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Henderson over Ward-Prowse for England? Southgate has lost the plot

Gareth Southgate announced his 26-man squad for England’s upcoming internationals today and once again overlooked West Ham United midfielder James Ward-Prowse.

With 2024 European Championship qualification practically in the bag after the Three Lions established a six-point lead in Group C going into the last three fixtures, Southgate had the chance to mix things up.

Despite sharing the spoils with Ukraine in a 1-1 draw in Poland last time out, England’s five-game winning start to their qualifying campaign had pretty much got the job done.

The upcoming international friendly against Australia will be the final rehearsal for the Euro 2020 beaten finalists’ mouth-watering qualifier against Italy.

It could’ve been an opportunity for Southgate to ring some changes to his regular midfield line-up, but the 53-year-old has decided to stick with his usual choices.

Given Ward-Prowse’s stellar start to life at West Ham, it’s unfathomable how the England boss has refused to reintegrate one of the Premier League’s best-performing stars into this squad.

It’s been over a year since the former Southampton captain last featured for the Three Lions.

Southgate could use the Saints’ perennial domestic struggle as an excuse to justify Ward-Prowse’s constant rejections, but the midfielder’s latest omission makes little sense.

The 28-year-old playmaker has quickly established himself as a cornerstone of David Moyes’ engine room since leaving Southampton for £30 million in August.

Alongside Jarrod Bowen, who has made the cut, he has been West Ham’s headline performer in 2023/24, clocking up two goals and six assists from eight competitive appearances.

Ward-Prowse’s contribution to West Ham’s resurgence following last season’s underwhelming Premier League campaign goes beyond his trademark set-piece deliveries.

His goals against Brighton & Hove Albion and Manchester City came from open play, testifying to his ability to adapt to a more advanced role compared to his days with Southampton.

His overall performance for West Ham has been nothing short of impressive, which can’t be said about other midfielders on Southgate’s list.

Man City fringe star Kalvin Phillips has barely played this term, while Conor Gallagher hasn’t done much to gain attention other than blending into Chelsea’s lethargy.

If the struggling duo’s inclusion is not puzzling enough, Southgate’s decision to give Al-Ettifaq’s Jordan Henderson a call-up at the expense of Ward-Prowse is mind-blowing.

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