Ranking the England chances of 55 uncapped PL starters

Matt Stead

Gareth Southgate bloody loves naming a big old England squad. Members of that big old England squad similarly love dropping out, thus creating opportunities for players on the outside looking in.

So far this season, 55 players who are eligible for but uncapped by the Three Lions have started a Premier League game. We rank them by order of probability they get a chance, from least likely to most, based not on our opinion but on what we reckon Southgate thinks.

55) Mark Noble (West Ham)

He is 33, could not earn so much as a call-up when playing regularly and relatively well in the Premier League, and is no longer even starting for West Ham. The ship has sailed and he is scrubbing the deck.


54) Will Smallbone (Southampton)

“My mum has loved me playing for Ireland. I’ve always played for Ireland growing up through the age groups and I’d love to go into the senior squad. I’ve very much only ever looked forward to playing for Ireland and that’s still the same now,” said Smallbone this week. Cut him and he bleeds green. Yet he still has a better chance than Noble.


53) Billy Sharp (Sheffield United)

It would be amazing but sadly no. Southgate considers himself to have too refined a diet for a greasy chip butty.


52) Scott Dann (Crystal Palace)

He might be a better actual defender than many of the centre-halves given a chance to stake their claim recently, but Dann’s face simply does not fit.


51) Ashley Barnes (Burnley)

There was no call-up at the absolute height of his effectiveness, never mind after a long-term injury that has decimated about nine months of his career. Southgate’s diplomatic response last year was to point out that 2020’s Grant Holt/Troy Deeney/Marlon Harewood receives a “type of service” that “is a bit different” at club level. Pretty much.


50) Kyle Edwards (West Brom)

Forty-five of his 86 Premier League minutes so far this season came against Southampton, when he was substituted at half-time in his first league start for West Brom since January. Nope.


49) Dale Stephens (Burnley)

Southgate does love a holding midfielder but hates Burnley about as much as any beverage that isn’t room temperature water. But when you give Jake Livermore six caps you do offer a semblance of hope to everyone.


48) Kyle Bartley (West Brom)

His last eight Premier League appearances have come during games in which his respective teams have conceded a combined 24 goals. Bartley last started and kept a clean sheet in the top flight in December 2014. He probably shouldn’t even be this low down.


47) Joel Ward (Crystal Palace)

England don’t deserve someone so beautiful and pure.


46) Ashley Westwood (Burnley)

Vivienne, Tim and Lee all have better international prospects.


45) Conor Townsend (West Brom)

England have no actual left-backs yet Townsend could not be much further from consideration.


44) Max Kilman (Wolves)

An England international at futsal, Kilman probably needs more than 13 career appearances above non-league level to translate that to the #proper game.


43) Chris Basham (Sheffield United)

He is 32, has no England experience at any youth level and plays in a system pretty much unique to his club.


42) Jack Robinson (Sheffield United)

Twenty-nine caps with various age groups hardly boost Robinson’s prospects, mind. He has only just started actually playing for Sheffield United. One step at a time.


41) Darnell Furlong (West Brom)

The queue of right-backs ahead of Furlong stretches approximately an eighth of a mile.


40) Joe Bryan (Fulham)

Starting to regret compiling this list.


39) Josh Brownhill (Burnley)

Time is on the 24-year-old’s side. It is alone in that regard.


38) Jack Stephens (Southampton)

Started Southampton’s two opening Premier League games, which they lost 1-0 and 5-2. Watched Southampton’s two subsequent Premier League games from the bench, which they won 1-0 and 2-0. Oh mate.


37) Josh Onomah (Fulham)

The 23-year-old has England caps at U21, U20, U19, U18, U17 and U16 levels. Even a solitary senior one will surely not follow.


36) Ryan Fredericks (West Ham)

There are worse alternatives out there but barring some sort of catastrophe at the biannual English right-backs convention it won’t happen.


35) John Lundstram (Sheffield United)

Southgate resisted the temptation at the start of last season and Lundstram himself has removed that in the months since.


