New faces in England squad for World Cup qualifiers but no Trent Alexander-Arnold

Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins and West Brom goalkeeper Sam Johnstone have received their first senior England call-ups, while Borussia Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham has been included despite concerns over his availability.

Thursday, 18th March 2021, 4:24 pm

Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate has named a 26-man squad for this month’s World Cup qualification triple header against San Marino, Albania and Poland.

Leeds striker Patrick Bamford had been widely tipped for a call-up, but Southgate has turned to Watkins, who has impressed since joining Villa from Brentford in the summer.

Johnstone, who has shone for the embattled Baggies this season, gets his maiden call-up following an injury to England number one Jordan Pickford.

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Aston Villa's Ollie Watkins (left) has ben called up to the England squad for the forthcoming World Cup qualifiers

Trent Alexander-Arnold is conspicuous by his absence from a squad that sees Luke Shaw, John Stones and Jesse Lingard return after long absences.

Seventeen-year-old Bellingham’s inclusion is interesting given the Football Association had expected regional coronavirus travel restrictions in Germany to rule him out.

Dortmund team-mate Jadon Sancho misses out through injury, while Jack Grealish, James Maddison and Tammy Abraham are not included having been dealing with issues of their own.

Southgate said there had been some “close calls” when selecting his squad, including the decision to include Watkins over Bamford.

“(Bamford was) very close,” Southgate said at a press conference.

“There’re a number of positions in this squad that have been really close calls and we felt we wanted an extra striker.

“We’re really pleased with Harry (Kane) and (Dominic) Calvert-Lewin and what they’ve done. Tammy Abraham hasn’t really been involved for Chelsea over the last four to six weeks.

“And both Ollie and Patrick in particular, their goals record has been good. We like the personalities of both. Ollie is a player we’ve had less interaction with in the past. It’s going to be good to get to know him. We like his pressing, the speed and the runs in behind.”