Ryan Bertrand has put his eye-catching run into Roy Hodgson’s Euro 2016 squad down to his personal fitness plan over the last few months.
The Southampton left-back was thought to be behind Kieran Gibbs, Luke Shaw and Leighton Baines in the pecking order at the start of the season but his recent performances have propelled him into the 26-man squad which is now training at St George’s Park.
With just seven defenders in the group, Bertrand is almost certain to keep his place in the 23 which Hodgson will name on Sunday 29 May, after their preparation friendly against Australia.
Bertrand explained at St George’s Park on Wednesday that, at the time of the season when most players are winding down, he had been pushing himself especially hard.
“I feel good,” Bertrand said. “If anything I’ve been raising the training levels, as the season’s petered out the more I have had to train. Naturally the clubs chill out a bit when the season’s done but I’ve been trying to ensure that my fitness levels are right up there still so I can maintain the sharpness.”
“After lunch [at Southampton], some will go home and some will go back outside,” Bertrand said. “I will go outside and do my fitness. It is not something you want to do in front of everyone, as if to say ‘look at me, I’m doing my work.’ But, personally, I like to maintain my fitness.”
Bertrand only has seven England caps spread over the last four years and said it was only by concentrating on his Southampton form that he made it into the squad.
“As with anything, you have to work towards it,” Bertrand said. “Nothing is a given, for any player. I wasn’t getting too caught up in anything because there is fantastic competition for places all over the pitch. I was just concentrating on my club football and hoping that would do the job.”
Bertrand praised the contribution of Ronald Koeman to his development after his second full season at St Mary’s.
“I was fortunate that I had a club like Southampton to go to [from Chelsea], a very forward-thinking club, who have a brilliant manager that I have been playing under,” Bertrand said. “He has allowed me to express myself and here I am today. Koeman gives us a good platform, the right instructions and tactics, but allows us to do more than that.”
“He doesn’t tell us to remain rigid and hit a wall at the halfway line. He allows us to express ourselves and really encourages us to do more.”
England players who missed out on Euro 2016 squad
Exposed on the world stage two years ago in Brazil but, given the calibre of England’s group stage opponents, could still have been relied upon in France. His omission leaves just three recognised centre-backs in the 26-man squad.
The Manchester United defender would probably have been included on account of his versatility if not for the persistent injury problems which have limited him to one senior appearance since the turn of the year. Recent displays in his club side’s Under-21s have been uninspiring.
A victim of fierce competition at full-back, Cresswell’s dead-ball abilities would have stood out in this squad. The same could be said of Leighton Baines, who has gone from first-choice to forgotten man.
It will be England’s first tournament since the international retirements of both Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, yet their long-time understudy finds himself on the wrong side of 34.
Instrumental in West Ham United’s progression under Slaven Bilic this season but continues to be overlooked. After all this time, could be forgiven for invoking the grandparent rule and donning the Republic of Ireland’s emerald green.
It has been forgotten somewhat, but the erratic midfielder’s impressive form in the season’s opening weeks led to three competitive internationals on the bounce and substitute appearances against Spain and France.
Less of a ‘plan B’ than a square peg in a round hole, the 6ft 4in striker’s inclusion always seemed unlikely without wide players to extract the best out of him.
Still scoring as a 33-year-old, Defoe could perceivably have provided backup for Harry Kane. His lack of inability to play anywhere but centrally in the forward line probably extinguished his slim chances.
The biggest name to be omitted from the 26-man provisional squad. An unused squad member at the 2006 World Cup at just 16-years-old, Walcott has only played in one international tournament since – Hodgson’s first European Championships with England in 2012.
John Stones was the only fit centre-back who took part in England training on Wednesday afternoon, with Chris Smalling on Manchester United duty and Gary Cahill rested as a precaution. Cahill, though, is expected to recover in time for England’s game against Turkey on Sunday.
Security questions were raised when a young spectator ran onto the pitch during an eight-a-side training game, but he was swiftly escorted from the pitch.
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