Waistcoat on. Here is my England team to start against Croatia in their opening Euro 2020 group match on 13 June.
(I’m going with a 4-2-3-1 formation – yes, the double pivot! – and assuming all players are fit going into the tournament.
GK: Dean Henderson
I think Henderson is better than Jordan Pickford and Nick Pope. Pickford’s temperament and decision-making concerns me, although I admit he had been in good form until his recent injury, whilst Pope’s nervous distribution is not suited to a big tournament.
RB: Reece James
James edges out Kieran Trippier, who has been excellent for Atletico Madrid this season. Every time I see the Chelsea man, his maturity impresses me. He’s fast, strong and offers a lot in defence and attack. It seems crazy to overlook Trent Alexander-Arnold, but you have to select on form, and TAA has had an up-and-down season marked by several lapses in concentration.
CB: Harry Maguire
Maguire is England’s best central defender. I’m okay with that, whilst acknowledging that centre-back is not a strong position for England. The Man Utd skipper is not the donkey many portray him to be, though, and he has shown he can perform well at a major finals. He also offers a lot from attacking set pieces.
CB: John Stones
Defensive gaffe against Poland aside, Stones has really found his feet again this season. The fact he is an old mate of Maguire’s helps too.
LB: Luke Shaw
Shaw has been a revelation for Man Utd in 2020/21, and he deserves to get the nod ahead of Ben Chilwell (who is an excellent back-up). He makes playing full-back look so easy.
Holding MF: Declan Rice
Rice will be England’s next regular captain. He’s been man of the match in two of England’s three World Cup qualifiers, and has hardly put a foot wrong in 2021. His decision-making is greatly improved and his technique is very underrated. To use a cliche, he does the simple things well.
Holding MF: Jordan Henderson (captain)
Bags of experience, knows what it’s like to lift major trophies. This could be his England swansong, with the likes of Kalvin Phillips and Jude Bellingham waiting in the wings, but he’s still got much to offer. I would also give him the captain’s armband.
Attacking MF (left side): Raheem Sterling
At just 26, Sterling is one of England’s wise heads now. His finishing is still a frustrating weakness but he causes so much havoc when he runs at defenders, that he can always create a chance or win you a penalty out of thin air.
Attacking MF (central): Mason Mount
Declan Rice’s best mate has to start (as with Stones and Maguire, don’t underestimate the benefits of mates playing together, even at the highest level). His form this season is unimpeachable, and he must be a dream to manage.
Attacking MF (right side): Phil Foden
As with Sterling and Mount, Foden’s instinct is to attack defenders at pace. The Man City youngster is not the finished article, we know that, but his talent takes your breath away at times, and his confidence seems to be bulletproof.
CF: Harry Kane
An easy choice. Kane looks lean and hungry and will be looking to win his second golden boot in as many major tournaments. He is still a brilliant classical centre-forward, but these days he also likes to drop deep and bring overlapping team-mates into the attack.
No Grealish, no Alexander-Arnold, no Rashford, no Sancho. So is this a slightly pragmatic selection? Yes. Pragmatism wins tournaments. But it’s hardly a dour team. There’s lots of creativity in there.