Joe Hart and Jack Wilshere are the high-profile omissions from Gareth Southgate’s England squad for the World Cup this summer after the national manager opted against selecting two of his more experienced players for the tournament in Russia.
Southampton’s Ryan Bertrand is also expected to miss out when the 23-man squad is announced on Wednesday, with Danny Rose and the versatile Ashley Young preferred instead as left wing-back options. Fabian Delph, who played a significant role in Manchester City’s title-winning campaign but has not been capped since November 2015, is poised for a surprise return to the fold.
England will continue to monitor Adam Lallana’s fitness, despite his late cameo for Liverpool on the final day of the Premier League season, but are hopeful Kieran Trippier will be fit to join up despite missing Tottenham Hotspur’s last game of the season with a knee complaint. If the right-back is deemed fit, that would most likely leave Trent Alexander-Arnold on the stand-by list. Yet it is the decision to omit Hart and Wilshere, players whose futures at their current clubs are still to be resolved, which will draw the focus.
The Arsenal midfielder, named in the provisional 35-man squad submitted to Fifa this week, was told by Southgate on Tuesday that he would not be in the final 23 or list of possible replacements. Wilshere has not represented England since their elimination from Euro 2016 by Iceland in Nice but he had been picked for the friendlies against the Netherlands and Italy in March.
However, the 26-year-old withdrew from the squad before they left for Amsterdam with a recurrence of tendinopathy in his knee and, having started only 12 league games this season, a historically fragile body appears to have counted against him given the demands of tournament football. Wilshere, who missed the final-day win at Huddersfield with a knock, will now concentrate on securing his club future with his Arsenal contract to expire on 1 July.
Hart was the most experienced member of Southgate’s set-up having gained his 75th and most recent cap against Brazil last November. The manager had considered him his No 1 through qualification and the autumn internationals, only for Jordan Pickford and Jack Butland to usurp him in the pecking order by starting the friendlies in March.
The anticipation had been that Hart would still be included as an experienced third-choice – a role he would have been willing to fulfil – but his toils at club level appear to have prompted the management to change their mind. The 31-year-old was duly told in a phone-call with Southgate on Monday evening, with the player on an end-of-season trip with his West Ham team-mates, that he would not be travelling to a fifth major finals.
The City goalkeeper had spent the campaign on loan at the London Stadium, where his form was indifferent. He lost his place towards the end of November to Adrián, regaining it briefly in March before high-profile errors against Burnley and Stoke, and started only 19 league games in total. His last appearance was in a 4-1 defeat at Arsenal on 22 April. Hart has no future at the Etihad Stadium and will meet City’s hierarchy to ascertain his next move.
Burnley’s Nick Pope, who was called up for the games against the Netherlands and Italy but remains uncapped, is expected to travel to Repino on 12 June as third-choice, in the hope he gains from the experience as Hart did at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, after a fine year in the team at Turf Moor. His club-mate, James Tarkowski, is on the stand-by list, with Southgate able to call on John Stones, Harry Maguire, Phil Jones, Kyle Walker or Eric Dier at centre-half if required.
While the inclusion of Chelsea’s Ruben Loftus-Cheek, so impressive on loan at Crystal Palace this season and on senior international debut against Germany last November, will not constitute a surprise, Delph’s recall had been unanticipated despite his claiming he was “quietly confident” of selection. The 28-year-old, naturally a central midfielder, has played 29 times for City this season having been successfully remodelled as a left-back by Pep Guardiola.
He earned his ninth and most recent cap against Spain in November 2015 and has had to withdraw from squads through Southgate’s tenure with niggling injuries, with a knee problem forcing his withdrawal in March. “I’ve had a good season, probably shocked a few people, which has been nice,” he said. “Gareth Southgate is good at judging people and likes to see what mentality people have, and he’s well aware of my mindset.”
England probable squad Goalkeepers (3) Jack Butland, Jordan Pickford, Nick Pope. Defenders (8) Gary Cahill, Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier, John Stones, Harry Maguire, Phil Jones, Danny Rose, Ashley Young. Midfielders (8) Jordan Henderson, Eric Dier, Fabian Delph, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Dele Alli, Jesse Lingard, Adam Lallana, Raheem Sterling. Forwards (4) Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy, Danny Welbeck, Marcus Rashford.