England’s 26-Man Euro Squad If You Can Only Pick Championship Players
A shortened version of this article originally appeared on The Second Tier
Remember when the European Super League plunged football into crisis? Of course you do, and you’re probably sick of reading about it. Lucky for you, this isn’t another long-form article about that. However, in amongst all the fallout from that, when the European Super League seemed like a very real possibility, the president of UEFA, Aleksander Ceferin, stated that players who would sign up to play in this monstrous anti-competition would be banned from World Cups and European Championships.
That spawned an idea. Now, let’s say that we live in an alternative society where Gareth Southgate has to delve into the second tier of English football to select his team for the European Championships this summer. Who makes the recently expanded 26 man squad? How will the team get on? Is football still coming home?
Some ground rules before we get into this debate. The players we can pick for this England squad includes all the teams from the 2020–21 EFL Championship season, so Norwich, Watford and Brentford are still included even though they’ve been promoted, as are the relegated teams in Rotherham, Sheffield Wednesday and Wycombe. Loan players from Premier League clubs are in too and although it might seem this way, any exclusions from this squad are not because we personally hate your team. So, who will line up for the Three Lions this summer in England’s first fixture against Croatia? Let’s find out.
The Selected Squad
The most recent squad announcement for England’s 23 man squad was split with three goalkeepers, nine defenders, six midfielders and five attackers. For this year’s Euros, countries can have 26 players, so for our selection, we’re adding an extra midfielder and two attackers, because let’s be honest, it’s more fun than an additional defender, isn’t it? Explanations for our starting XI choices will be provided.
The 26 Man Squad
Goalkeepers: Freddie Woodman (Swansea City, loan from Newcastle United) Angus Gunn (Stoke City), Ben Foster (Watford)
Defenders: Max Aarons (Norwich City), Marc Guehi (Swansea City, loan from Chelsea), Lloyd Kelly (AFC Bournemouth), Rob Dickie (QPR), Sean Morrison (Cardiff City), Rico Henry (Brentford), Omar Richards (Reading), Callum Styles (Barnsley), Harry Toffolo (Huddersfield Town)
Midfielders: Todd Cantwell (Norwich City), Oliver Skipp (Norwich City, loan from Tottenham Hotspur), Alex Mowatt (Barnsley), Lewis Cook (AFC Bournemouth), Will Hughes (Watford), Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall (Luton Town, loan from Leicester City), Nathaniel Chalobah (Watford)
Attackers: Ivan Toney (Brentford), Adam Armstrong (Blackburn Rovers), Harvey Elliott (Blackburn Rovers, loan from Liverpool), Dominic Solanke (AFC Bournemouth), Cauley Woodrow (Barnsley), Josh Koroma (Huddersfield Town), Carlton Morris (Barnsley)
In England’s last fixture, a 2–1 win in World Cup qualifying against Poland, the team lined up in a 4–3–3, so that’s what we’ll be using for our starting XI formation. We have a great squad but here are the players who get the nod to start.
GK: Freddie Woodman
20 clean sheets in 45 games for Swansea is an impressive feat for any goalkeeper and Woodman won the Sky Bet Championship Golden Glove award for the 2020/21 season as a result. Easy pick for this one.
RB: Max Aarons
Already in the England U21 set-up and linked with Barcelona at the start of this season. Aarons was part of a Norwich defence that kept 17 clean sheets this season as they stormed to the title, with two goals and two assists for the defender too. He might not have the same attacking returns as Trent Alexander-Arnold but is another amazing choice at right-back for England.
CB: Marc Guehi
Another England U21 player but also part of the Swansea side that was defensively resolute for large parts of this Championship campaign. Guehi looks like a fantastic player in the making and is attracting plenty of Premier League admirers, with links for a £20m move.
CB: Sean Morrison (Captain)
Call us old fashioned, but in any international team, you need a traditional defender who is going to be commanding, marshal his defence and engage in the dark arts if required. Sean Morrison is fantastic at this level, being part of Football Manage’s Championship Team of the Season and he’s a threat at set-pieces — we saw how England capitalised on those at the 2018 World Cup. He’s our captain.
LB: Callum Styles
This is a big conundrum. Rico Henry would be in here, but having not played since the 20th of February and not featured in Brentford’s playoff campaign, we won’t be risking him as a starter. However, Henry makes the squad in case he comes back fit and raring to go. We’re all for giving chances, so the nod goes to Callum Styles, the midfielder who has deputised at left wing-back this season.
