By 90Min
March 21, 2018

Last week, Gareth Southgate announced his latest England squad for the upcoming friendlies against the Netherlands and Italy. The Three Lions boss named four uncapped players and overlooked several other senior members in the 27-man squad. 

Nevertheless - like all of his recent predecessors - Southgate was accused on social media of being "spineless," an FA "yes man" and "boring".

According to some, he should have included more youth, such as Phil Foden and Jadon Sancho. Others however wanted more experience, with 34-year-old Glenn Murray frequently mentioned.

No matter who he named, though, Southgate was always going to be criticised. Despite having rallied England to World Cup qualification - something which Wales, the Netherlands and even Italy failed to do - the former Three Lions captain has become an easy target due to his pragmatic approach both on and off the pitch. 

Following the squad announcement, the Mirror's chief football writer Dunn posed the question on Sky Sports' Sunday Supplement panel: "How long ago was it that we were talking about our successful youth teams and talking about those players in them?

"Why not take a gamble in a squad of 27 and take Phil Foden, who has won the World Cup and scored two goals in the final for the U17 team, or Jadon Sancho, who is playing for Borussia Dortmund.

"There was a chance to be a bit more adventurous, rather than it feeling like a reward for just being a regular in the Premier League and being English."

The Guardian's Stuart James agreed, adding: "The worry for me is will we be sat here in a few years' time having the same conversation? We are all excited with what England U17s and U20s have done but will the pathways be there for those players to break through at the first-team level?"

Yes, both Foden and Sancho (recalled by Dortmund before the knock-out phases) were excellent for the Under-17s in their World Cup conquest. Nevertheless, 17-year-old Foden has played just 18 minutes of Premier League football this season under Pep Guardiola. 

Sancho, on the other hand, has excelled at Dortmund when afforded the opportunity to play - which has been on just six occasions. The former Manchester City youngster made three successive starts for the Bundesliga side in January, but his progress was hampered by an ankle injury which he only recently recovered from. 

Their absence from the senior squad shouldn't take away from the fact that Southgate has rewarded a number of other youngsters with senior call-ups. Bournemouth's Lewis Cook, for example, who captained the England Under-20s to a World Cup title in the summer, has been included in the squad.

Swansea's Alfie Mawson, who was part of the England Under-21 squad who lost out to Germany in the European Championship semi-final in the summer with teammates Jordan Pickford and Tammy Abraham, is also included. Mawson and Pickford are included in the current squad while Abraham featured in earlier friendlies against Brazil and Germany. 

Joe Gomez, Dominic Solanke and Ruben Loftus-Cheek have also been rewarded with senior caps. Ultimately, Southgate has proven that he is willing to include youth in his squads, despite facing heavy criticism.

Instead, it's the likes of Manchester United's Chris Smalling and Chelsea's Gary Cahill who are now missing out. Yet there are still some questionable decisions.

Joe Hart's inclusion is probably the most controversial. The 30-year-old was at fault for a number of goals at the 2016 European Championships and has barely featured for West Ham of late. Nevertheless, Southgate is showing Hart, who has made 75 appearances for his country, some mild loyalty.

There will be a maximum of three goalkeepers included in England's World Cup squad and Southgate has given the experienced Hammers keeper one last chance to prove he's deserving of a place on the plane. Hart will have no chance of getting picked, however, if he's kept on the bench for the remainder of the Premier League season. 

Danny Welbeck, on the other hand, has scored 23 goals in the 36 appearances he's made for the Three Lions and so his international goalscoring record speaks for itself, although he probably wouldn't have been included in the squad if Harry Kane weren't injured.

Is the 27-man squad boring? It's not the most exciting, but England don't have the most exciting players to choose from at this point in time. Having said that, Southgate is clearly trying to reinvigorate the national side with the integration of youth - players who have impressed in the lower ranks are being rewarded with senior call-ups.

That will take time, though, and you can't expect Southgate to lob in a load of untested youngsters, because if it all goes badly wrong - he will be the first to be blamed.

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