Saido Berahino, the West Bromwich Albion striker, has received his first England call-up, whilst Stewart Downing’s form for West Ham United has also been recognised.
Burundi-born Berahino has already shown what he can do in an England shirt whilst representing the Under-21 side, for whom he has scored 10 goals in 13 appearances. Yet it is his goalscoring rate for the Baggies this season – seven goals in 10 Premier League matches – which has earned him a call-up to the full squad for the Euro 2016 clash with Slovenia and the friendly against Scotland.
The 21-year-old’s rise is quite the story, having fled his war-torn homeland to take asylum in England at the age of 10 after his father died in the fighting. Berahino spoke no English when he arrived in the country, but through his natural ability to play football, he was able to make friends and was spotted by Albion in 2004, and he was promoted to the first team picture under Roy Hodgson.
“I am just pleased for him because I know how much football means to him,” said Hodgson, of course now the England coach. “I was pleased that in an interview the other day, he made it clear how important England and English football has been to him and his family. I think it’s a really nice story and it’s up to him to show he can make this step up to the senior level.”
Another player who has impressed this season is Downing, who has helped the Hammers to fifth-place in the current table. The former Liverpool winger has been employed in a central midfield role by Sam Allardyce this term, a position in which he has excelled. Having not played for his country since 2012, the 30-year-old is proof that the door, when appears shut, can be opened again.
The same could perhaps be said in regards to Michael Carrick. The Manchester United midfielder failed to make the World Cup squad after being placed on standby, but despite only recently recovering from injury, he has been named amongst Hodgson’s latest selection. And Arsenal forward Theo Walcott, himself only just back from a lengthy layoff, has also been handed a recall.
The other headline news is the omission of Glen Johnson. The Liverpool fullback has been a mainstay of the England squad for a decade, having won the first of his 54 caps in 2003, but despite now fully fit after recovering from a thigh injury which sidelined him for six weeks, Hodgson has instead opted for Arsenal’s Calum Chambers and Southampton’s Nathaniel Clyne.
Goalkeepers: Fraser Forster (Southampton), Ben Foster (West Bromwich Albion), Joe Hart (Manchester City)
Defenders: Leighton Baines (Everton), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Calum Chambers (Arsenal), Nathaniel Clyne (Southampton), Kieran Gibbs (Arsenal), Phil Jagielka (Everton), Luke Shaw, Chris Smalling (both Manchester United)
Midfielders: Ross Barkley (Everton), Michael Carrick (Manchester United), Stewart Downing (West Ham United), Jordan Henderson, Adam Lallana (both Liverpool), James Milner (Manchester City), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Raheem Sterling (Liverpool), Andros Townsend (Tottenham Hotspur), Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott (both Arsenal)
Forwards: Rickie Lambert (Liverpool), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Danny Welbeck (Arsenal), Saido Berahino (West Bromwich Albion)