Preparations for Gareth Southgate's first match as interim England manager have been further disrupted after Everton captain Phil Jagielka became the third player to pull out of the squad to face Group F minnows Malta in a 2018 World Cup qualifier at Wembley on Saturday evening (8 October).
"There's been an update to the Three Lions squad, with Phil Jagielka withdrawing due to injury," England revealed via their official Twitter account on Friday morning. "No replacement will be called up at this time."
Everton also confirmed the news and further revealed the experienced centre-back is suffering from a thigh problem. 34-year-old Jagielka, who has appeared in all seven of the club's Premier League outings to date under Ronald Koeman, has earned 39 senior international caps during his career, but was left out of the travelling party for Euro 2016 after Roy Hodgson elected to take only three centre-backs.
He was recalled for Sam Allardyce's first and only game in charge against Slovakia last month, but remained alongside Chris Smalling as an unused substitute for that last-gasp victory in Trnava. Gary Cahill and John Stones were the first-choice central defensive partnership on that occasion.
"Phil Jagielka has withdrawn from the England squad through injury," the Toffees informed supporters. "The thigh injury isn't thought to be too serious and Jags will return to Everton to be assessed."
England's decision not to draft in an immediate replacement for Jagielka is likely due to the presence of Michael Keane, who was handed his maiden senior call-up on Tuesday after surprise returnee Glen Johnson withdrew from contention. Reports that Cahill is being rested from training at St George's Park on Friday due to a sore throat seem to increase the slim possibility that the impressive young Burnley centre-back, a player that Southgate knows well from the U21 setup, could feature against Malta.
Crystal Palace's Andros Townsend has also been added to the squad this week as a replacement for resurgent winger Raheem Sterling, who sustained a calf issue during Manchester City's 2-0 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur last weekend. After hosting Malta, Southgate takes his side to the Stadion Stozice in Ljubljana on Tuesday for the second fixture of a qualification double-header against Slovenia. He will remain in charge for November's clash with Scotland and a home friendly against Spain.