Joe Hart and Jack Wilshere are set to be omitted from Gareth Southgate’s England squad for the Russia World Cup.
Southgate rang both players this week to inform them that, despite their experience in an England shirt, they had not made the cut and will not be included in the 23-man squad, to be revealed this afternoon.
Goalkeeper Hart, 31, who has won 75 caps, will miss out on the chance to play in his fifth successive major tournament and many expected him to be included due to the experience he could offer the squad. Wilshere, 26, was on the cusp, after returning to full fitness for Arsenal this season following so long out through injury and playing his way back into Southgate’s plans, only to withdraw from the last squad, for friendlies against Holland and Italy, with a minor knee problem.
A serious knee injury to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who was set to be included, had opened up a space for another central midfielder, but Southgate has shown he is unconvinced by the Arsenal midfielder’s ability to avoid injury.
All indications are that Ruben Loftus-Cheek, 22, who shone in the friendly with Germany back in November in an experimental England squad, had done enough to make the squad, despite missing two and a half months of the season, in which he has been on loan from Chelsea at Crystal Palace, with an ankle injury.
There have been calls for Jonjo Shelvey to be included for his performances at Newcastle United this season, but the midfielder is also set to miss out. Southgate has been unimpressed by his attitude.
Hart’s exclusion means that Burnley’s Nick Pope is expected to be brought in as England’s third goalkeeper, alongside Everton’s Jordan Pickford and Stoke City’s Jack Butland.
It could well bring to an end Hart’s England career, which has spanned the past decade. This season, after being told he was not included in Pep Guardiola’s plans at Manchester City, he has struggled to impress on loan at West Ham.
Southgate, pictured, who will discuss his squad selection at a press conference tomorrow, has been keeping his cards as close to his chest as humanly possible, instructing those closest to him to maintain the strictest secrecy. But, as always, a corner revealing the ace of hearts or seven of diamonds is flashed, as when the England boss told Hart and Wilshere they would not be included.
In an alternative move to many of his predecessors, Southgate has let the players in contention take a holiday this week. Normally they are required to stay in the country. Harry Kane, certain of a place, went to the Bahamas.
Shelvey is set to miss out, despite many calling for his inclusion after his recent form for Newcastle United. Southgate does not appreciate Shelvey’s attitude and is not prepared to risk squad unity on a player who former England manager Roy Hodgson revealed turned down the opportunity to play for Southgate’s under-21s. Shelvey, it should be said, denies this.
Yesterday, there was certainty among many in football that Loftus-Cheek had done enough to prove his fitness and convince Southgate to include him. Loftus-Cheek was phenomenal against Germany in November, only to come off injured against Brazil. He played on for Palace, only to pick up an ankle injury in December.
After a two-and-a-half month absence, Loftus-Cheek finished the season strongly, scoring once in eight games in five Crystal Palace victories as they impressively avoided relegation.
Central midfield has been one of the toughest decisions. Oxlade-Chamberlain was sure to go to Russia after transforming his career under Jurgen Klopp since his move from Arsenal in January, until the devastating knee injury in Liverpool’s Champions League match against AS Roma. But that has not opened up space for Wilshere. Fabian Delph has played his way into the squad, largely due to his versatility, proving his ability to cover effectively as a left-back for Manchester City.