England World Cup squad: Where other England managers have dithered, Gareth Southgate's been decisive with Adam Lallana axing
Some will gripe and moan, but, I suspect, few will take serious issue.
In truth, Southgate did not have too many decisions to make. Most of the squad picked itself.
It will do for a few more years, until the promise of the World Cup-winning age group teams starts – hopefully – to become genuine achievement at first team level.
But where other managers have dithered, Southgate has been decisive.
There were no last-minute phone calls urging players to come out of international retirement, as Fabio Capello did to Paul Scholes in 2010.
No extended squads, guaranteeing anxiety and fear inhibiting half a dozen or more even before they final 23 were selected.
Southgate could have spent the next two weeks second-guessing himself. Obsessing about the medical and fitness tests.
JACK THE LAD Wilshere jokes he'll head to Zante instead of Russia after World Cup snub
Changing his mind three times and then finally confirming his selection after the Wembley warm-up game with Nigeria on June 2.
Instead, 19 days before Fifa’s deadline, with only Brazil having named their final squad before him, Southgate acted.
If only it had been released with a bit more class and decorum, just a simple list.
Instead, some bright spark with his finger on the pulse of the social media whirl – maybe the same one who angered and embarrassed Spurs, Manchester United, Harry Kane and Chris Smalling last month – came up with a two minute video of screaming kids bawling out names in random order.
The message was what mattered, though. Everybody now knows. The time for explanations will be tomorrow, at Wembley.
But what is clear from that list is that the England boss has made some calls, even ones that he will not have enjoyed making.
In omitting Joe Hart, Ryan Bertrand and Jack Wilshere, in particular, Southgate has demonstrated, to end all doubt, that he is willing to make the hard choices. That emotion is not part of his managerial make-up – at least at this stage.
If you had asked Nick Pope this time last year when he expected to be doing in June 2018 I’m not entirely sure he’d have had a month in Repino in his head.
But, having taken advantage of the injury misfortunes of Tom Heaton at Burnley, Pope is now England’s No 3 goalkeeper. Unlikely to play, but still there in case he is needed.
The international resurrections of two men plying their trade in Manchester – Ashley Young and Fabian Delph – is further proof that Southgate is pragmatic when he feels the need.
Young had not played for England in more than four years before he was recalled in November. Delph’s last cap was against Spain in November 2015.
But while a fit and flying Danny Rose would, surely, be the starting left-back, Southgate has given himself options and alternatives.
The selection of Gary Cahill, too, is a sign that Southgate is prepared to tap-dance if he sees Plan A go down the pan.
The Chelsea man appeared to have been dumped in March with Southgate looking at playing Kyle Walker in his back three and giving chances to Joe Gomez, Harry Maguire, James Tarkowski and Alfie Mawson.
But with Gomez out for the season, and Tarkowski and Mawson not felt ready, Southgate bit the bullet to recall Cahill.
Selecting both Trent Alexander-Arnold, rewarded for his part in Liverpool’s Champions League run, and Kieran Trippier suggests Walker is travelling as a centre-half rather than as a right-sided option.
Trippier’s understanding with the Spurs contingent and his ability to hit in first time towards Harry Kane or Dele Alli makes him the most likely to start at right wing-back against Tunisia in Volgograd.
Wilshere’s omission will be controversial for some. But the midfielder has made just 12 Premier League starts for Arsenal and has not featured for England since THAT night against Iceland in Euro 2016.
In his absence, Southgate has expanded his horizons.
Harry Winks would have been in the squad had he not been struck down by injury, Ruben Loftus-Cheek is a wild-card selection but a genuine talent and Bournemouth’s Lewis Cook was a real contender after his debut against Italy, while Jesse Lingard is a potential starter.
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If there is a quibble over any of the missing names it may be that of Adam Lallana.
The Liverpool schemer is a class act and very much a Southgate favourite.
But the lessons of England past are that taking injured players to tournaments invariably proves a gamble that fails.
Trevor Brooking and Kevin Keegan in 1982, Bryan Robson four years later. Wayne Rooney in 2006. Gareth Barry in South Africa. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in Brazil four years ago. And that’s just World Cups.
England's Group G fixtures at Russia 2018
June 18: Tunisia, 7pm (Volgograd)
June 24: Panama, 1pm (Nizhy Novgorod)
June 28: Belgium, 7pm (Kaliningrad)
It is still a big call. But Southgate is the one whose judgement is on the line.
In terms of strikers, the only half-claim from those left out comes from Jermain Defoe. Tammy Abraham and Dominic Solanke, both capped this season, have simply not done enough.
Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy and Marcus Rashford were easy names to select, while Danny Welbeck has never let England down, contributing both a decent goal return and the willingness to put in a real shift down the flank.
Whether this is a squad good enough to go deep in the competition is another matter.
But it should be good enough to get to the last eight, par given the draw England were handed.
And nobody, now, can fairly accuse Southgate of ducking selection challenges.
England World Cup squad 2018
Jordan Pickford: Age 24, Caps 2
Jack Butland: Age 25, Caps 7
Nick Pope: Age 26, Caps 0
Kyle Walker: Age 24, Caps 34
Trent Alexander-Arnold: Age 19, Caps 0
Kieran Tripper: Age 27, Caps 5
John Stones: Age 23, Caps 24
Harry Maguire: Age 25, Caps 4
Phil Jones: Age 26, Caps 24
Gary Cahill: Age 32, Caps 58
Danny Rose: Age 27, Caps 16
Ashley Young: Age 32, Caps 33
Eric Dier: Age 24, Caps 25
Dele Alli: Age 22, Caps 23
Jordan Henderson: Age 27, Caps 38
Jesse Lingard: Age 25, Caps 10
Ruben Loftus-Cheek: Age 22, Caps 2
Fabian Delph: Age 28, Caps 9
Raheem Sterling: Age 23, Caps 37
Harry Kane: Age 23, Caps 23
Jamie Vardy: Age 31, Caps 21
Marcus Rashford: Age 20, Caps 17
Danny Welbeck: Age 27, Caps 37
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