England vs Denmark: Ranking every player Gareth Southgate has given a Three Lions debut


England have one of the finest generations of young talent coming through on the international stage.

Although there's justified doubts about England's chances at Euro 2020 and the 2022 World Cup, there's good reason to think that the Three Lions could have an incredible squad by the mid-2020s.

It should come as no surprise then that Gareth Southgate has integrated so much young talent into his squad since international football made its long-awaited return in a COVID-19 world.

The Gareth Southgate era

The win over Belgium aside, there was at least one debutant in each of England's games since the summer with Iceland and Belgium both defeated, while the trip to Denmark ended goalless.

Wearing the jersey of their national team is arguably the proudest moment in any player's career, but not everybody makes the necessary impact to relive that feeling over and over again.

The same can be said of the Southgate era with some players going on to become one of the first names on the team-sheet, while others are regelated to the status of a pub quiz answer.


Southgate's England debutants

Ahead of the most recent international fixtures, the FA released an article totalling the number of debutants under Southgate at a sizeable 36 and four have made their bow since.

So, to test which players were an inspired call-up by Southgate and which will spark discussions around the table at the Duck and Hound, we decided to rank all 39 players from worst to best.

We're making our judgments based on a combination of their performances in an England shirt as well as their provenance in club football more widely, so check out our selections down below:


39. Phil Foden and Mason Greenwood

Look, I don't want to dwell on this too much because any young lad given millions in their teens would make at least one mistake and I don't doubt for a second that both are incredibly apologetic.

However, we can't take away from the fact that they both broke protocol during a pandemic that has taken over one million lives and therefore, it only seems right to separate them here at the bottom.


38. Dominic Solanke

Solanke might have done the business for England in the youth ranks, but his poor scoring record with Chelsea, Liverpool and Bournemouth makes an international renaissance highly unlikely.

37. Nathaniel Chalobah

Chalobah has never set the world alight at Watford, now plying his trade in the Championship like Solanke, while his cameo against Spain means his England career lasted less than seven minutes.


36. Lewis Cook

The third player in a row who has now tumbled down to England's second tier and Cook, who made a brief appearance off the bench against Italy in 2017, has never looked international quality.

35. Jack Cork

Despite being a solid midfielder for Southampton, Swansea and Burnley over the years, Cork's time as an international footballer will likely be confined to one-cap wonder articles and Trivial Pursuit.


34. Harvey Barnes

There's a lot of hype around Barnes after a breakout season under Brendan Rodgers and rightly so, but his senior England call-up, albeit for just 14 minutes against Wales, felt a little bit premature.

33. Fikayo Tomori

Would Tomori ever have been called up if he wasn't playing for a top six side? I'm unsure and after blowing hot and cold during his breakthrough year with Chelsea, this could remain his only cap.


32. Nathan Redmond

Redmond has always looked like one of the best players outside of the Premier League top six without ever justifying a move to a big club, so it's hard to rank the Southampton man much higher.

31. Aaron Cresswell

By no means a bad call-up when you consider Cresswell was looking like a top player in the mid-2010s, but it's difficult to see a world in which the West Ham hero earns a fourth cap for his country.


30. Alex McCarthy

There's not too much to say here really other than McCarthy was a solid back-up option between the sticks when Southgate needed him, though he's never far away from a mistake at St. Mary's.

29. Reece James

This might be a little generous to James after two cameo outings from the bench, but this could prove to be a valuable investment in the future in the wake of a string of superb Chelsea displays.


28. Ruben Loftus-Cheek

The jury is firmly out on where Loftus-Cheek's career will take him now, both with England and Chelsea, after his spell at Stamford Bridge was sideswiped by injury just when it started shaping up.

27. Ainsley Maitland-Niles

Maitland-Niles has rescued himself from an impending Arsenal exit to reaching the England squad, though only time will tell whether that form will be consistent enough to keep his international spot.


26. Bukayo Saka

Foden aside, I'm not sure any of England's young lions can match the Arsenal starlet for raw ability, so there's good reason to be excited about Southgate's faith in him, even if it's still early days.

25. Lewis Dunk

Playing 90 minutes and keeping a clean sheet during your one and only England cap is nothing to be sniffed at and to be fair to Dunk, he's one of the country's better peripheral centre-back options.


24. James Maddison

It's remarkable to think that Maddison has only made one substitute appearance for England and that will surely change if he can start to show his devastating Leicester form from early 2019/20.

23. James Ward-Prowse

One of those England nods that just screams middle of the road because set-pieces are the only real area in which Ward-Prowse is truly world-class. He's hardly put a foot wrong so far, though.


22. Kalvin Phillips

Cut from the same cloth as Ward-Prowse, really, because Phillips' call-up left a lot of people scratching their head and his performances so far have neither justified nor challenged his selection.

