It has been 83 long years since a Brentford player last won a senior England cap. There are precious few Bees fans still with us who will have been alive when Les Smith made a substitute appearance against Romania on May 24 1939, less than four months before the outbreak of World War Two. Even fewer, if any, will remember the occasion.
“But that near century-long wait is likely to soon come to an end.
“It is a more than justified inclusion for 26-year-old striker Toney, who was playing in League One just four seasons ago. Before his move from Peterborough to west London, he made it abundantly clear that he was so confident in his ability that he could step up to the Premier League. The claim was scoffed at by many.
“In 2021/22 – the Bees’ first top-flight season since 1946/47 – he led the line admirably, with 17 goal involvements in 33 league appearances and he has started this campaign with an added spring in his step, with five goals from just six shots on target – including a superb hat-trick in a 5-2 win over Leeds – and another two assists.
“He is not afraid to get stuck in elsewhere on the pitch, which often goes unnoticed. He is often a key presence when Brentford defend set-pieces, has won 20 aerial challenges so far and attempted six crosses. There is a certain selflessness to his game
With Harry Maguire in the mire (he hasn’t started a Premier League game for a month and is seemingly bereft of confidence) Southgate has a problem in defence.
“John Stones and Kyle Walker are both struggling with minor injuries, and so will need to be assessed before any England call-up. If included, their game-time may have to be measured.
“All of that plays into Dier’s hands. His consistently impressive performances for Spurs – towards the end of last season and at the start of this – mean he is arguably England’s most in-form centre-back right now. He was before the last squad selection too, back in May, when Southgate admitted he was close to a recall.
“But the England boss also pointed out that Dier is used in a fairly specialist position by Antonio Conte – the middle of a back three – and that England will often switch between that formation and a back four.”
Toney, Dier in; Sancho out
Brentford’s Ivan Toney has been handed his first England call-up by Gareth Southgate ahead of the Nations League clashes with Italy and Germany later this month.
With doubts over Marcus Rashford‘s fitness, Southgate has moved to include Toney.
Along with Rashford, there is no place in the squad for Jadon Sancho, despite his impressive start to the season under Erik ten Hag.
The 22-year-old has scored twice in six Premier League appearances this term, but last featured on the international stage when he played 72 minutes of England 5-0 World Cup qualifying win over Andorra on October 9 2021.
Meanwhile, Tottenham’s Eric Dier, who has not earned an international cap since November 2020, has been recalled to the squad to bolster Southgate’s defensive options
Southgate’s England squad in full…
Goalkeepers: Dean Henderson, Nick Pope, Aaron Ramsdale.
Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ben Chilwell, Conor Coady, Eric Dier, Marc Guehi, Reece James, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, John Stones, Fikayo Tomori, Kieran Trippier, Kyle Walker.