34) Jamaal Lascelles (Newcastle)

A centre-half with a vomit-inducing pass accuracy of 79.8%, 76.7%, 77.1% and 79.8% in his four full Premier League season is anathema to the boss.


33) Tyrick Mitchell (Crystal Palace)

Twelve players across Europe have made 19 or more tackles this season. Almost all of them have been dribbled past at least four times. Mitchell, who has been beaten twice, is the exception. But it’s all very Wan-Bissaka – who remains uncapped – down to the sudden emergence due to injury and lack of international recognition at youth level.


32) Isaac Hayden (Newcastle)

“I think the issue is that with the way that England play, they tend to go with a lot more attacking, ‘flairy’ type of players in that area,” said Hayden in far more innocent times last September. He’s still no closer to selection even with the pivot towards safety.


31) Luke Ayling (Leeds)

He has started his first Premier League season in imperious form but competition will always be the barrier to 29-year-old Ayling, not quality.


30) George Baldock (Sheffield United)

Same, really.


29) Sam Johnstone (West Brom)

There is always a chance for a goalkeeper; Marcus Bettinelli was in the England squad two years ago. But he is relying on a spate of withdrawals that only something like a global pandemic could produce.


28) Charlie Taylor (Burnley)

Even during this left-sided crisis a relative Premier League regular like Taylor is not at all close to the squad.


27) Karl Darlow (Newcastle)

He’d be starting if Winty was manager. But so would Jack Wilshere and Emile Heskey. That does sound fun…


26) Che Adams (Southampton)

After nailing down the whole ‘playing regularly’ bit, Adams now just needs to start scoring a couple of goals. All four of his strikes for Southampton so far came in July.


25) Adam Webster (Brighton)

Brighton just casually signing a centre-half for £20m and him being no higher than third in their pecking order will never not be weird.


24) Harrison Reed (Fulham)

It seems telling that Reed played 13 times for England U20s but not once for the U21s. Take the hint, fella.


23) Ben Osborn (Sheffield United)

England could and often have done much worse than a 26-year-old with the versatility to play anywhere on the left-hand side or centrally.


22) Matty Cash (Aston Villa)

A lack of experience on The England Pathway will count against Cash, who will have to be consistently brilliant for Aston Villa to stand a chance of persuading Southgate.


21) Jack Harrison (Leeds)

Some fine form at the start of this season might just have nudged Harrison’s head through the door at least. His only mistake was to foolishly be an attacking player at a time England have a surfeit of talented and established forwards.


20) Tom Davies (Everton)

Not many players could boast – that is not the correct term – 59 international caps at various youth levels. Davies is still only 22 but risks being left behind a little by Carlo Ancelotti’s ruthless midfield upgrade. A solid performance as something of an anchor against Brighton before the break needs to be the start of something rather than another false dawn.


19) Matt Targett (Aston Villa)

He made as many England U21 appearances under Southgate as Harry Kane. He might not match his numbers for the senior side.


18) Solly March (Brighton)

Insert thinking face emoji here. If three at the back is the system Southgate intends to insist on, re-appropriated Brighton left wing-back March might provide an unexpected solution to one of England’s biggest problems.


17) Patrick Bamford (Leeds)

“Obviously it would be a dream come true but my mates are kind of winding me up saying you are going to get called up. I was like ‘they can’t call me up just for scoring three goals’ so, for me, I’ve got to try and replicate what I have done in those first three games over these next four games and then hopefully fingers crossed we will see what happens in November,” was this month’s level-headed response of Bamford, whose friends should show more respect to the time-honoured tradition of actual call-ups rather than possible ones being a wind-up.


16) Michail Antonio (West Ham)

It would have happened by now if it was ever going to. Antonio has two goals in four games this season to supplement eight in seven at the end of last campaign, but has timed a career-defining run of form to coincide with the emergence of younger striking options at more fashionable clubs.


15) Dwight McNeil (Burnley)

Have it right: he absolutely should be in the England squad. But McNeil is forever destined to be overlooked as long as he keeps those Burnley shackles on. Leave for a little less agricultural pastures new and his chances would improve exponentially.


