Southgate names his 26 brave English Lions

Gareth left it until the deadline to hand in his paperwork to UEFA and he didn't disappoint in some fascinating selections. The headline is, of course...Trent is in! But, not just Trent, Bukayo Saka was also a 'surprise' inclusion on Tuesday evening.

Southgate names his 26 brave English Lions

Gareth left it until the deadline to hand in his paperwork to UEFA and he didn't disappoint in some fascinating selections. The headline is, of course...Trent is in! But, not just Trent, Bukayo Saka was also a 'surprise' inclusion on Tuesday evening.

So let's go through each of our positions, starting with the keepers. After Pope's knee injury was revealed a couple of weeks back, the noise surrounding England no. 1 went silent. Joining Pickford is Dean Henderson and Sam Johnstone. I hope they're taking notes from Pepe Reina on how to fulfil the role of a backup goalkeeper at a major tournament. For what it's worth, Pickford was always my preferred option. I know he's a basket case at times and generally a little too busy. Still, the brightest moments of his career have come in an England jersey, and that was obviously not lost on Southgate, nor will it be lost on Pickford, and it daren't be forgotten by all of us next time he's between the sticks in a penalty shootout.

The big story is in defence, ten of them in all for this tournament - which is wild. Despite the number, I still have a sneaky feeling Southgate will play a back four, but that's content for another day. So, the right-back situation. Reece James' stellar performance in the Champions League final looked to have sealed Trent's fate, but Gareth gave us an insight into how he could work around having 4 world-class right-backs in a 26 man squad. In an interview in late May, the England manager discussed the prospect of Alexander-Arnold playing in midfield.

I think there is no doubt he could. Of course, the difficulty is he hasn't had the opportunity to do that since he was a younger player, and that's where he came through in Liverpool's academy.

He's a fantastic passer of the ball, and he has great passing vision. So he's a playmaker from right-back; that's kind of what he is. So why wouldn't that lend itself at some point of his career to being in midfield?

There lies the key to this whole squad really, it's the main reason I'm so excited about this team. There is so much flexibility. Just looking at the defenders, Luke Shaw, Kyle Walker, Tyrone Mings, Reece James, Conor Coady, Ben Chilwell and Kieran Trippier can all play in different defensive positions. You add Henderson and Saka, who has been included as a forward, and you have yet more players comfortable at the back.

The bloated defence means only five midfielders were included by Southgate. Somewhat worryingly, three of them have had recent injury concerns. Of those three, Declan Rice has shown his full fitness in his commanding displays at the end of the league season, and it appears Kalvin Phillips' shoulder problem, picked up in the final league game, has not caused concern with the England medical team. Mason Mount, who has established himself as a top-class player this season, is also part of the five with our very own golden boy - he's literally still a child, Jude Bellingham completes the midfield quintet. I think it goes without saying how impressive he has been in a Dortmund shirt this season. His performances in the most recent Internationals confirmed his quality for any doubters, and there are many - myself included - who think he should be a starter in that first game against Croatia in 12 days. Bellingham's inclusion further makes you wonder how different this side would look if the tournament had not been postponed by a year. There would almost certainly have been no Stones, James, Mings, Foden or Bellingham.

The attacking options really make an English fan giddy! I mean, listen to this list, Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Raheem Sterling, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka. That is a mouthwatering attacking blend of pace and skill. My brain struggles to comprehend the intricate passing triangles and incisive runs - in the English fan cycle of expectation, this is when optimism is at its peak. This team has made it impossible for me to calm down.

There was some stand out omissions. Lingard seems to be getting most of the attention from pundits, but his absence makes complete sense to me, considering the attackers listed above. The strangest element is his participation against Austria tomorrow. That's a headache waiting to happen for Southgate if he bags a couple and performs out of his skin; it seems strange that he would even risk such a thing. The reality of the situation is that even though he will send his 'final' 26 man squad to UEFA by 11 o'clock tonight, every national team has until 24 hours before their first game because of the ongoing disruptions of the coronavirus to finalise their teams. Southgate's position is compounded by United, City and Chelsea participation in European finals and their players' absence from the party. It all means he simply doesn't have enough bodies to 'safely' fulfil the upcoming friendlies. The other omission is Ollie Watkins. I feel for Ollie; he's had a tremendous first season in the league. He is a different type of striker to Calvert-Lewin and Kane, but I think players like Foden, Sterling, and Mount can provide similar qualities to him if deployed in that number 9 position.

Quick aside, I'm loving these photoshoots that were done at some point last week and released by the players after the announcement. I'm assuming all 33 members had their photos taken and not that the seven omitted were quietly ushered away after finding out they weren't making the squad. It's very easy to be cynical about modern football, but how can you look at Saka's face and not feel amazing for the kid who'll be representing England at a major tournament.

This squad is so different in many ways from teams past. For starters, 3 players play abroad, not since World Cup 2006, have England had players that played overseas. On that occasion, it was Beckham and Hargreaves. In 2018 Southgate described his squad as balanced" with a mix of "experience" and "character". Looking at this year's iteration, very different words come to mind, exciting words, words that make you think it might, just might, be coming home.

P.S. don't look too closely at Belgium, France or Portugal's squad if you want to enjoy that feeling for more than 2 mins.