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England must be bold to defy horrific history at European Championships

Gareth Southgate's men have nothing to lose this summer

England manager Gareth Southgate
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There's so little to argue about in the England squad for Euro 2020 that Three Lions fans have seemingly been reduced to criticising the wealth of top-quality options at right-back.

Relax - Gareth Southgate has got four in the squad. That doesn't mean he is going to name all four in the team, and even if he did we'd be supremely prepared if Croatia opted to field three left-wingers in the opener on June 13. I can't imagine what the astonished masses are going to do when they discover that the squad also contains three goalkeepers.

I have few complaints with the squad named. Ollie Watkins can probably count himself most unlucky to miss out, but the formation is likely to require only one central striker so Harry Kane and Dominic Calvert-Lewin have got that covered, with Marcus Rashford another alternative (and all kinds of false-nine options if Gareth has been watching too much tape of Pep Guardiola's greatest brainwaves).

On paper it's all good. What's not so good is the horribly short price available on an England triumph in what looks likely to be a wide-open event - the market has eight teams at 14-1 and shorter and a huge gap to 33-1 after that. That seems fair enough but what is arguable is whether England should really be first or second in that top group. 

The spectre of history is hovering menacingly above the outright odds list. The 15 European Championship final tournaments have been won by a refreshing ten different teams - but England have never even made a final.

The full list of finals performances is bracing: Did not enter, did not qualify, third! (losing their first match of the four-team finals), did not qualify, did not qualify, group exit, did not qualify, group exit, group exit, semi-finals (It's coming home, dentist's chair, Gazza, Uri Geller, Shearer, Sheringham, Seaman and Southgate), group exit, quarter-finals, did not qualify, quarter-finals, last-16 exit. It doesn't absolutely scream favourites, does it?

And anyway, the real fear for England fans is not that Southgate doesn't have enough exciting talents, it's that he won't unleash enough of them at the same time. 

We need to see at least three or four of Jude Bellingham, Jack Grealish, Phil Foden, Jadon Sancho and Mason Mount on the field together, not introduced one at a time for 15 minutes after watching Jordan Henderson and Declan Rice sitting in front of the defence for most of the match. I am still not convinced they won't find a way to sneak Eric Dier and Harry Winks in there, squad announcement or no squad announcement.

In the eight qualifiers for this tournament, played many years ago, Southgate picked two defensive midfielders for six of the eight games (four different combinations of Dier, Henderson, Rice and Winks), opting for only one in the two games against Montenegro (Rice away and Winks at home). One, not both, of Rice or Henderson looks the maximum requirement, with Bellingham or Mount more enterprising options alongside Southgate's pick.

Southgate has done a great job of giving himself the squad flexibility to play a number of different personnel and formations, both crucial as injuries crop up during tournaments, but it also means he can choose an outfield line-up as tame and traditional as: Trippier, Walker, Stones, Maguire, Shaw; Rice, Henderson; Sterling, Kane, Rashford, or instead go for something slick and stylish such as: James, Maguire, Stones, Chilwell; Bellingham, Mount; Sancho, Foden, Grealish, Kane.

There's nothing to lose - England have already at least matched their performance at ten of the 15 Europeans finals, after all - and if you want to justify that position at the head of the market you need to come up with something special.

Time for new boys Sutton to shine

Congratulations to Sutton United, who next season will become the 141st* club to play in the Football League.

It's a huge achievement for the National League champions, who had never seriously threatened to win promotion in their ten previous seasons at Conference/National League level over three spells, with a playoff semi-final exit in 2017-18 their best effort.

Sutton were the first team I covered as a junior reporter way back in the 1992-93 season for the now defunct Sutton Herald, and their fantastic run to the semi-finals of the FA Trophy that year (won 3-2 away to Martin O'Neill's Conference giants Wycombe in the first leg, crushed 4-0 at home in the second) was a thrilling time.

But now Marlow, Dulwich Hamlet and Harrow Borough are off the agenda and Sutton are ready for bigger and better things.

The club have already begun ripping up the artificial pitch at Gander Green Lane to comply with Football League regulations - it was really the ideal location for a 3G surface as back in the day the pitch was often a mudbath from October to February and a dustbowl from March onwards.

No doubt Sutton will be given short shrift by the bookmakers regarding their chances of an extended stay in the EFL, but they can take heart from the performance of the last four total newcomers to join the elite 92 - Fleetwood, Forest Green, Salford and Harrogate - who are all still there, while ex-league sides form a bottleneck in the National League - former EFL clubs Torquay, Stockport, Hartlepool, Notts County and Chesterfield filled the five places behind Sutton in the final table. 

Well done to manager Matt Gray and everyone at the Borough Sports Ground and good luck to all in the chocolate and amber shirts next season.

*You can argue about this number, deciding which versions of clubs that went bust and reformed or were in the league under different names count, but the Football League said there had been 136 during its 125th anniversary season in 2013 and Sutton will be the fifth newcomers since.


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The real fear for England fans is not that Southgate doesn't have enough exciting talents, it's that he won't unleash enough of them
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