MANCHESTER, England (AP) — James Maddison was a surprising inclusion for England when coach Gareth Southgate named his 26-man World Cup squad on Thursday.
The Leicester playmaker has made just one appearance for his country, coming on as a substitute in a European Championship qualifier against Montenegro in 2019. But he has been rewarded for his good form for Leicester this season, scoring six goals and providing four assists.
Still, Maddison was seen as having an outside chance to make the squad after being repeatedly overlooked by Southgate and waking up on Thursday morning to widespread speculation he was missing.
This prompted Southgate to personally call the player to allay his concerns.
“I spoke to James because this morning there was a lot of speculation that James wouldn’t be with us,” Southgate said. “We decided a few weeks ago that he would. We weren’t going to go tell him then.
“He is playing really well. He’s a good player. We always said he was a good player. He won the right. We think he can give us something a little different from the other attacking players we have.
Southgate have also included Kyle Walker, although the Manchester City defender underwent groin surgery last month, while team-mate Kalvin Phillips was chosen after shoulder surgery in September.
Phillips played for the first time since that operation as a substitute in City’s League Cup game against Chelsea on Wednesday.
While Southgate was willing to take a risk on this pair, he explained his reasons for leaving out Chelsea right-back Reece James who is recovering from a knee injury.
“He was not going to be available, if everything went perfectly, until the later stages of the tournament,” he said. “There are too many unknowns for us on this road to recover from. Also I don’t think we can take a player who is not available for the group. I think that would be considered arrogant in some circles.
Southgate have chosen Arsenal defender Ben White in James’ absence, while Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford has also been recalled after being dropped by England last season.
Newcastle striker Callum Wilson has also been included, as well as Chelsea midfielder Conor Gallagher.
Southgate have relied on the bulk of the squad that led England to the Euro final last year, with 19 of those players involved this time around.
Harry Maguire enjoyed his manager’s loyalty, although he was let go by United manager Erik ten Hag and came under heavy criticism from supporters at club and country.
“He’s one of our best centre-backs,” Southgate said. “We picked our most experienced defenders and we think at the moment the younger ones have very good qualities, but we don’t think they’ve done enough to take out the more experienced ones.”
Goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford (Everton), Nick Pope (Newcastle), Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal)
Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Conor Coady (Everton), Eric Dier (Tottenham), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), John Stones (Manchester City), Kieran Trippier (Newcastle), Kyle Walker (Manchester City), Ben White (Arsenal)
Midfielders: Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund), Conor Gallagher (Chelsea), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Mason Mount (Chelsea), Kalvin Phillips (Manchester City), Declan Rice (West Ham)
Forwards: Phil Foden (Manchester City), Jack Grealish (Manchester City), Harry Kane (Tottenham), James Maddison (Leicester), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Raheem Sterling (Chelsea), Callum Wilson ( Newcastle)
AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
James Robson is on https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson