The famous F365 England World Cup ladder

Dave Tickner
England players with Ukraine flag

Two more wins for England, another goal closer to the goalscoring record for Harry Kane, and few ins and outs in our 23. Whisper it, but England’s current depth means we’re even considering retiring the Phil Neville gag.

Numbers in brackets represent November’s rankings, which can be found in full here.


1 (1) Harry Kane
Has barely moved from here for many years now. Inched closer to Wayne Rooney’s England goalscoring record with a typically clinical penalty against Switzerland and even were his absolute supremacy in this position open to any doubt whatsoever (which it isn’t) his two closest rivals for the No. 9 jersey – Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Tammy Abraham – have for different reasons drifted backwards. And yet he is still bizarrely underrated.


2 (2) Declan Rice
A simplistic yet accurate reading of this international break would be that England looked a bit crap when Rice wasn’t on the pitch and in total easy control of proceedings when he was. To all intents a 1= with Kane nowadays. There remains plenty of lively debate to be had around who – and even how many – start alongside him in the middle of the park, but absolutely not a single doubt that Rice is there. Has grown into a truly phenomenal player.


3 (6) Raheem Sterling
He’s been an excellent England footballer for an awful long time now and has two fine tournaments behind him, which is a thing relatively few England players in history can claim. Rarely, though, has he appeared to be having more fun or felt more at ease and in total control of himself than in that first half against Ivory Coast. My word he was great, the driving force behind a first half where England really did look like an exciting and fun football team. Marvellous.


4 (4) John Stones
Late withdrawal from the Switzerland game after an injury in the warm-up and then returned to City ‘as a precaution’ ahead of the Ivory Coast game. All the hints and messaging suggest these were all very much safety-first measures and that Stones might well have been called upon or at least retained in the squad had these been more important matches. Either way, his place in Southgate’s first-choice XI remains unquestioned.


5 (3) Harry Maguire
The booing was inexplicable and naff and only appears to have hardened support for Maguire within the squad and, you can be damn sure, with Southgate himself. Whatever woes and travails he may be going through, there is nothing to suggest Maguire is anything other than a definite first-choice pick for Southgate. Unless you work for the Mail.


6 (8) Jordan Pickford
For whatever reason, and it may well be that it bamboozles the world’s top boffins for generations to come, the length of his arms just isn’t a problem at all at international level. Kept his team in it during a decidedly ropey first half against Switzerland and you sort of get the sense that even if Aaron Ramsdale is starring in the Champions League and Pickford is playing in the Championship by the time the World Cup squad has to be named, the Everton man would still be Southgate’s first choice. And you know what? That’s probably fair enough. His England record demands respect.


7 (5) Kalvin Phillips
Remember, these are our best guess at Southgate’s thoughts and we still reckon that with everyone fit and available, Gareth is going with Rice and Phillips in the middle of the park. But Phillips’ injury woes and the undeniable and eye-catching progress and development made by others mean he is now firmly behind Rice and under pressure for his spot through no real fault of his own.


8 (9) Luke Shaw
Struggling for Manchester United but first choice for England and doing a fine job at it too? We’ve heard this one before. If and when Ben Chilwell gets back to fitness there’s potentially a scrap for a place in the team, but almost no way Shaw can possibly play himself out of Southgate’s squad.


9 (7) Phil Foden
Still yet to show his very, very best for England but what he has done, combined with his increasingly elite body of work at club level, still makes him a racing certainty for any tournament squad.


10 (11) Reece James
Returned to full training with Chelsea during this international break and nothing we saw dissuades us from the view that James is England’s first-choice right-back and we reckon Southgate would go along with that too. Somehow manages to actually climb a place despite England having a good international break in his absence. Is that bad or not? Our head’s a bit fuzzy and we genuinely can’t decide.


11 (12) Mason Mount
Gareth Southgate’s words after the Switzerland game were pretty guarded but what we know of him and his outlook on the game suggests that describing a Mount-Gallagher midfield as “vulnerable” can be reasonably translated as “no way I’m picking both of them when it matters”. We can also safely assume that if it’s one, it’s definitely still Mount. The most Southgate of all the Southgate boys. Interesting to see what happens next season, though, if Gallagher is back at Chelsea and Thomas Tuchel manages to find a solution for that particular Nice Problem To Have.

Chelsea-linked midfielder Declan Rice jokes around with Mason Mount


12 (14) Jude Bellingham
A very special footballer indeed and produced his best England performance to date against Ivory Coast. Has an absurdly high ceiling and those extra six months until this particular World Cup are only likely to see him strengthen an already compelling case. This week feels like one in which he nudged from Probable to Definite in terms of making the squad, with the more pertinent questions whether he makes the starting XI and where.


13 (13) Aaron Ramsdale
However well he does for Arsenal, we just don’t see him unseating England’s current No 1 unless and until Pickford goes Full Everton on England duty. It hasn’t happened yet despite a couple of near misses and that means Ramsdale remains second choice. He’s a clear second, though.


