England Euro 2024 squad: Our writers’ picks – Mainoo vs Henderson, no place for Rashford

Estimated read time 9 min read

Marcus Rashford is nowhere to be seen. Kobbie Mainoo appears to have sat in Jordan Henderson’s seat. Ross Barkley and Cole Palmer are waiting to get through passport control.

One thing’s for sure — competition for a place on England’s plane to Euro 2024 is fierce.

Unlike at the European Championship in 2021 and the World Cup in 2022, when managers could call up 26 players for their squads, it is back to 23 for this summer’s tournament.

With that in mind, six of our writers have channelled their inner Gareth Southgate for a fun exercise and picked the 23 players they would take to Germany if the squads had to be chosen now…

Jack Pitt-Brooke’s England squad for Euro 2024

The 23-player restriction makes this harder than the 26 allowed in Qatar in 2022, which means some good players have to miss out. The most obviously at-risk big names are Rashford, who has not looked himself for Manchester United, Jack Grealish, in and out and Manchester City, and Mason Mount, who only has 400 Premier League minutes for United this season and has not played for England since Qatar.

Mount could miss out in the summer (Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images)

In times gone by, out-of-form big names might have stayed in the squad, but England have so much quality coming through in attacking positions that Southgate can afford to be ruthless and pick on club form. Raheem Sterling has already found this to his cost, having not featured for England since the last World Cup despite being one of Southgate’s most important players up to then.

I have kept Grealish in and dropped Rashford, although it could be a tight call influenced by the last few weeks of the season. If Anthony Gordon and Jarrod Bowen finish the season well, Rashford and Grealish could miss out.


Elsewhere, I have Cole Palmer over Mount, Henderson narrowly over Kalvin Phillips and Mainoo, and Eberechi Eze over Curtis Jones. I went for Marc Guehi over Jarrad Branthwaite, assuming Guehi recovers from his injury. These are all tight calls and I appreciate readers may feel differently.

Jacob Whitehead’s England squad for Euro 2024

Newcastle’s form without Nick Pope shows he is one of England’s best three goalkeepers — he joins Aaron Ramsdale and first-choice Jordan Pickford when fit.

England’s experienced full-backs still have one more tournament in them, with Trent Alexander-Arnold covering both right-back and central midfield. This squad should have the players to swap between a back four and a back five, which is partially why Chelsea’s Levi Colwill gets the nod over Guehi, Fikayo Tomori and Lewis Dunk. Branthwaite is the real wildcard, but the form he has shown this season, with his mobility and left-footed distribution, indicates he could be John Stones’ long-term partner.

Jarrad Branthwaite, Everton

Branthwaite is uncapped at senior level (Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Midfield is where there has been the most evolution from previous tournaments. Declan Rice, Jude Bellingham and Conor Gallagher are all certainties, but Henderson and Phillips have shown nowhere near enough this season. When fit, Jones has been excellent for Liverpool and offers versatility across the midfield three — while, with limited options in this area, there is no downside to giving Mainoo major tournament exposure.

There is no space for Rashford. The Manchester United player can cover at centre-forward and out wide, but I prefer the in-form and defensively excellent Gordon as a left-wing option, while Ollie Watkins’ goalscoring form through the middle is impossible to ignore. He also offers a lot without the ball but, that said, a late-season burst of form from Rashford or Ivan Toney could see them take the spot as Harry Kane’s understudy.

Carl Anka’s England squad for Euro 2024

England reaching the final of the last European Championship owed a debt to Southgate’s reasoning that clean sheets, set-piece goals and solidity in the middle of the pitch got you to the promised land. He came up short against Italy and then against France at the World Cup as England lacked a little attacking finesse.

The talent pool has reached a critical mass. We can move on from the ‘sufferball’ style of football that has won France and Portugal trophies but, to do so, a handful of previously valued figures might have to be left at home. Henderson, Phillips, Rashford and Mount do not make my 23.

The third man in England’s midfield will be Alexander-Arnold in games where England are expected to dominate possession. Mainoo will duel with Joe Willock for a place in this squad between now and the end of the season.

