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Ben Mountain

England call-up a ‘no brainer’ for Curtis Jones – who else deserves a first nod?

England player Curtis Jones celebrates during the UEFA Under-21 Euro 2023 final match between England and Spain.

England are missing out on a "no brainer" by not having included 23-year-old Curtis Jones in a senior squad ahead of the 2024 European Championships, according to Liverpool’s assistant manager Pep Lijnders.

Jones has notched 119 appearances for the Reds since graduating from their academy in 2018/19. But, despite his 49 England youth outings, he’s not yet been named in a senior Three Lions squad.

“It is a no brainer,” Lijnders told the Mirror. “You have eyes, no? If you are top of the league and one of the most decisive players in the team, the player who with and without the ball sets the tone and takes the initiative and always shows up [deserves a call-up].”

In recent months Gareth Southgate has reached out to a number of young debutants, handing the likes of Rico Lewis, Cole Palmer, Levi Colwill and Eddie Nketiah their first senior outings at the end of 2023.

But plenty of options remain unused. Here, we’ve picked the six players who most deserve a run-out in England colours.

1. Jarrad Branthwaite

Jarrad Branthwaite of Everton during the FA Cup Third Round Replay match against Crystal Palace at Goodison Park  (Image credit: Getty Images)

Jarrad Branthwaite has been a regular fixture for Everton this season as the Toffees battle points deductions and the drop. He has played 23 times for Sean Dyche’s men at centre-back this campaign and has a wealth of experience under his belt aged just 21.

The Young Lion made his senior domestic debut almost five years ago and has since represented Blackburn Rovers and PSV, with whom he played in the Europa League. Internationally he’s played at Under-20 and Under-21 level, being named on the bench in the Under-21 Championships final win over Spain. 

With Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United and Arsenal reportedly lurking for his signature, Branthwaite seems destined for an England career sooner rather than later. The question now is whether Southgate wants him on the plane to Germany.

2. Harvey Elliott

Harvey Elliott of Liverpool in action during the Carabao Cup Semi Final First Leg match against Fulham at Anfield  (Image credit: Getty Images)

The first of two thus far overlooked Liverpool players on this list, Harvey Elliott has played 28 games for the Reds already this season, including six times in the Europa League.

He continues to feature most often as a substitute in the league but has been a consistent part of Jürgen Klopp’s side for the past two seasons. In summer he helped England win the Under-21 European Championships when he replaced Palmer in the 82nd-minute, and has netted six goals from 18 appearances at that level.

3. Morgan Gibbs-White

Morgan Gibbs-White of Nottingham Forest walks out of the tunnel prior to the FA Cup Third Round match against Blackpool at City Ground (Image credit: Getty Images)

Morgan Gibbs-White is attracting attention as one of Nottingham Forest’s marquee players. Many Forest fans consider him their greatest asset in the fight against relegation and, having been signed for a fee that could rise to £42m, the club hierarchy clearly agree.

Gibbs-White has a long career behind him at 23 and is another – like Nketiah for so long – who seems to have amassed too much Under-21 experience without making the step up.

Speaking at the start of the season he said: “Any kid's dream growing up is to play for their nation. That's still on my dream list.”

4. Anthony Gordon

Anthony Gordon poses with the Player of the Match award after the UEFA Under-21 Euro 2023 Quarter Final match between England and Portugal (Image credit: Getty Images)

Anthony Gordon is undoubtedly one of the stars of England’s Under-21s squad and has now found his feet at Newcastle United.

Having started represented the Young Lions at Under-18s, he netted twice in the Under-21 European Championships and was named Player of the Tournament.

At 22 he has played 124 senior matches and at the end of last year Southgate said: “He is a good player. He was very good with our Under-21s last year. He is very close, I have to say.” The manager might want to act fast, with Scotland reportedly working to claim Gordon’s allegiance.

5. Curtis Jones

Curtis Jones of Liverpool warms up prior to the Carabao Cup Semi Final First Leg match against Fulham at Anfield (Image credit: Getty Images)

Jones has been one of the most significant players in Liverpool’s title bid this season. With four goals and three assists from 22 outings, Klopp’s assistant Lijnders was right to call him “one of the most decisive players in the team.”

Jones is another who seems certain to represent the Three Lions sometime soon, but with Nigerian heritage, the 22-year-old has another option should Southgate drag his feet. Would he boost England’s chances in summer? Many would think so.

6. Michael Olise

Michael Olise looks on before the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Brentford (Image credit: Getty Images)

Michael Olise presents Southgate with a challenge. Unlike some on this list he has extensive experience in another country’s youth setup: France. The Crystal Palace winger has played nine times across the Under-21s and Under-18s, and not once for England.

But without a senior call-up Olise is free to pick from the Three Lions, France, Algeria or Nigeria. Having been born and raised in England and spent his career there so far, it’s not too far a stretch to suggest the premise of a Euros appearance would be enough to sway his decision – it may just be a question of which country offers it first.

His manager, former Three Lions boss Roy Hodgson, made clear that the 22-year-old’s has not yet decided, saying: “I think he's got an international career in front of him but it'll be up to him which country he wants to play for.” 

Southgate should be conscious of another talented Palace figure once on the fringes of the England setup: Wilfried Zaha. Having only featured in two friendlies under Hodgson Zaha was able to switch to the Ivory Coast in 2016, three years after his last England appearance.

What’s more, Olise’s younger brother, Richard, is an England Under-18, so the family allegiance may not run deep.

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