Sam Allardyce has named his first England squad to contest the opening 2018 World Cup qualifier against Slovakia on Sunday 4 September. Michail Antonio is undoubtedly the headline selection for the trip to Trnava, with the versatile West Ham United winger earning a maiden international call-up at any level after scoring in back-to-back Premier League outings against Bournemouth and Manchester City.
"This is another lad with a great journey – it's a fantastic journey that he's been on, from non-league to now an international call-up," the manger said of his surprise inclusion. "He scored nine goals in his first season and he's a terrific athlete, a good crosser and a goal-scorer.
"I'm looking forward to him coming, and looking forward to meeting everybody. Hopefully we will have a good few days' preparation and get to know each other on the basis of trying to go and win in Slovakia."
As expected, Luke Shaw returns to the fold after impressing for Manchester United during his eagerly anticipated comeback from a gruesome double leg fracture and there are recalls for Leicester City midfielder Danny Drinkwater, Arsenal's Theo Walcott and experienced centre-back Phil Jagielka.
However, Everton teammate Ross Barkley has inexplicably been dropped despite appearing to regain a great deal of confidence since Ronald Koeman's arrival on Merseyside. Jack Wilshere is also left out along with the uncapped Mark Noble, whom many thought could have been in with a shot given his previous working relationship with Allardyce at West Ham. Marcus Rashford's demotion to the U21 squad was already known in advance of his recent late winner against Hull City.
Wayne Rooney, who has reverted back to a forward role under Jose Mourinho at Manchester United, is included as a midfielder and will presumably continue as captain with Allardyce yet to reveal who he will appoint as permanent skipper. 18 of the 23-man squad went to Euro 2016, where England suffered a humiliating last-16 exit at the hands of Iceland. Ryan Bertrand, Barkley, Wilshere, Rashford and Liverpool midfielder James Milner, who recently announced his retirement from international football, are the players to drop out.
Joe Hart retains his place despite being relegated to the bench by Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, although it remains to be seen if he will remain first-choice goalkeeper ahead of Southampton's Fraser Forster and Burnley captain Tom Heaton. Allardyce also admitted this week that a potential call-up for Paris-born Sevilla defensive midfielder Steven N'Zonzi is now "dead" due to his previous solitary cap for France at U21 level.
23-man England squad for 2018 World Cup qualifier against Slovakia in Trnava
Goalkeepers: Fraser Forster, Joe Hart, Tom Heaton
Defenders: Gary Cahill, Nathaniel Clyne, Phil Jagielka, Danny Rose, Luke Shaw, Chris Smalling, John Stones, Kyle Walker
Midfielders: Dele Alli, Michail Antonio, Eric Dier, Danny Drinkwater, Jordan Henderson, Adam Lallana, Wayne Rooney, Raheem Sterling, Theo Walcott
Strikers: Harry Kane, Daniel Sturridge, Jamie Vardy