The world of social media went into meltdown last night as news broke that England had called up Jack Cork to replace Harry Winks.
Spare a though for Gareth Southgate, who has seen preparations for friendlies against Germany and Brazil descend into chaos with six players withdrawing from the squad.
Raheem Sterling, Jordan Henderson and Fabian Delph have joined Harry Kane, Harry Winks and Dele Alli in withdrawing from the original 25-man squad.
The England boss has enlisted the help of Burnley’s Jack Cork to join Jake Livermore, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Eric Dier, Jesse Lingard and Ashley Young.
Who could he have selected instead?
1. Tom Davies
Tom Davies has been somewhat of a revelation for Everton since his introduction into the first team by Ronald Koeman last season. Still only 19 years of age, the midfielder has shown impressive calm and composure in the opportunities he has been given.
Davies has been in and out of the side under Koeman, but that may be down simply to protecting the teenager, and he responded well to it. “It’s part of football, isn’t it?” he said last month. “I didn’t expect my career to be all flowers and roses. This is just another part of my development really, a good challenge.”
If he keeps going at his current trajectory, it is almost certainly a case of when rather than if the England U21 international makes the step up, and perhaps he can count himself unlucky this time around.
2. Jonjo Shelvey
Jonjo Shelvey is not quite as young as the aforementioned candidate, but has put in consistently impressive performances for Newcastle. The 25-year-old may not have managed a goal or assist so far this season for Rafa Benitez’ side, but his role and importance to the team cannot be understated.
Even Fabrice Muamba took to social media to voice his displeasure that Shelvey had been overlooked once again. It appears the 25-year-old will just have to keep plugging away if he is to crowbar his way into Southgate’s 2018 World Cup squad.
3. Lewis Cook
Lewis Cook experienced his first taste of football at Wembley as Spurs beat Bournemouth 1-0 last month, but it will almost certainly not be his last. He told the Daily Echo: “It was a great atmosphere and a dream come true to play there.”
The 20-year-old joined the Cherries from Championship outfit Leeds United for a fee of £7million, but even before his move to the top flight there were whispers from Elland Road of a possible international future. Cook even captained the England U20 World Cup winning side earlier in the year, the Three Lions’ first global tournament success since 1966.
4. Jack Wilshere
It’s fair to say that Cork’s selection raised a few eyebrows among Arsenal fans, who wish to see Jack Wilshere return to the squad. Even Arsene Wenger joined the growing number of voices calling for Southgate to call up the Gunners’ midfielder.
In fairness to Southgate, he has stuck to his guns in selecting only players playing regular first team minutes, but then you have players included like Jesse Lingard, who has amassed just 228 minutes of Premier League action (compared to Jack Cork’s 990).
Wenger claims Wilshere is as fit as anyone in his squad, but while he is only being used in the Europa League “back-up” squad, is he selectable? The answer for now appears to be no…
5. Tom Cleverley
Before you start laughing, it is worth noting that Tom Cleverley is officially on stand-by should Southgate have to suffer the pain of yet another drop-out.
Watford boss Marco Silva weighed in on Cleverley missing out on the England squad again: “I’ve seen him this week and I’m sure he won’t change. He’s a fantastic professional and a fantastic man. He’ll fight for his position in our team and to do his best for us, and after that it’s a decision for the England manager.”
He may be 28, but there is a growing crowd of people asking for the former Manchester United and Everton man to be given a shot. Most of them may be Watford fans, but still.
Perhaps just don’t have him on penalties though…