Barnsley have been playing a 3–4–2–1 and in a 3–4–3 formation recently, so although it isn’t Styles’ natural position, he’s performed excellently at left wing-back so deserves to be in the starting XI based on this season. Breaking The Lines did some excellent analysis on him recently too if you’re unsure.
CM: Oliver Skipp
What a loan signing this has been for Norwich. The young loanee from Spurs has been integral to Norwich’s title win and looks set to have a very bright future. Another England U21 international, his defensive reading of the game is beyond his years and has played in nearly every game for The Canaries this season. Mr Southgate loves a defensive midfielder too so he’s a shoo-in.
CM: Alex Mowatt
We knew he was a talented player but Alex Mowatt has proved his quality as one of the best players in the second tier this season, being crucial to Barnsley’s playoff push. He loves a worldie, puts in great set pieces and isn’t afraid to get stuck in. He goes on the left side of midfield as he’s formed a great relationship with Callum Styles this season too.
AM: Nick Powell
His versatility helps make his case for the starting XI, but Nick Powell’s effort this season hasn’t gone unnoticed. Named in WhoScored.com’s 2020/21 Sky Bet Championship Team of the Season with an overall rating of 7.10/10, Powell has notched 12 goals and five assists for Stoke City this campaign. The 27-year-old also adds a bit of experience to the side, having been signed by Manchester United at a young age, he has been around high pressured situations and can help this young team.
RW: Harvey Elliott
There were plenty of candidates for this role but we’re settling on Harvey Elliott, Blackburn’s loanee from Liverpool after his tremendous first season in the Championship. Seven goals and 11 assists for the 18-year-old is amazing and interestingly, he averages 1.7 key passes a game for you stat fans. His average minutes per game is 67 too, which means there’s plenty of options to come off the bench if he doesn’t have the best game, but we’re backing him to start and do the business.
ST: Ivan Toney
What else do we need to say? 31 league goals in the regular season, the most ever in a Championship season in the current format and 10 assists too. He’s the first name on the team sheet and Gareth’s readymade Harry Kane replacement. At the time of writing, he also has a 100% scoring record with penalties.
LW: Adam Armstrong
Armstrong can play on the left but is mainly a striker but there’s no way we’re leaving out a player who’s got 28 goals this season, the league’s highest goal scorer if you exclude penalties. Armstrong has been criticised for his selfishness and he might take a lot of shots but you can’t argue with his numbers.
This is actually a great squad. Bournemouth’s Dominic Solanke and Lewis Cook are unlucky to miss out from the starting XI after respectable seasons, as is Watford’s Will Hughes. Carlton Morris is your super-sub and the stats prove it, he’s come off the bench for Barnsley 17 times and scored 5 goals and got two assists in those sub appearances. Cauley Woodrow has a 100% penalty record this season for Barnsley, so good to have for any potential penalty shootouts.
Todd Cantwell narrowly misses out on a start but will definitely feature in the game. Josh Koroma might look like an odd choice but 8 goals in 20 appearances (7 goals in his last 11) for a poor Huddersfield Town side is respectable, especially after he’s carried on his goalscoring after a long injury. Ben Foster is in as third choice due to his experience in international tournaments with England and can pass on his wisdom to our young ‘keepers.
Unlucky to miss out
Stoke’s Tyrese Campbell would be in if not for his injury, his teammate Josef Bursik stepped in admirably too for a young goalie, David Stockdale could have been the third choice ‘keeper after a respectable end of the season with Wycombe too. Another super-sub narrowly misses out too, Sam Gallagher. He has five goals in 15 sub appearances for Blackburn and can count himself unlucky. Your favourite underrated player in your team! We forgot to put him in but it’s hard when there are 343 eligible English players in the Championship to choose from.
How will the team get on?
England narrowly lose to Croatia in the opening match but scrape through the group with a last-minute winner against Scotland and a frustrating draw to the Czech Republic. A nervy knockout win over Poland sees them reach a Quarter Final against France, where they lose on penalties, despite heroics from Sean Morrison in extra time to keep England in the tie.
By Brady Frost | @brady0894
This article has been updated to replace Ovie Ejaria who has switched allegiance to Nigeria with Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall.