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England squad: Toney back as Southgate hands two maiden call-ups to Branthwaite and Gordon

Brentford talisman Ivan Toney has returned to the England national team after his eight-month ban for breaching betting rules expired in January.

Per Sky Sports, Gareth Southgate has announced his squad for the upcoming friendlies against Brazil and Belgium.

Everton defender Jarrad Branthwaite and Newcastle United forward Anthony Gordon have joined Toney in the squad after receiving their first senior call-ups.

Branthwaite’s rise to stardom at Goodison Park has not gone unnoticed.

Amid talks linking him with a big-money move to Manchester United, the 21-year-old centre-back is braced for his first senior international appearances.

Gordon’s scintillating form in the Premier League has earned him a place in attack at the expense of out-of-sorts Manchester City star Jack Grealish.

In addition to long-serving stalwarts Harry Kane, Phil Foden and Marcus Rashford, Southgate’s star-studded attack includes Cole Palmer, Ollie Watkins, Jarrod Bowen and Toney.

Bowen’s clubmate Kalvin Phillips has dropped out after his rough patch with West Ham United, with Tottenham Hotspur playmaker James Maddison taking his place.

However, the England manager’s decision to include Ajax veteran Jordan Henderson in his squad remains a polarising subject, especially after another James Ward-Prowse omission.

It’s unfathomable how Southgate keeps relying on the ex-Liverpool captain, even though it’s been a while since he last played top-level football.

Speaking of Liverpool, in-form defender Joe Gomez returns to the national team for the first time in four years.

He will compete with Kyle Walker at right back after injuries ruled Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kieran Trippier and Reece James out of contention for March’s fixtures.

But there’s an argument that Southgate had a more suitable profile to fill the right-back vacancy.

Arsenal’s Ben White asked to be omitted as his hiatus from international football since leaving the England camp during the 2022 World Cup continues.

England Squad

Goalkeepers: Sam Johnstone (Crystal Palace), Jordan Pickford (Everton), Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal).

Defenders: Jarrad Branthwaite (Everton), Ben Chilwell (Chelsea), Lewis Dunk (Brighton & Hove Albion), Joe Gomez (Liverpool), Ezri Konsa (Aston Villa), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), John Stones (Manchester City), Kyle Walker (Manchester City).

Midfielders: Jude Bellingham (Real Madrid), Conor Gallagher (Chelsea), Jordan Henderson (Ajax), James Maddison (Tottenham Hotspur), Declan Rice (Arsenal).

Forwards: Jarrod Bowen (West Ham United), Phil Foden (Manchester City), Anthony Gordon (Newcastle United), Harry Kane (Bayern Munich), Cole Palmer (Chelsea), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Ivan Toney (Brentford), Ollie Watkins (Aston Villa).

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