14 (10) Kyle Walker
No longer quite as secure as he was. The sheer number of options available and sense that a back four rather than a back three might be Southgate’s current Plan A are concerns for Walker, but at the same time he has been a reliable and consistent performer for Southgate and with the right (wing) back spots taken in these games by Kyle Walker-Peters and Ben White, nobody really got away from Walker in his absence this week. Versatility, reliability and top-level experience all massively in his favour so it would be a major surprise if he wasn’t in the eventual 23.


15 (15) Jack Grealish
We really want to move Grealish up this list after his Ivory Coast display, comfortably his best in an England shirt. We are cultivating a theory that may or may not be a load of absolute wa*k but goes roughly like this: at Manchester City he is a slightly less giddily exciting and fun footballer but is becoming one whose more rounded, controlled (and still, let’s be honest, giddier and more exciting and more fun than most) game may be something a bit more up Southgate’s strasse. We’re more confident of his place in Southgate’s thinking than we were a week ago, but still not quite as confident as we are about the 14 above him. Ergo a non-mover in a purely numerical sense, yet still in a better position in a more holistic sense than he was in November. That made more sense in our head. You know what we mean.


16 (19) Bukayo Saka
Tends to drift around this part of the list despite us a) absolutely loving the bones of him and b) having absolutely no doubt that Southgate will pick him.


17 (30) Ben White
England’s most in-form centre-back in domestic football, played 135 of the 180 minutes in this international break and showed he can do a serviceable job at right-back which is handy. You can never have too many, can you? In the squad but not the XI we’d imagine is Gareth’s thinking. Which is fine as it is also ours.


18 (16) Ben Chilwell
All depends on how his injury comeback pans out, of course, having got himself seriously crocked just when he appeared to have got back on track from a slightly iffy spell. Huge shame for him, obviously, but a potential beneficiary of the winter World Cup and the extra time it affords him. Slightly vulnerable if Southgate decides, as he might, to take just one specialist left-back – which would currently be Shaw for sure – and rely on Kieran Trippier et al as emergency cover. If there are two left-backs in the squad, then Chilwell is surely safe.


19 (18) Kieran Trippier
Ability to play on either flank and as full-back or wing-back works very much in favour of a player who has rarely let Southgate or England down. Set-piece skills another huge bonus for a man who will return from injury and, by the time the World Cup rolls around, be playing for a Newcastle side that may well be catching eyes and getting plenty of attention at the right rather than wrong end of the table. Southgate isn’t swayed by that kind of tish and fipsy, of course, but he does like Trippier a lot and in a 23-man squad there’s no doubt his versatility offers Southgate tempting flexibility elsewhere. We still expect him to be there.


20 (17) Jordan Henderson
We just can’t imagine a world in which Southgate leaves Henderson out of a major tournament squad, but the day when we can bring ourselves to imagine such a scary and unfamiliar place is surely coming.


21 (20) Conor Coady
Definitely has a leadership role within the squad that belies his relative inexperience at international level, but is that enough? For Southgate, it might well be. But if England are thinking of a back four that might well mean four centre-backs plus Walker. Hard to see Coady getting ahead of Maguire, Stones or White in the pecking order now, and he’s got to worry about Tyrone Mings, Fikayo Tomori and plenty more. Coady feels to us like he might be an unfortunate one: in the squad if the World Cup were in June, but out of it by December. We’ve got both Henderson and Coady in the squad as things stand but you get a sense that in a way they both do the same sort of pastoral role beyond their relatively meagre on-field minutes and that having two such players, given the options and depth available, might in its own way represent an unjustifiable luxury.


22 (28) Tammy Abraham
A shame to miss out on this latest squad through injury because he’s in red-hot form right now. But a climber nonetheless; a run of 11 goals in his last 13 Serie A games for Roma means that by rights he should have a firm grip on the back-up striker spot given the struggles of others. Were he producing those numbers in the Premier League, there would no longer even be a debate about who Kane’s understudy should be.


23 (35) Nick Pope
Eight caps with just a solitary goal conceded in what must be the most low-key impeccable England career ever. Probably now back up to third-choice in the ever-shifting line-up of Not Pickfords that Southgate has to choose from. One of many players here where a mid-season World Cup raises plenty of issues. What division will Pope be playing in by the time this squad is finalised? Where will Dean Henderson and/or Sam Johnstone be playing? We don’t know. Nor do you. Nor does Gareth. For now, then: Pope is the 23rd and final man currently #OnThePlane but may be back down in the 30s or 40s by summer’s end. Such is life for the solid citizens of England’s back-up goalkeeper gang.

England players line up


24 (24) Emile Smith Rowe
We still think, sadly, that he’s probably just outside the final 23 when it comes down to it.


25 (25) Jadon Sancho
We still think, sadly, that he’s probably just outside the final 23 when it comes down to it.