14) Grady Diangana (West Brom)

Two appearances for the U20s and a single U21 cap stands Diangana in greater stead than many of his contemporaries. It’s just that Southgate already has so many attacking options at his disposal.


13) Kyle Walker-Peters (Southampton)

“The only way of getting into the England team is by playing regularly and performing,” said the perceptive Walker-Peters last month. It also probably helps to befriend Mason Mount first and foremost.


12) Jack O’Connell (Sheffield United)

Conor Coady eventually chipped away long enough at the glass ceiling to earn an England opportunity that he has parlayed into leadership status within a matter of months. It is no coincidence that he has excelled in a system that suits him, whereas others have struggled in formations unfamiliar to them. O’Connell is surely worth a couple of goes as the left-sided centre-half in a three after his linear and impressive progression through the leagues, although a season-long injury provides an obvious obstacle.


11) Jarrod Bowen (West Ham)

It will not be for the wont of trying that Bowen remains on the England periphery with a troupe of other fine forwards. He has been excellent for West Ham – and even better for Hull before them – but has no youth caps and is not Jadon Sancho. Consistency, a couple of withdrawals and some upcoming meaningless friendlies could create the perfect storm.


10) James Justin (Leicester)

What better solution to England’s left-back problem in these times of right-back proliferation than a right-back currently impressing at left-back? Justin is firmly embedded in a Leicester team that has started well and will compete in Europe this season. The 22-year-old’s time will come.


9) Ezri Konsa (Aston Villa)

That leads on nicely to Konsa, who turns 23 later this month but has been playing with the consummate tranquillity of a veteran during Aston Villa’s boon period. Tyrone Mings made the step up look quite comfortable and there really is no reason why his established club partner can’t do the same.


8) Eberechi Eze (Crystal Palace)

There remains the possibility that Eze chooses to represent Nigeria – “I don’t want to make a rushed decision, as much as it would be a privilege to play for either” – but his 11 caps for England U20s and U21s have put him firmly on the Three Lions’ radar. Prove his Premier League worth at Crystal Palace and senior promotion will come soon enough.


7) Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Manchester United)

His recent decision to replace the England flag with one of DR Congo, the country he represented once at U20 level before switching youth sides, on his Instagram account perhaps meant nothing. But it also might have spoken of Wan-Bissaka’s international frustration. While he cost £45m, Southgate is literally playing 427 right-backs in every game and the Manchester United defender still hasn’t received a call.


6) Ben White (Brighton)

A centre-half who can pass the ball while generating quiet doubts over whether he can actually defend all that well at the highest level? Welcome aboard.


5) Tariq Lamptey (Brighton)

Another whose allegiances are not yet known – Ghana will not be discouraged by his 19 England youth caps – Lamptey has already made strides towards the senior squad in this nascent season. Keep up that blistering form and he’ll get a minute against the Czech Republic next June as his reward.


4) Rob Holding (Arsenal)

Many remain unconvinced by Holding but the fact is that anyone starting regularly for Arsenal will already have their cards marked, not least a centre-half under a club manager focused on passing out from the back.


3) Ollie Watkins (Aston Villa)

Danny Ings and Dominic Calvert-Lewin have blazed a trail for strikers outside the traditional elite trying to break into the England squad. There might not be room for Watkins but if he is going to make a habit of scoring hat-tricks against reigning Premier League champions then a compromise will be reached for a player with no discernible deficiency in his game.


2) Aaron Ramsdale (Sheffield United)

It seems bizarre that Ramsdale has not yet been called up by England, such was Southgate’s propensity for naming every keeper with a blue passport in his squads not long ago. Jordan Pickford, Nick Pope and Dean Henderson are a well-defined trio in that very order but U21 regular Ramsdale will make that step up before time.


1) Eddie Nketiah (Arsenal)

So too will Nketiah, who broke the record for most England U21 goals with the strike that sealed Euro 2021 qualification for Aidy Boothroyd’s side this week. The previous mark was set by Alan Shearer and equalled by Francis Jeffers, underlining how that is not necessarily a guarantee of future success. But when you consider Dominic Solanke was capped by Southgate, an Arsenal regular seems certain to get his chance.

Matt Stead