21. Callum Hudson-Odoi

Again, early days, because this is a balance of the fact Hudson-Odoi is one of England's most talented players without ever really having shown a consistent end product in a Chelsea shirt.


20. Tammy Abraham

It's criminally underrated how Abraham became Chelsea's top goalscorer last season and he already has an England strike to his name, although game-time could prove hard to come by now.

19. Dominic Calvert-Lewin

Speaking of which... Calvert-Lewin, for all intents and purposes, looks the better option after a storming start to the season with Everton, but his international career remains in its infancy.


18. Conor Coady

Credit to Coady because, without ever looking like a world-beater, he's proven to be a solid squad player for Southgate and proved dreams really do come true by scoring in the 3-0 Wales win.

17. Callum Wilson

Wilson looked like a constant threat during his four caps for England, even scoring on his debut at Wembley, and his brilliant form with Newcastle suggests a return to the fold is more than realistic.


16. James Tarkowski

Perhaps a little generous, granted, but Tarkowski is one of the best back-up defenders available to Southgate and it's surprising that he's been kept on the shelf since 2018 despite his Burnley form.

15. Tyrone Mings

A selection that originally looked a little bit ham-fisted has proven to be shrewder than expected and it's hard to criticise Mings too much when he's looked like a reassuring presence in an England kit.


14. Jack Grealish

It's nothing short of criminal that Grealish had to wait so long for his England debut and dropping an absolute masterclass on his first start against Wales shows he could become a valuable playmaker.

13. Harry Winks

It pains me to place a player whose England form has undulated so much this high, it really does, but Winks has clearly struck a chord with Southgate after appearing for four consecutive years.


12. Mason Mount

Although it's become a bit of a running joke that Mount is Southgate's star pupil, ignore his sound England form at your peril, especially after being fresh from scoring the winner against Belgium.

11. Nick Pope

Why this high despite having only amassed three caps? Well, in this writer's humble opinion, he should be England's number one and hasn't conceded a single goal for the Three Lions so far.


10. Joe Gomez

If we ignore his diabolical performance at Aston Villa, Gomez has been a sound enough asset for the Three Lions without ever setting the world alight to really nail down his place in the starting XI.

9. Michael Keane

Besides, a defender from the other side of Merseyside sneaks ahead with Keane having held his own into double-figures for England caps and even scored during a 6-1 thrashing of Montenegro.


8. Jesse Lingard

Say what you like about his recent Manchester United form, but Lingard was a decent asset for England a few years ago and his displays at the 2018 World Cup warrant a top 10 place alone.

Twenty-four caps in just four years is nothing to be sniffed at, never mind scoring away to the Netherlands and smashing home THAT screamer in the 6-1 annihilation of Costa Rice. Good job.

7. Ben Chilwell

It's no coincidence that Chelsea splashed the cash for Chilwell because he proved with England that his form with Leicester wasn't reliant upon Premier League football. Expect plenty more caps.


6. Declan Rice

Is this an inditement of the Southgate era? Perhaps, but credit where credit is due because Rice has really wrestled his way consistently into the England XI and looked unstoppable in the Belgium win.

5. Kieran Trippier

It goes without saying that there's a substantial leap in quality for the top five and we can't help feeling that Trippier deserves this position based on his iconic free-kick against Croatia alone.


4. Trent Alexander-Arnold

I'm not going to beat around the bush: Alexander-Arnold is the best footballer that Southgate has given a debut to as England manager, but he's yet to do enough for his country to reach the podium.

3. Jordan Pickford

Should he be dropped right now? Absolutely, no doubt about it. However, we can't pretend as though Pickford's glorious performances at the 2018 World Cup suddenly never happened.

For a long time, Pickford looked like an inspired choice as number one and has delivered penalty shootout heroics in both his tournaments for England so, yes, third place is more than justified.


2. Jadon Sancho

Again, Sancho is a more talented player than our gold medallist having surpassed 15 goals and 15 assists in 2019/20, but we're still waiting to see his best for England after just two strikes in 14 caps.

1. Harry Maguire

You what???? Look, I know that Maguire has made a pretty wonky start to his second season at United, but run your finger back down the list and ask yourself who has made the biggest impact.

Aside from becoming the world's most expensive defender since Southgate gave him his first cap, Maguire started and scored in England's finest World Cup tournament in almost 30 years.

Yes, cracks are starting to show in his more than penetrable armour, but it can't be denied that Maguire is a world-class defender on his day and definitely the best debutant of the last four years.


So, there you have it, the defender who was being roasted alive on social media for his performance in a 6-1 defeat has been the worthiest debutant of the Southgate epoch.

We'll leave you to fill in the blanks about what that means for England, but come on, let's keep the glass half full and start believing that it's coming home in 2021 after all the troubles of 2020.

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