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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

The charts that show the scale of change in Gareth Southgate’s gamble – starting with Adam Wharton

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Adam Wharton (central) makes the Euro 2024 squad having made his senior England debut on Monday night – Getty Images/Eddie KeoghAt the start of qualification for the European Championship there were starts for Kalvin Phillips and Jordan Henderson in the first two matches on England’s road to Germany. Life comes at you fast in international football and they head into the finals with Kobbie Mainoo and Adam Wharton in their squad.Neither had started a Premier League game when Phillips started against Italy in Naples, followed by Henderson playing against Ukraine a few days later. Gareth Southgate cannot be accused of sticking with his old favourites with his selection for Euro 2024, with Eberechi Eze also among those who have made a late run into the final 26-man squad.With Harry Maguire sidelined, not to mention Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford missing out, there is an element of the changing of the guard when the squad check into their hotel Golfresort Weimarer Land in Blankenhain next week. It will be a radically different – and more inexperienced squad compared to the World Cup just 18 months ago.This squad has 633 caps between them, some 187 fewer than in Qatar. Half of the 26 for that tournament are not travelling to Germany.“Things change from week to week and month to month,” said Southgate. “We’ve got a lot of changes since the World Cup and we think this is the best equipped for this moment in time. It is always a moment in time where you balance experience with younger players playing so well that we cannot ignore what they are doing.”In the make-up of Southgate’s squad, the changes are most extreme in midfield. Declan Rice was sat next to Southgate at his pre-match press conference ahead of facing Iceland on Friday night and the Arsenal midfielder is certain to start against Serbia when the tournament starts for England on Jun 16. Jude Bellingham will be playing just ahead of him on the pitch, meaning Southgate’s young cubs are fighting for a place in midfield.Mainoo looked at home in international football when he won his two caps in March at Wembley, then returned to the national stadium to win the FA Cup for Manchester United.Wharton has shocked everybody he has encountered since leaving Blackburn Rovers during the January window, from his new colleagues at Crystal Palace to the staff at England. They have not seen a player with “pictures” in his mind of where the next pass will be played, with signs they have unearthed something similar to Michael Carrick.“In training he has impressed a lot of the players, so composed and calm on the ball,” said Rice. “He’s got a beautiful left foot, crisp passing and all-round a really down to earth boy who wants to learn. He’s ready for the big stage. He’s one of those that doesn’t get phased. The future is looking bright for England in midfield.”Trent Alexander-Arnold will also compete for a place but he is hardly experienced in midfield, with Southgate saying he is learning on the job despite his spectacular goal against Bosnia last Monday. Conor Gallagher, meanwhile, has started two competitive games for England.Gallagher could play an important role in the squad after being part of the World Cup squad in 2022. He is known as a “good tourist”, who trains hard even when it looks unlikely that he will start matches. England will need those characters over the next month in Germany.The impact Henderson had on squad togetherness should not be underestimated. Maguire had a big role too. It was the Manchester United defender who organised the mid-tournament gig from Robbie Williams in their Al-Wakrah base in Qatar.“The key now is to bond as a group,” said Southgate. “There are players with us a long time where bonds are really strong and we have to realise those who are not picked in the team are the key to doing us well.” The England manager does not need sulkers around the squad, bringing an atmosphere to the squad.Another pointer towards a changing of the guard is the different clubs Southgate is choosing from.Back in 2018 there was a strong Tottenham contingent with Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Eric Dier, Danny Rose and Kieran Trippier. Manchester United and City provided the most players for the last two tournaments and now it is Palace.There would have been good odds on Palace leading the way by providing four players for this tournament in Marc Guehi, Wharton, Eze and Dean Henderson. Another sign of a changing of the guard and a younger, more inexperienced England team coming through.Broaden your horizons with award-winning British journalism. Try The Telegraph free for 3 months with unlimited access to our award-winning website, exclusive app, money-saving offers and more.

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