England called up Brentford striker Ivan Toney but kept faith with most of their World Cup quarter-finalists on Thursday as head coach Gareth Southgate named his squad for next week’s opening Euro 2024 qualifiers in Italy and at home to Ukraine.
Southgate, who considered stepping down after England’s 2-1 defeat by France at the finals in Qatar, sprung a surprise by including the in-form Toney in the 25-man squad.
Toney, who has yet to earn a senior cap, failed to make the cut for Qatar but has 16 Premier League goals this season, behind only Erling Haaland and England skipper Harry Kane.
The 27-year-old is facing FA charges after alleged breaches of betting rules.
“The fact is he (Toney) is playing for his club. There hasn’t been a trial or any judgement so I don’t know on what basis we wouldn’t pick him,” Southgate said.
“Ivan’s been consistent across the season. He’s playing really well and he deserves his opportunity.”
Southgate also recalled Chelsea defenders Ben Chilwell and Reece James after they were ruled out of the World Cup because of injury, but club team mate Raheem Sterling has been left out after struggling with a hamstring injury.
There was also no room for Arsenal defender Ben Whiteor Liverpool full back Trent Alexander-Arnold, but Manchester City full back Kyle Walker made the squad.
“Raheem’s not fit,” Southgate said. “It’s similar with Ben and Trent, really. The three boys who are in as right full backs, we’ve got them just ahead of those two. We’re blessed in that position with a depth of talent.
“Kyle and Trips (Kieran Trippier) were the ones who started the games during the World Cup, have been consistent and Reece coming back is another top player. We’d love to have that depth in every position, really.”
England face European champions Italy on Thursday and take on Ukraine at Wembley on Sunday.
England squad: Goalkeepers – Jordan Pickford, Nick Pope, Aaron Ramsdale
Defenders – Ben Chilwell, Eric Dier, Marc Guehi, Reece James, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, John Stones, Kieran Trippier, Kyle Walker
Midfielders – Jude Bellingham, Conor Gallagher, Jordan Henderson, James Maddison, Mason Mount, Kalvin Phillips, Declan Rice
Forwards – Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka, Ivan Toney