Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins has earned his first call-up to Gareth Southgate’s England squad for upcoming World Cup qualifiers.
Watkins has caught Three Lions manager Southgate’s eye after his impressive form since signing for Villa.
The 25-year-old has scored 12 goals and assisted three others this season, guiding Villa to a strong season.
Southgate’s 26-man squad also sees West Brom goalkeeper Sam Johnstone earn his first call-up.
Meanwhile, Leeds midfielder Kalvin Phillips is back in, but Whites striker Patrick Bamford misses out. Newspaper reports on Wednesday claimed that the forward could make it, but Southgate has picked Watkins instead.
Elsewhere, Jesse Lingard makes a deserved return, after impressing on loan at West Ham.
Here it is… your first #ThreeLions squad of the year! 👊
— England (@England) March 18, 2021
The 28-year-old featured at the 2018 World Cup, but his chances thereafter diminished as he became frozen out at Manchester United.
As such, a spell of fine form in east London has put him firmly back on Southgate’s radar.
In defence, Manchester City centre-back John Stones will have a chance to continue his excellent season on the international stage, while Luke Shaw makes a return following his recent form for Manchester United.
Bellingham an interesting inclusion
The inclusion of Borussia Dortmund teenager Jude Bellingham is another intriguing headline from the latest squad.
The Football Association had expected regional coronavirus travel restrictions in Germany to rule him out.
Club team-mate Jadon Sancho misses out through injury, while Jack Grealish, James Maddison and Tammy Abraham are not included having been dealing with issues of their own.
After a challenging, condensed autumn period, the Three Lions return to action against San Marino next Thursday before heading to Albania and wrapping up this qualification triple header at home to Poland.
The 2018 World Cup semi-finalists are not only looking to get their road to Qatar off to a smooth start but use March’s fixtures to finetune as this is their last camp before Southgate names his Euros squad.
The 26-man England squad to face San Marino, Albania and Poland
Goalkeepers: Dean Henderson, Nick Pope, Sam Johnstone.
Defenders: Ben Chilwell, Conor Coady, Eric Dier, Reece James, Harry Maguire, Tyrone Mings, Luke Shaw, John Stones, Kieran Trippier, Kyle Walker.
Midfielders: Jude Bellingham, Phil Foden, Jesse Lingard, Mason Mount, Kalvin Phillips, Declan Rice, James Ward-Prowse.
Forwards: Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka, Raheem Sterling, Ollie Watkins.