Tomori, Watkins and Ramsdale back in England squad for World Cup qualifiers

The Three Lions sit top of Group I ahead of games against Andorra and Hungary

Soccer Football - World Cup Qualifiers Europe - Group I - England v San Marino - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - March 25, 2021 England's Ollie Watkins celebrates scoring their fifth goal with teammates Pool via REUTERS/Adrian Dennis     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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Fikayo Tomori, Ollie Watkins and Aaron Ramsdale returned to the England squad as Harry Maguire and Trent Alexander-Arnold miss the World Cup qualifiers against Andorra and Hungary through injury.

The Three Lions sit top of Group I - after securing 16 points from six games - heading into the penultimate international camp of the year with manager Gareth Southgate naming a 23-man selection for the double-header.

AC Milan defender Tomori has been included in the squad nearly two years on from winning his first and only cap in Kosovo — the Three Lions’ final match before the pandemic led football to shut down.

Watkins returns for the first time since being cut from the provisional Euro 2020 squad, with uncapped Ramsdale back having been brought into the squad that reached the final following an injury to Dean Henderson.

Maguire and Alexander-Arnold dropped out of the group for next month’s internationals through injury while Patrick Bamford, Nick Pope and Jude Bellingham also missed out.

Phil Foden returned after missing the September triple-header through a foot complaint, but Mason Greenwood was again conspicuous by his absence.

Southgate said he had been impressed with how Tomori had adapted to life in Italy. “I thought he finished last season well,” he said. “He’s playing at a club where there’s an expectation to win every week so he’s performing under pressure.

“I like Fikayo in terms of his aggressiveness as a defender. Because he’s got speed he’s confident enough to defend on the front foot and his use of the ball is improving all the time.”

Ramsdale is another player to have taken a step up at club level following his move to Arsenal this summer.

“Aaron was with us all summer and we had the opportunity to work with him for a long time and get to understand his strengths,” Southgate said.

“Nick [Pope] is still I think coming back from injury a little bit but I think Aaron is just in a better vein of form at the moment.

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“From Aaron’s perspective, the move to a bigger club with higher expectations and a style of play where he is asked to build with his feet from the back, he’s coping really well.

“I think that’s an important factor us when looking at the biggest matches, having a goalkeeper who has really adapted well to a move and is full of confidence.”

Bellingham and Greenwood are both absent despite strong recent performances at club level, with Southgate saying the workloads of the teenagers must be carefully managed.

“They don’t come as a pair but they’re both in similar situations, they are young players with heavy workloads at the moment,” he said. “I’ve spoken to both of them. Jude at the moment is playing a high level of matches with Champions League games, league games.

“As an 18-year-old he had a full season last season and then into the Euros with no break. We have to remember these lads are still physically growing so when we talk about young player development we have to be really careful in how we handle them.

“These are two players we think can be really exciting for England’s future. We don’t want to overload them, we want to make sure we are making the right decisions with them.”

England travel to Andorra on Saturday, October 9 and host Hungary on Tuesday, October 12.

FULL SQUAD: Goalkeepers: Sam Johnstone, Jordan Pickford, Aaron Ramsdale.

Defenders: Conor Coady, Reece James, Tyrone Mings, Luke Shaw, John Stones, Fikayo Tomori, Kieran Trippier, Kyle Walker.

Midfielders: Phil Foden, Jordan Henderson, Jesse Lingard, Mason Mount, Kalvin Phillips, Declan Rice.

Forwards: Jack Grealish, Harry Kane, Bukayo Saka, Jadon Sancho, Raheem Sterling, Ollie Watkins.

Updated: September 30, 2021, 2:27 PM