The form of Mainoo, 18, is attracting Southgate’s attention (Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images)

Left-back is a problem area, with Luke Shaw and Ben Chilwell dealing with injuries and Kieran Trippier looking a little leggy. Colwill gets the nod as the starting left-sided defender and will be asked to form a back three with Harry Maguire and Kyle Walker while Stones pushes up to form a box midfield next to Rice.

My starting XI for England vs Serbia in the first group game would be: Pickford; Walker, Stones, Maguire, Colwill; Alexander-Arnold, Rice, Bellingham; Saka, Kane, Foden.

Gordon, Grealish and Maddison would be my trio of attacking substitutions if England needed a goal in the second half. Jones or Gallagher will be needed, too, in case matches get scrappy.

Daniel Taylor’s England squad for Euro 2024

There’s no place in my squad for Rashford and it doesn’t surprise me that others see him as vulnerable, too. That was a helluva goal at the weekend against Manchester City, but his overall form has been disappointing and there is reasonable evidence to show Gordon is a better pick for what is, ultimately, only a backup role.

Gordon has scored nine Premier League goals this season (Andy Buchanan/AFP via Getty Images)

Grealish is excluded for the same reasons and perhaps it is time to accept that England can get by without Maguire and Phillips. Yes, we know they are Southgate favourites, but so was Sterling at one time. In a brave new world, there is still a decent amount of tournament experience in this squad without reverting to the old faithfuls.

So, one obvious question: why include Henderson? Well, I can’t pretend it was an easy decision — and I reserve the right to change my mind at any time — but the squad needs a backup No 6. Henderson is a great talker (don’t scoff, this is more important than many people realise) and there might be times, as a substitute, when his game management can be handy.


The best XI, however, is another matter. Pickford is an automatic starter and the same could easily apply to Walker, Stones and Shaw in defence. Rice is another mandatory pick, with Phil Foden, Bellingham and Bukayo Saka operating behind Kane. That’s nine out of the 11 places and, on that basis, selecting this squad is largely about choosing the right backup players to go behind the main guys.

Simon Hughes’ England squad for Euro 2024

Sorry, Marcus, you’re out of my squad as well despite the temptation to push against the grain and make you captain, penalty-taker and free-kick extraordinaire.

The same goes for Grealish, a player I like. Gordon gets the nod because his pace and natural enthusiasm would help England late on in matches.

I like Mount as well, but he should not have signed for Manchester United. Instead, we have Jones, who has been Liverpool’s most consistent midfielder when available this season.

Tactically, he is ready for international football and given his achievements with the under-21s last summer, he deserves the chance to step up.

When fit, Jones has been Liverpool’s most consistent midfielder (John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

The other notable absentee is Maguire. The moment to say goodbye is now. He has been better for United recently, but it’s not enough. Colwill, this is your time.

A wildcard would be Trevoh Chalobah, but he needs to play more often for Chelsea first.

Caoimhe O’Neill’s England squad for Euro 2024

Last weekend, I watched Ross Barkley do a Maradona turn through Aston Villa’s midfield. I’m telling you all, he’s ready.

Barkley, now 30, is playing arguably the best football of his career. The key to that has been a club like Luton, a manager like Rob Edwards, and a playing style that allows him to take up a deep-lying playmaker role. His control of the ball — and, at times, games — has been a thrill to watch. His passing range and forward bursts have been fundamental to everything good about Luton. He has stood against some of the league’s best midfielders and could against the best in Europe, too.

Watkins was another player who was all systems go during that game at Kenilworth Road. He has that finesse finish on lock and could cook up a storm in Germany. I’ve given Bowen a place, too, because off the bench he can, like Watkins, change games. The same goes for Gordon.

Without Jones playing with the conviction and consistency he has, Liverpool would not be where they are, so he has been selected along with Palmer and Eze.


Tomori has won five caps for England (Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images)

Defensively, I couldn’t choose between Colwill, Branthwaite and Tomori, so I picked them all. That might leave the team a little light on natural left-backs, but Trippier has England covered and Colwill can play there if needed.

As for the players I’ve left out, I’m sorry, there are only so many seats.

(Top photos: Getty Images)

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