West Ham midfielder Rice named in England squad

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Newly-eligible Declan Rice was the only new face in Gareth Southgate’s England squad for this month’s Euro 2020 qualifiers.

The Three Lions kick off Group A against the Czech Republic at Wembley next Friday before heading to Podgorica to take on Montenegro.

Southgate has named a 25-man squad for the Euro 2020 double-header, with West Ham midfielder Rice, as expected, the headline inclusion.

The 20-year-old appeared for the Republic of Ireland’s youth teams and won three senior caps, but FIFA last week ratified his switch to England as those three appearances came in friendlies.

Rice was the only uncapped player in the squad as Southgate favoured the tried and tested on the whole.

There was a recall for Tom Heaton, whose impressive form for Burnley has seen him selected alongside fellow goalkeepers Jordan Pickford and Jack Butland.

Burnley goalkeeper Tom Heaton has been recalled by Gareth Southgate
Burnley goalkeeper Tom Heaton has been recalled by Gareth Southgate (Martin Rickett/PA)

Harry Winks and Jesse Lingard were not risked due to groin and hamstring issues respectively, but Callum Wilson did enough on his return from a seven-week lay-off to be included again.

Rice was on Tuesday named the Republic of Ireland’s Young Player of the Year and Southgate recognised his decision to play for England was a very significant one.

He said of calling up the West Ham player: “His form warrants it. It’s obviously been a well-publicised situation. We’ve tracked him for quite a while.

“They’re really big decisions. When you’re asking a player to transfer association, you’ve got to make sure they’ve got a future with you. We like what we’ve seen. I think he’ll fit very well into the way that we work.

“There aren’t many players of his age playing as well as he is the Premier League.”

Gareth Southgate's England kick off their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign this month
Gareth Southgate’s England kick off their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign this month (Adam Davy/PA)

“This is a good opportunity for him to come back with us. He’s had a frustrating period where he missed out on a World Cup.”

Heaton will provide competition to Pickford, who has had a number of difficult games for Everton, including last weekend.

Jordan Pickford received Gareth Southgate's backing, despite his recent poor form
Jordan Pickford received Gareth Southgate’s backing, despite his recent poor form (Owen Humphreys/PA)

“There’s no question that was the case for Jordan at the weekend. I’m never keen to say this player is number one, because you’ve always got to have competition. We’re pleased with what’s Jordan done. Like everybody else, he has to train well and perform well.”

Southgate did not pick either Southampton goalkeeper Angus Gunn or Crystal Palace full-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who are both dual-qualified.

Wan-Bissaka has played once for the Democratic Republic of Congo at under-20 level, while Gunn is coveted by Scotland.

Southgate said: “I could pick players, give them a cap and stop them playing for someone else but I don’t think that’s right. Angus has got a good challenge to get into our under-21s. There’s some good competition for places.”

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