Big up Jude Bellingham, selected for the senior England squad aged 17. Bellingham has settled really well at Borussia Dortmund, starting more games than most thought he would, and it was assumed he would become a full England international at some point – just not quite this soon.
— England (@England) November 10, 2020
Gareth Southgate’s ability to work with young players is one of his best qualities, but he does seem to be developing a few blind spots with regard to certain players.
Whilst the likes of Jordan Pickford, Harry Maguire and Mason Mount can seem to do no wrong (Pickford and Maguire are in terrible nick and have been for months; Mount is playing well, it should be said), it seems odd that Bellingham has been picked ahead of Ross Barkley, who is in dazzling form for Aston Villa this season. Likewise, James Maddison and Harvey Barnes can also both consider themselves unlucky to have missed out.
Or perhaps there is another way of looking at it. Perhaps we should applaud Southgate for backing Bellingham. After all, starting regularly for Dortmund is no mean feat. Isn’t this what fans want? But we’ve seen what can happen when a teenage player is selected for the highest level before he is ready. Theo Walcott springs to mind. Bellingham has plenty of time on his side; his selection feels like an unnecessary statement from the England manager: an extreme case of “If they’re good enough, they’re old enough.”
Barkley in particular will be wondering how much better he needs to play before England call on him again, not least because his club team-mate Jack Grealish is in the England set-up, and it’s clear to see that those two love playing alongside each other.