Our skip looks a good bet to make the plane after Thursday.
As OWTS contributor Jack Mainstone mentioned on our most recent podcast, he’s a very Gareth Southgate sort of player.
And that’s a compliment. Kind of.
England were excellent from set pieces in Russia three summers ago.
I can imagine Gareth, ironing that waistcoast, daydreaming of the Love Train 2.0.
Corner, England. Second-half substitute JWP to deliver. Wembley rises. The ball swings in, it’s perfect. Of course it is. Maguire is grappling! He’s free at the far post! That massive bonce. 1-0 to the Three Lions. 1000s of Saints fans across the world hit send tweet: Best set-piece in the world and he’s ours.
It’s not just the set-pieces though. JWP is solid, he’s dependable. He’s son-in-law material, as so many like to say.
And in a midfield that lacks quality options, he’s in a very strong position.
Jordan Henderson (if fit) is in. Declan Rice too. Kalvin Phillips seems to be. You’d still like at least one more.
Harry Winks or JWP?
One hasn’t completed 90 minutes in the Premier League this year.
The other literally never misses one minute.
It would be fantastic reward for Ward-Prowse, too.
This season is already the best goalscoring campaign of his career (eight so far, seven in the Premier League, one in the FA Cup).
It seems like the tournament is just coming into focus at the perfect time for him.
Twelve months ago, that was the case for Danny Ings.
Now it looks like Danny will almost certainly miss out.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin deserves it on current form.
If Danny can recover and score maybe five or six between now and the end of the season, he has a chance.
It would put him back above Ollie Watkins and Patrick Bamford.
But, with Southgate likely taking only one backup No.9, DCL looks difficult to overcome.
Harry Kane is obviously locked in. He’s world class, honestly those that criticise him absolutely baffle me.
England have one of the best pure strikers in the world. That fact alone makes us very difficult opposition this summer.
Then you add the fact he’s also the Premier League’s leading creator with 13 assists.
As Saints fans we’ve experienced his playmaking ability first-hand already this season.
So give him a chance, he’ll score. Give him the ball in the final third, he’ll create.
You surround him with Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling.
Or Jack Grealish and Phil Foden.
Or Mason Mount and Jadon Sancho.
You’re going to score goals.
It’s also the reason I don’t really buy the criticism of Southgate’s perceived ‘negativity’.
Yes, he played two defensive midfielders against 66th-ranked Albania.
But name the last time a nation swaggered to a major tournament and swashbuckled their way to glory?
International football is tight. It’s cagey. It’s Greece winning in 2004, or Portugal in 2016.
Even Germany in 2014 were pragmatic rather than expansive.
Spain, too, preferred to keep the ball and pass teams to death rather than go all-out attack from the off. They controlled the tempo.
Calling for Southgate to stick Rashford and Sterling alongside Kane, with Mount and Grealish behind, and Henderson sitting?
Nonsense. We are not going to batter teams this summer.
It’s just not a sensible approach.
2018 was so good because it was a pleasant surprise.
It would be the England of old to now buy into that hype, do something stupid, and exit with our tail between our legs.
So at this stage I’m going to trust Southgate over the Twitter critics.
His plan looks pretty simple but simple isn’t necessarily bad.
Let’s be solid in the middle with Henderson and Rice/Phillips.
Let’s not get caught on the counter-attack.
Let’s get our full-backs to attack the flanks.
And let’s get Harry Kane the ball and let him work.
I don’t hate it.