UEFA have confirmed that Euro 2020 has been postponed for a year in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
And that got us thinking…
Given England are pencilled in for three group games at Wembley Stadium – plus the semi-finals and final, should they make it – the calendar reshuffle could work to their advantage.
It’s 2017. Jadon Sancho and Phil Foden, fresh from helping Manchester City reached the FA Youth Cup final, are being heralded as generational talents after guiding England to the Under-17 World Cup.
That’s where their paths diverge. While Sancho was recalled early from that tournament in India to start a new life at Borussia Dortmund, going on to become Europe’s most in-demand winger after three sensational seasons, Foden has chalked up the minutes as an occasional substitute for City.
That could be about to change. With David Silva’s contract at the Etihad expiring in June, a vacancy has appeared in midfield. Surely that would pave the way for Foden to have a regular role in Pep Guardiola's side, given his manager's proclivity for hyping up the 19-year-old's talents. Any move into the City starting XI would make an England senior cap inevitable and end the most unnecessary of waiting games.
But back to Sancho. While his progression at Dortmund has been staggering, he has so far been good – but not great – in his 11 senior caps for England. The teenager would benefit hugely from another season of club and England duty (although what the pre-Euro 2021 international schedule looks like is obviously unclear) before being unleashed in a major tournament.
Oddly, the same could be said for Trent Alexander-Arnold. Unstoppable for club; underwhelming for country. Likewise, Tammy Abraham, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and, to a lesser extent, Mason Grenwood have stepped up this season for their clubs. But can we say for definite they are ready for England duty?
And then there’s Jack Grealish, who at 24 is sadly too old to be labelled a youngster. Southgate’s reluctance to throw players into his 2018 World Cup squad at the last chance – think Sancho, Ryan Sessegnon and Leon Bailey (!) – suggests Grealish would likely need a Euros postponement to have any serious ambitions of international tournament action.
It's a monumental ask to fit in the new faces while getting the best out of the current crop. But Southgate needs as much time as possible to wed it together. Not possible by June 2020. It just might by June 2021.
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If the coronavirus hadn’t ripped through the sporting calendar, Southgate would still have had few opportunities to shuffle his goalkeeper deck ahead of Euro 2020.
Could he really have turned away from Jordan Pickford, as he did Joe Hart? Sure, he’s made a handful of huge errors for Everton, but he has proven largely dependable for England in the past, particularly in penalty shootouts. It's not time to panic yet.
But an extra 12 months would shield Southgate from making a rash decision and give him time (should there be any football to judge) to also consider Sheffield United's Dean Henderson and Burnley's Nick Pope.
Every England fan has the same nightmare: Harry Kane rushing back from injury for Euro 2020, saying he’s fine and then hobbling around not doing anything (except banging home penalties).
Kane, a definite starter if available, needs to be able to rehabilitate without the pressure from his country and an increasingly irate Jose Mourinho. He now has that opportunity.
A one-season postponement will also give Marcus Rashford and Callum Hudson-Odoi – the latter instrumental in his fleeting England appearances last season – time to recover for England duty. Meanwhile, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, another player with a decent claim for a starting spot, would have another season to regain the sharpness lost from his horror knee injury in 2018.
A waistcoat-less Gareth Southgate congratulates Harry Kane on his golden boot
Image credit: Getty Images
OUT OF FORM STARS
We’re not convinced the events are correlated, but Raheem Sterling hasn’t been the same since that infamous ‘throat grab’ of Joe Gomez in November.
The Manchester City forward headlines a long list of stars that need to rediscover their best before a major tournament gets underway; Dele Alli, James Maddison, Harry Winks and Mason Mount have all lost their way, some more than others.
And then there's John Stones, England's best ball-playing centre-back. A complete liability at his worst, a brilliant attack-launcher at his best. He has to leave City in the summer and start playing regularly again. Only then can he be trusted to play alongside Gomez, who will undoubtedly benefit from another season alongside Virgil van Dijk. Sorry, Harry Maguire.
HOW MIGHT ENGLAND LOOK AT EURO 2021?
So that’s it. You’re probably expecting us to sign off with England’s favourite three-word phrase, but we know you’re thinking about it now so there’s no need…