Born in the south east of Ireland, Simon put his life-long love of football to good use when he started a successful independent blog in 2010. That opened up an alternative route to a career in journalism, and having had work published across a number of sites and publications, Simon joined the staff at Spotlight Sports Group in 2018.
One of the most fascinating parts of international football is watching an uncapped player pull on his country’s colours at senior level for the first time.
Whether it’s a promising up and comer or a battle-hardened late bloomer forcing his way into the reckoning, a new face lining up for his country sends ripples of excitement around the stadium.
In the coming days, Gareth Southgate will finalise his England squad for the Three Lions’ European Championship Qualification Group A matches against Bulgaria and Kosovo – and there are certain to be plenty of in-form Premier League players who feel that a call-up is imminent.
Here’s our rundown of some of the most exciting players hoping to win their first caps for England next month:
Remember – we’ll be covering England’s Euro 2020 qualifiers and all of the other international fixtures in detail over in our match preview section.
Ashley Barnes – Burnley
Burnley’s rough and ready centre-forward Ashley Barnes might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the heavy-shouldered striker is undeniably effective.
Remarkably, only Man City’s Sergio Aguero (16) and Liverpool’s Sadio Mane (15) have scored more Premier League goals than Barnes (13) in 2019, and the former Brighton star has started the new campaign in explosive fashion, hitting the net 4 times inside the Clarets opening 3 matches.
At 29, the uncapped Ashley Barnes would be something of a wildcard selection should Southgate decide to draft him into his international set-up, though the England manager will find the attacker’s current form difficult to ignore.
Tammy Abraham – Chelsea
Tammy Abraham’s two-goal, match-winning performance for Chelsea against Norwich at Carrow Road last Saturday felt like a career-defining moment for the 21-year old striker.
Although the Chelsea youth product has been both consistent and prolific in the Championship and with England’s U21s over the last couple of seasons, there were doubts in some quarters about his ability to replicate his goal-scoring feats at the highest level.
However, after successfully leading the line for Chelsea in all three of their Premier League games so far in 2019/20, Abraham’s all-round performances were finally rewarded with goals he has deserved against Norwich.
Abraham’s stunning second-half individual effort against the Canaries in particular is sure to have caught Southgate’s eye.
Read more about Tammy Abraham in our article detailing the 5 things we learned from game week 3 of the Premier League here.
Dwight McNeil – Burnley
One of Ashley Barnes’ Burnley teammates, Dwight McNeil, is also certain be on Gareth Southgate’s England radar.
The former Man Utd academy starlet has been steadily building his reputation over the last year, establishing himself as a regular in the Clarets’ first team and featuring regularly for England’s U20s.
McNeil trained with England’s senior players as recently as May, and the 19-year old’s creative displays down Burnley’s left-hand side could make him an interesting option for Southgate, who is short on natural options for that flank.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka – Manchester United
Man Utd’s £50m summer signing from Crystal Palace, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, has suddenly become one of the most high-profile defenders in the Premier League, though the 21-year old has yet to feature in a senior England squad.
With players like Kyle Walker, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Kieran Tripper already at his disposal, Gareth Southgate is spoiled for choice with options for the right-back and right-wing back roles in his team.
Wan-Bissaka’s early performances for his new club have been promising however, and the 3-times capped U21 international’s promotion to the England senior ranks feels inevitable.
The no-nonsense fullback has averaged a shin-pad splintering 5.3 tackles per Premier League appearances this season – only Leicester pair Ricardo Pereira (5.7) and Wilfried Ndidi (5.5) have averaged more.
Mason Mount – Chelsea
20-year old Chelsea schemer Mason Mount was called up by Gareth Southgate a little over year ago for England’s Nations League fixtures against Croatia and Spain, and even though he didn’t feature in either game, his inclusion then suggested that his pathway to senior involvement has already been laid out.
Mount has been an ever-present in Frank Lampard’s new-look Chelsea team this season, starting all three of the Blues’ Premier League fixtures and notching his first two goals for the club in the process.
The Portsmouth-born attacking midfielder’s versatility is likely to appeal to Southgate, as is Mount’s almost continental style technique and ball control. The youngster has represented his country from U16 right through to U21 level, and he is almost guaranteed to be a fixture for the senior team over the next decade.
James Maddison – Leicester City
Like Mason Mount, Leicester City’s James Maddison was brought into the England senior squad for the first time in October last year for the Three Lions’ matches against Croatia and Spain, but again like Mount, Maddison didn’t make it on to the pitch in either game.
Last season, Maddison was statistically one of the most creative players in the Premier League – in fact his key pass per game average of 2.8 was the highest in the division, leaving players like Eden Hazard, David Silva and Christian Eriksen in his wake.
So far in 2019/20, Maddison’s key pass average stands at a slightly less impressive 2.3 per game, though the 22-year old already provided 2 assists for his teammates – the second of which was a show stopping, defence-splitting pass that allowed Jamie Vardy to score against Sheffield United.
Maddison featured in our Premier League Team for game week 3 – click the link to see who else made our XI!
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