26 (23) Tyrone Mings
It seems unlikely that Southgate names more than four pure centre-backs in a squad also likely to contain Reece James and Kyle Walker and that means Mings is currently in a scrap with Coady to be Southgate’s fourth choice. With almost zero confidence, we reckon he’s currently slightly behind in that scrap. We do think both are now behind White, though, and that both are also extremely vulnerable to others slightly further back on this list.


27 (26) Trent Alexander-Arnold
Remains in some ways both the hardest and easiest player to place on these lists. He’s definitely the best footballer outside the 23 but we’re still pretty sure that’s where he is when everyone is available.


28 (33) James Ward-Prowse
Tantalisingly tempting because he is such a solidly Southgate type of midfielder and such an expert deliverer of set-pieces, which remain such a key route to success for this side. We don’t think he’s quite inside a first-choice squad just yet, but he could be one to benefit from the winter World Cup and the extra time it gives him to possibly nudge Henderson out of the squad (see, we could imagine it!). Still a player who appears forever destined to be among those final unfortunate few Southgate leaves out when whittling down a 28-man provisional squad.


29 (21) Dominic Calvert-Lewin
Behind Abraham even though the Roma striker had to pull out of the squad through injury, and now looking nervously over the shoulder at Ollie Watkins and possibly Ivan Toney as well. Needs a fast start to next season, you’d think. Might also need to not be at Everton.


30 (32) Conor Gallagher
A performance against Switzerland that certainly provides plenty of food for thought but the sense remains that England have other options Southgate knows better and that don’t make him quite so nervous as Gallagher. There is a risk-reward element to Gallagher that in Southgate’s mind might not yet quite add up. Another undeniable and huge unquantifiable here is what happens next with his club career? What’s for sure is that Gallagher is not going to be in a position where he can force his way into the squad from the Chelsea periphery. Whether it’s at Stamford Bridge, Selhurst Park or somewhere else altogether he will need to be stating his compelling case with regular football.


31 (31) Ollie Watkins
Very timely bit of opportunity taking from Watkins, cashing in on Calvert-Lewin’s Everton woes and Abraham’s absence to get himself a goal and also just generally look the part against Ivory Coast, especially in a first half where he played a decent part in the general fun orchestrated by your Sterlings, your Grealishes and the Bellinghams of this world. Probably still third in a three or possibly four-horse race to be Kane’s understudy but definitely closed the gap this week.


32 (43) Marc Guehi
Big climber after capping a breakthrough season at Crystal Palace – he’d never kicked a ball in the Premier League before this campaign – with a first international cap. Still not yet certain to even be an England player, though; until he makes a competitive appearance the option to follow the lead of his Palace team-mate Wilfried Zaha and switch allegiance to Ivory Coast remains. Their manager Patrice Beaumelle has made no secret of the fact he’d be up for it if Guehi is.


33 (27) Fikayo Tomori
He’s a first-name-on-the-teamsheet starter for a Serie A-topping Milan side and by all accounts absolutely loving life in Italy where his game has reached a new level. Surely, you think, that should put him above Tyrone Mings and Conor Coady in the centre-back pecking order? And yet… it hasn’t.


34 (29) Marcus Rashford
That is a real shame, but he just looks miles away right now. Even down at 34 he’s probably 10 spots too high on current speed and course if we’re honest with ourselves.


35 (22) Sam Johnstone
Back down to fourth choice in the keeper scrum behind Pickford – and probably fifth if and when Dean Henderson sorts himself out.


36 (NE) Tyrick Mitchell
Being a left-back rather than a right-back is a shrewd career move for the Palace defender, even allowing for Southgate’s fondness for picking all the right-backs he can (apart from TAA). Still feels a long way outside a first-choice squad, but is potentially only one injury away from making it.


37 (44) Jarrod Bowen
Never a good time to get injured, but Bowen picked a proper crap one for both club and country. Would surely have got a long-overdue international chance in these friendlies otherwise, and the Hammers are already missing him desperately. Add him to the list of those for whom an extra six months to make a run at the World Cup squad might yet prove career-definingly significant.


38 (45) Ivan Toney
Harry Kane is the only Englishman with more Premier League goals this season. The form-and-fitness struggles of Calvert-Lewin, Watkins and Patrick Bamford have to at least put Toney in the frame.


39 (39) Dean Henderson
Needs to be someone’s No. 1 by November if he has any hope of being England’s No. 23 in Qatar.


40 (RE) Eric Dier
Has been called up for plenty of Southgate England squads he shouldn’t have been in; arguably this time left out of one he should have been in. Having his best season at Spurs since making the move to centre-back and his current combination of international experience and domestic form isn’t matched by anyone else. Has been outside looking in for 18 months now, but we just have a feeling in our gut he could sneak his way back in. This could, admittedly, just be wind.


41 (NE) Kyle Walker-Peters
42 (RE) Harvey Elliott
43 (42) Curtis Jones
44 (NE) Trevoh Chalobah
45 (NE) Jacob Ramsey
46 (RE) James Maddison
47 (41) Eberechi Eze
48 (36) Patrick Bamford
49 (37) Jesse Lingard
50 (50) Phil Neville