Gareth Southgate has given the England squad its biggest shake-up for years after calling up the likes of Jake Livermore, Jermain Defoe and Luke Shaw.
Southampton pair James Ward-Prowse and Nathan Redmond, both of whom have played for Southgate at Under-21 level but have yet to feature for the seniors, have also been included for the games with Germany and Lithuania.
The 26-man group also included the uncapped Michael Keane and Michail Antonio, though their inclusions are less of a shock given their stellar seasons at their respected clubs.
Marcus Rashford, Phil Jones and Ross Barkley have also earned recalls to the international stage but there is no place for skipper Wayne Rooney, who is currently recovering from a knee problem.
Injuries to Rooney, Daniel Sturridge and Harry Kane have led to Sunderland’s Defoe – last capped in November 2013 – being brought back into the fold at the age of 34 while Rashford, 15 years his junior, has also been named in Southgate’s group rather than the under-21s.
Perhaps the biggest surprise is the presence of West Brom midfielder Livermore given his sole cap came in the summer of 2012. In 2015 Livermore tested positive for cocaine and was cleared to return in September that year less than two weeks after the Football Association took the death of his newborn son as exceptional mitigating circumstances.
Meanwhile, left-back Shaw has played just twice for Manchester United since November, though an injury to Tottenham’s Danny Rose has also left Southgate short in that department.
Southgate on Defoe call-up
Southgate has turned to Defoe and he thinks the striker has a point to prove.
“Year after year he’s phenomenal, but this year in particular, in a team that aren’t creating as many chances as other teams, his strike rate is outstanding,” Southgate said of the Sunderland forward.
“I didn’t want to just look at his age and think he’s finished with England. He’s somebody that is immensely proud to have represented England at every age group. I think you get young players with a point to prove and older players with a point to prove.”
Speaking at a press conference after announcing his squad the England manager also pointed to the new names in his squad.
He said: “We are definitely nodding towards the future with some of the decisions we are making.”
Southgate on Walcott snub and Rooney absence
The England manager explained why he had not selected Rooney or turned to Arsenal’s Theo Walcott or West Ham’s Andy Carroll in his search for forward cover.
“I’ve talked with Wayne. I think there’s a chance he’s fit for the weekend but also the injury coupled with the fact he’s not really had a lot of game time recently and others have in that area of the pitch has sort of determined my decision on that one.”
Southgate added: “Theo has a really valid claim for being included. I didn’t see him featuring in the games this week and so in terms of having him in the longer squad I needed to look at one or two other players that I don’t know too much about.
“That’s a really tough call on him and one I don’t expect him to be chuffed to bits about.
“Andy I don’t think has played enough. It’s a bit like Danny Welbeck. Danny is a player I really like but at the moment is a little bit short of match minutes.”
The full England squad: Fraser Forster (Southampton), Joe Hart (Torino, on loan from Man City), Tom Heaton (Burnley); Ryan Bertrand (Southampton), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Nathaniel Clyne (Liverpool), Phil Jones (Man Utd), Michael Keane (Burnley), Luke Shaw (Man Utd), Chris Smalling (Man Utd), John Stones (Man City), Kyle Walker (Tottenham); Dele Alli (Tottenham), Michail Antonio (West Ham), Ross Barkley (Everton), Eric Dier (Tottenham), Adam Lallana (Liverpool), Jesse Lingard (Man Utd), Jake Livermore (West Brom), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Nathan Redmond (Southampton), Raheem Sterling (Man City), James Ward-Prowse (Southampton); Jermain Defoe (Sunderland), Marcus Rashford (Man Utd), Jamie Vardy (Leicester).