoint but offers very little going forward from the left. England’s issues would decrease if Shaw can return to fitness as he’s regularly shown that he steps up his form on the international stage but it will be a big ask given that he’s been out of action with a hamstring injury since February.


1) Conor Gallagher
The addition of Gallagher’s energy in place of Alexander-Arnold in the 69th minute against Serbia felt like a sign of things to come as Southgate’s safety-first ideology returns later in the tournament.

This will inevitably be an unpopular decision, with the introduction of Mainoo or Wharton being more crowd-pleasing alternatives. There is no Clamour for Gallagher.

Gallagher would make England more resolute defensively, but the days of The Three Lions having to hang on for dear life in games should be past us, with Bellingham and Co. capable of dominating most sides in Europe through relentless retention of possession.

But this free-spirited approach will likely come during the post-Southgate era as it’s hard to imagine England’s current boss making the best use of his attacking talents and – through gritted teeth – committing fully to a front-foot approach in a full 90 minutes of a tense knockout tie.

So Gallagher it is then.

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