Jermain Defoe, Marcus Rashford, Luke Shaw named in England squad
Jermain Defoe, Marcus Rashford and Luke Shaw have been named in the England squad along with several new faces for this month's games against Germany and Lithuania.
England play a friendly against Germany on March 22 before taking on Lithuania in a World Cup qualifier on March 26, and sources had told ESPN FC that Manchester United striker Rashford would be included due to growing concerns over the fitness of Wayne Rooney and Harry Kane's absence due to damaged ankle ligaments.
He makes the cut, while United left-back Shaw is included despite having only made two appearances in 2017.
"Generally we've tried to pick players who are playing regularly for the clubs," Southgate said of Shaw's selection. "Luke is probably the exception to that. He's a player we have a lot of belief in, an important player for England for the future, and it's a good time for him to receive that confidence boost."
Defoe, 34, is a surprise addition to coach Gareth Southgate's plans, with his last international appearance having come in 2013, before he left Tottenham for a stint with MLS club Toronto FC. The Sunderland striker has scored 14 goals in 27 Premier League appearances this season and will vie with Rashford and Jamie Vardy for a place up front.
"It was important not to look at somebody's age and dismiss them from your thinking," Southgate said. "His goal scoring record generally is phenomenal, but in particular this season in a team that perhaps aren't creating as many chances as other teams. His strike-rate is outstanding. I didn't want to look at his age and think he's finished with England."
Theo Walcott, Danny Welbeck, Andy Carroll and Jack Wilshere are not included but Michail Antonio and Jake Livermore are included while James Ward-Prowse and Nathan Redmond are promoted from the under-21 side.
"We didn't want to hold them back," Southgate said. "They've been performing well in our junior age groups for a long time and we wanted to introduce them to the senior group and see how they got on."
Defoe wrote on Twitter that he felt the call-up was deserved.
"Thanks to everyone for your messages!" he wrote. "Playing for England has been my dream since day one so to be back in the squad is so special for me.
"It's also special for my family and I feel I deserve this because I've always dedicated myself to the game. I'm really looking forward to meeting up with the squad and seeing all the boys. This time around it'll be strange being one of the older lads, but I can't wait! BUZZING!"
As well as Rooney and Kane, Daniel Sturridge and Jordan Henderson miss out because of injury, Southgate confirmed.
"I've talked with Wayne and I think there's a chance he's fit for the weekend," Southgate said. "But also, the injury, coupled with the fact he's really not had a lot of game time recently, and others have in that area of the pitch, has sort of determined my decision on that one."
Southgate said the absence of big names through injury would allow others to stake their claims.
"It's always disappointing for those guys to miss out but it's an opportunity for others," he said.
The inclusion that raised the most eyebrows was that of West Brom midfielder Livermore, capped just once previously five years ago.
In 2015, the 27-year-old tested positive for cocaine and was cleared to return in September that year less than two weeks after the Football Association took the death of his newborn son as exceptional mitigating circumstances.
"The decision to call him up is positional," Southgate explained. "Without Henderson and [Danny] Drinkwater we need to find some solutions in defensive midfield players.
"He's a different sort of profile to other midfield players we might have picked. From his own journey it's an incredible story and I'm sure he's taken a lot of strength from what he's been through over the last year or so. It's great to see him now back in the fold."
With no Rooney or Henderson available, Southgate also confirmed he is yet to decide who will skipper his team.
"We've got one or two that are captaining their clubs as well and others who I think have good leadership potential," said Southgate. "I'll make a decision on the captain for the individual games next week."
Fraser Forster (Southampton), Joe Hart (Torino, on loan from Man City), Tom Heaton (Burnley); Ryan Bertrand (Southampton), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Nathaniel Clyne (Liverpool), Phil Jones (Man Utd), Michael Keane (Burnley), Luke Shaw (Man Utd), Chris Smalling (Man Utd), John Stones (Man City), Kyle Walker (Tottenham); Dele Alli (Tottenham), Michail Antonio (West Ham), Ross Barkley (Everton), Eric Dier (Tottenham), Adam Lallana (Liverpool), Jesse Lingard (Man Utd), Jake Livermore (West Brom), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Nathan Redmond (Southampton), Raheem Sterling (Man City), James Ward-Prowse (Southampton); Jermain Defoe (Sunderland), Marcus Rashford (Man Utd), Jamie Vardy (Leicester)
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