By Our Correspondent
England manager Gareth Southgate has included Jordan Henderson and Harry Maguire in his squad for September’s games against Ukraine and Scotland.
Midfielder Henderson, 33, has been picked after leaving Liverpool to join Saudi Arabian side Al-Ettifaq in July.
Centre-back Maguire makes the squad despite not having played for Manchester United so far this season.
England play Ukraine in a Euro 2024 qualifier on 9 September in Poland, and Scotland in a friendly on 12 September.
The game against Scotland at Hampden Park is to mark the 150th anniversary of that fixture.
‘Raheem isn’t particularly happy about it’
Arsenal striker Eddie Nketiah and Chelsea centre-back Levi Colwill get their first call-ups to the England squad, while midfielder Kalvin Phillips is also included, even though he has yet to play for Manchester City this season.
Chelsea forward Raheem Sterling is again absent, having been left out of England’s last two squads.
“He (Sterling) was not available for the last two and of course that has given other people the opportunity to play well and establish themselves in the group,” said Southgate.
“It is a difficult call and Raheem isn’t particularly happy about it – I’m convinced he will have a good season at Chelsea, I’ve no doubt about that.”
Tyrone Mings, Luke Shaw and John Stones are out injured, while fellow defenders Ben Chilwell and Fikayo Tomori are recalled.
Liverpool right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold has been listed in midfield, having played there for the wins against North Macedonia and Malta in June.
What about Henderson and Maguire inclusions?
Henderson has 77 England caps and spoke to Southgate about his England prospects before joining Al-Ettifaq in the Saudi Pro League.
“We’ve watched every game, the key as we move forward is going to be the physical intensity of the league, because of the heat as well, whether that is going to allow him to perform at the level we need,” said Southgate.
“Clearly the level of the league is changing all the time, lots of countries are going to have this issue.
“Portugal have got a few players there, I’m sure they are going to be playing international football.”
Henderson has been criticised by some LGBTQ+ campaigners over the transfer, as same-sex sexual activity is illegal in Saudi Arabia. The player has publicly supported the LGBTQ+ community in the past.
Asked if he was concerned about the reaction to Henderson because of the controversy over his move to Saudi Arabia, Southgate said: “We’re picking a team for football reasons.”
He added: “There are lots of different club ownership models. There are a lot of different players who play in countries with different religious beliefs.
“I don’t know why a player would receive an adverse reaction because of where he plays football.
“I’m a bit lost with some of the questioning.”
Last season, Maguire found his first-team chances limited under Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag and was stripped of the club’s captaincy this summer. West Ham agreed a £30m fee to sign Maguire earlier in August but the deal collapsed with the defender intent on fighting for his place in the team at Old Trafford.
Southgate has continued to pick the 30-year-old who has played 57 times for England.
“We have lost a lot of experienced players with caps at centre-half,” said Southgate.
“We are giving some less experienced players the opportunity to come into the squad but unfortunately it looks like Tyrone is out for the season, Stones is out for this camp, Eric Dier hasn’t been in the Tottenham squad
“There is a space there and I think for these two games it is important we have some experience in that place of the pitch.”
However, he added that “with Harry and Kalvin Phillips, it is far from ideal that they’re not playing football”.
Goalkeepers: Sam Johnstone (Crystal Palace), Jordan Pickford (Everton), Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal)
Defenders: Ben Chilwell (Chelsea), Levi Colwill (Chelsea), Lewis Dunk (Brighton & Hove Albion), Marc Guehi (Crystal Palace), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), Fikayo Tomori (AC Milan), Kieran Trippier (Newcastle United), Kyle Walker (Manchester City)
Midfielders: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Jude Bellingham (Real Madrid), Conor Gallagher (Chelsea), Jordan Henderson (Al-Ettifaq), Kalvin Phillips (Manchester City), Declan Rice (Arsenal)
Forwards: Eberechi Eze (Crystal Palace), Phil Foden (Manchester City), Jack Grealish (Manchester City), Harry Kane (Bayern Munich), James Maddison (Tottenham), Eddie Nketiah (Arsenal), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Callum Wilson (Newcastle United)