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My England team to start Euro 2024 – Gallagher in midfield and no Grealish

i's Oliver Young-Myles picks Gareth Southgate's starting XI

England have come close to ending their decades-long attempt to win a major trophy in their last three tournaments only for a predatory Mario Mandzukic finish, a penalty shootout loss at Wembley and a wayward Harry Kane penalty to crush their dreams. Maybe those negative experiences can fuel something more positive at Euro 2024.

The Three Lions’ uncharacteristically strong performances in competitions and the emergence of numerous technically proficient young players has naturally raised expectations among supporters.

Fairly or unfairly, Gareth Southgate‘s entire reign may be defined by what happens in Germany next summer in potentially his final tournament: winning it would be a vindication of a process that began in 2017; not winning it would be viewed by many as a failure.

The idea that Southgate had one of the best squads at the 2022 World Cup was possibly overstated, but that is less the case at the Euros where arguably only France can boast a deeper talent pool to pick from.

Here i assesses how England could line up for their opening game next June:


Barring a serious injury or a truly calamitous loss of form, Jordan Pickford will be England’s starting goalkeeper for the fourth tournament in a row. Mikel Arteta’s ruthless decision to jettison Aaron Ramsdale from his Arsenal team means that Pickford’s main rival isn’t playing regularly enough to justify usurping him.

Pickford’s form on the big stage has been excellent in any case. He has kept nine clean sheets in 19 games across three international competitions, including five consecutive shutouts at Euro 2020 from the start of the group stage right the way through to the semi-final.

If Pickford is unavailable for any reason, Crystal Palace’s Sam Johnstone appears to be next in line following an eye-catching start to the season, which has seen him record the joint-most clean sheets (with five). He is joined at the top of those charts by Nick Pope, who seems to be out of the picture having not been called up since March.

Back four

In the weeks and months ahead of the Euros there will inevitably be plenty of discussion over which of Reece James or Trent Alexander-Arnold has the strongest claim to the right-back position… only for Kyle Walker to start the first game anyway.

James vs Alexander-Arnold may have replaced Frank Lampard vs Steven Gerrard as English football’s most tedious debate, but it probably won’t be until the 2026 World Cup that either is able to displace Walker. If England continue to play with a back four, which seems likely, Walker’s defensive qualities and recovery pace are essential for it to work.

Southgate must wish he had such depth at left-back. There were no specialists picked in Southgate’s most recent squad with both Luke Shaw and Ben Chilwell sidelined due to injury. Shaw has been Southgate’s go-to guy in the last two tournaments, though and assuming he is able to overcome his injury issues, it’s his position to lose.

England???s Kyle Walker applauds the fans following the international friendly match at Hampden Park, Glasgow. Picture date: Tuesday September 12, 2023. PA Photo. See PA story SOCCER Scotland. Photo credit should read: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only, no commercial use without prior consent from rights holder.
Kyle Walker remains an integral player for England (Photo: PA)

The centre-backs pick themselves, fitness permitting. Even before Harry Maguire re-established himself as a regular for Manchester United he was starting for England, much to the chagrin of his haters. There is far less noise over his inclusion now.

He will be joined by John Stones, so long as his troublesome hip injury does not worsen in the coming months. If Stones is unavailable Marc Guehi looks to be next in line given he is inexplicably the next most capped – with seven – of England’s current options, but Southgate could be better served by turning to another Cobham graduate Levi Colwill instead.

Most top-half Premier League clubs now use a left-footed centre-back as it helps their teams build play from the back more naturally by opening up passing lanes that may be awkward for a right footer. As England’s most promising left-sided centre-back, Colwill would be the logical replacement for Stones.


Perhaps only Pickford and Harry Kane are more assured of their starting spots than Declan Rice, who has made the defensive midfield position his own since debuting in 2019. Rice is playing in a slightly more advanced position for Arsenal – he is averaging 3.3 tackles and interceptions per game compared to 3.8 for West Ham last season – but with a lack of viable alternatives he simply has to start as the defensive screener.

The crowd will want Jude Bellingham and James Maddison to join him in a midfield power three, but exciting as that sounds it might be a touch too adventurous against elite opposition.

Bellingham’s transformation from Borussia Dortmund all-rounder to Real Madrid match-winner means he simply has to be in the team, preferably as high up the pitch as possible. A return of 10 La Liga goals in his first 10 La Liga games was just two short of his total across three Bundesliga campaigns. In case you didn’t already know, the boy is a bit special.

If Rice is required to sit and Bellingham given freedom to roam, England need their third midfielder to provide both energy and bite for balance. It may be a slightly leftfield pick, but Conor Gallagher ticks both boxes and is appreciated by Southgate who selected him for the World Cup when he was struggling for regular football at Chelsea.

At one point during the summer, Gallagher looked like becoming another expendable academy graduate at Chelsea, but instead he stuck around to become integral to the Mauricio Pochettino revolution.

Gallagher ranks third in the Premier League for combined tackles and interceptions this season, and currently leads the chance creation charts at Chelsea.

Front three

This is where it gets tricky so let’s start with the easy bit. England’s all-time record goalscorer is making himself right at home in Germany ahead of the tournament in his adopted nation.

Kane leads the Bundesliga’s goalscoring charts with 17 goals in his first 11 league matches – which includes three hat-tricks – a feat that no player in the competition’s history has matched. Meanwhile, only two players in the league have registered more assists than his five too. German tabloid Bild have taken to calling him “King Kane”. He’ll want to add some gold to his collection next July.

My England team to start Euro 2024

Bukayo Saka has ousted Raheem Sterling as the winger most likely to join Kane on the right. The 22-year-old has an excellent record for his country, scoring 11 goals in only 30 appearances and back-to-back England Player of the Year awards are a testament to his consistently excellent form on the international stage.

The left side is trickier to predict. Southgate has the luxury of choosing players with very different qualities: Jack Grealish offers control, Marcus Rashford provides explosiveness, and Phil Foden supplies flair and natural width. Of that trio, Foden is currently in the best form and he will be keen to showcase his qualities on the big stage after a subdued start to his international career.

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