Ross Barkley’s stalled international career has seen the Everton midfielder become the highest-profile absentee from Sam Allardyce’s first England squad, with the new manager selecting just one uncapped player – West Ham United’s Michail Antonio – in the 23-man party for the World Cup qualifier against Slovakia.
Barkley, who failed to register a single minute on the pitch during England’s unsuccessful Euro 2016 campaign in France having emerged as a bright young talent at the 2014 World Cup, misses out on Allardyce’s selection, which sees several members of Roy Hodgson’s European Championship squad drop out of the picture.
James Milner, who has retired from international duty, the injured Ryan Bertrand, Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford and Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere have also been overlooked, with Phil Jagielka, Luke Shaw, Danny Drinkwater and Theo Walcott return to the squad alongside 26-year-old newcomer Antonio, who has spent just one season in the Premier League with West Ham.
“I think he’s in outstanding form,” Allardyce said of Antonio, who scored in West Ham’s 3-1 defeat at Manchester City on Sunday.
“This is another lad with a great journey – it’s a fantastic journey that he’s been on, from non-league to now an international call-up.
“He scored nine goals in his first season and he’s a terrific athlete, a good crosser and a goal-scorer.
“I’m looking forward to him coming, and looking forward to meeting everybody.
“Hopefully we will have a good few days’ preparation and get to know each other on the basis of trying to go and win in Slovakia.”
While Rashford’s lack of match action this season, prior to his stoppage-time winner for United at Hull City on Saturday, has been cited by Allardyce as the reason for the 18-year-old’s demotion to the Under-21s for next Tuesday’s European U-21 Championship qualifier against Norway at Colchester, Barkley’s omission is a surprise.
Wilshere, whose selection for the Euro 2016 squad came despite making just three appearances for Arsenal last season, misses out on the Slovakia fixture after playing just 37 minutes for Arsene Wenger’s team so far this term.
And Fabien Delph, a standby selection for Euro 2016 before dropping out through injury, is another absentee, despite making an impressive start to the season with Manchester City.
Barkley has made a bright start to the season under Ronald Koeman at Everton, but Allardyce has made it clear to the 22-year-old that the door remains open for him to reclaim his England place.
“It’s the same for anybody who has been in the squad before, such as Ross Barkley, Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain,” Allardyce said. “We will continue to watch them whenever they play, whether it is at games or on video, and we will keep an eye on everybody.
“Who is to say that the squad will not be different next time? It may change.”
Allardyce, who will welcome his squad to St George’s Park on Monday lunchtime, has resisted the temptation to make wholesale changes to the senior team, with the likes of Mark Noble and Jermain Defoe failing to earn a call-up from a man who coached both at club level, with West Ham and Sunderland respectively.
Former England captain John Terry has also been left out, with the Chelsea defender’s international career now finally over — four years after he announced his retirement from England duty — following Allardyce’s decision to look elsewhere.
With an announcement on the captaincy due on Tuesday, Allardyce has retained Wayne Rooney in the squad, but listed the Manchester United forward among his midfielders.
Rooney is expected to retain the captain’s armband, largely due to the absence of an outstanding alternative, but Harry Kane and John Stones are both believed to figure in Allardyce’s long-term plans for the role.
With the first game of his reign against Slovakia in Trnava less than a week away, however, Allardyce admits he is excited by the prospect of finally taking charge of his country.
“I was excited on Sunday morning,” Allardyce said. “We have five or six days of preparation to get ready for Slovakia and I am looking forward to starting with all of the staff.
“It will be interesting to see if we have got things right this week or whether we need to make changes to get better.”