Eberechi Eze received his first call-up and Lewis Dunk returned four-and-a-half years after his only cap as Gareth Southgate named the England squad for June’s Euro 2024 qualifiers.
Having kicked off Euro 2024 qualification with wins over Italy and Ukraine, Group C continues with next month’s double header against Malta and North Macedonia.
Southgate has named a 25-man squad, with Eric Dier and Raheem Sterling the high-profile absentees and Crystal Palace attacking midfielder Eze the only uncapped player in the group.
Brighton captain Dunk returned for the first time since making his debut against the United States in November 2018.
Callum Wilson, Tyrone Mings, Sam Johnstone and Trent Alexander-Arnold also returned to the fold.
Sterling, who has won 82 caps, has endured a difficult first season since joining Chelsea from Manchester City.
A representative for the forward said: “Following a private conversation between coach and player, a mutual decision has been made for Raheem Sterling to sit out the upcoming internationals, focusing instead on recuperating his body in preparation for the upcoming season.”
The England manager said at a press conference: “I spoke with him a week or so ago – a general catch-up.
“He’s not happy physically with his condition, having been carrying a hamstring problem. He really wasn’t in consideration.
“We didn’t get to the point of whether he should be in or out. He doesn’t think he is operating at the level he needs.”
Southgate said he was looking forward to working with Eze.
“He is a goal threat, he’s got nice ability and speed to go past people and can take people out of the game with his dribbling skills. We are looking forward to seeing him a bit closer.”
Southgate had no qualms about naming a strong squad when there might have been a temptation to allow some of his senior stars to have a rest.
He said: “We have played North Macedonia twice at home and never beaten them. To be a top team, if we want to be European champions, we have got to nail big games – like we did in March – and make sure we nail the complicated ones.
“It is a good test of commitment and togetherness. This group don’t want to let each other down. We want to keep progressing as a team.”
Southgate has been impressed by Alexander-Arnold, who has been playing in a more advanced position for Liverpool of late.
Southgate said: “He is a super footballer. He is obviously playing in a slightly different role which has invigorated him in the last few months.
“He has always been in advanced areas of the pitch with the ball. He is just a bit more central now.
“That’s interesting for us – no question. It’s something I’ve talked to him about and we’re looking forward to working with Trent.”
There is no place for Brentford striker Ivan Toney after he was banned for eight months for breaches of the Football Association’s betting regulations.
“The ban is the ban. It is what it is. He recognised and accepted the punishment.
“What bothers me is we have to look after people. I don’t like the idea we just leave somebody, that they are not allowed to be part of the football community.
“When he comes back, if he plays well, we’ll pick him. It won’t have any bearing.
“I think he’ll have additional motivation through what he is experiencing. He is a resilient guy with great character. We’re here to support him.”