Gareth Southgate has explained his reasoning for omitting Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish from his latest England squad – insisting he is fighting a host of big-names for a place.
Grealish, 24, opted to represent England as far back as 2015 when he also had the choice to play for the Republic of Ireland, who he had previously represented at youth level.
But the midfielder is yet to earn a first call-up to the senior England squad and many were backing him to finally break in ahead of the September Nations League double-header away to Iceland and Denmark.
Southgate named a 24-man squad, including Manchester City’s Phil Foden and Mason Greenwood of Manchester United for the first time – with Grealish still not making the cut despite his efforts to help keep Villa in the Premier League last season.
Asked why Grealish had not done enough to earn a place in his squad, Southgate told BBC Radio 5Live: “I know at times Villa play Jack as a midfield player – that is not as I see him in the way we play.
“So with us he would be a wide player or a 10 and at the moment I think we have got players who deserve to be in just ahead of him.
“The difficulty for Jack is Mason Greenwood, Jadon Sancho, Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford. We have got incredible players in those positions, we have got competition for places.
“Those four have either been with us for a long time and been exceptional in their performances for us in terms of Marcus and Raheem, Jadon is just breaking through and I think everybody is aware of his potential and Mason Greenwood’s goalscoring record and performances with Manchester United were outstanding.”
One man who was unhappy with Grealish’s omission was a former Villa captain and England international Gabriel Agbonlahor.
“There is something that Gareth Southgate needs to tell everyone that we don’t know,” he told talkSPORT.
“There must be a bigger reason, last season he said no because he was in the Championship but he came back to the Premier League, he has had one of the best seasons of his career.
“Everyone has been raving on about him, he has got the goals and assists to prove it and back it up.
“So it is ridiculous if you think about it, I’m lost for words to be honest – it is a great squad, there are great players in the squad but, with what Jack offers you, for me he should be in every squad.”