England’s Euro 2024 squad: Players’ shock at no Grealish, Maguire out, Shaw gamble

Gareth Southgate has been mocked for his Loro Piana sweater in his recent shoot for GQ magazine, but there has been nothing beige about his squad selections this summer.

First, he made headlines by leaving out Jordan Henderson and Marcus Rashford from his initial 33-man group, handing call-ups to a quintet of uncapped players.

Then on Thursday, Southgate named his final 26. One of those uncapped players, Adam Wharton, made it — but the omissions of Jack Grealish and Harry Maguire sent shockwaves through a section of the England squad.

To understand why, one must understand the culture of the England camp. Southgate has fostered a club mentality, a sense of togetherness and team spirit. Part of that has been a consistency of selection. The core of the group has largely remained the same since Euro 2020. To be without Henderson, Rashford, Grealish and Maguire makes for a seismic change.

For some players, the England get-togethers are not only about the honour of playing from their country. They represent a break from the stress and acrimony of club football, and an opportunity to connect with friends.

It extends beyond the players. Partners and families travel together to tournaments and socialise. There is a wider extended network who will feel the absence of familiar faces.

But Southgate can have no room for sentiment. He has already demonstrated that with the ruthless omission of Henderson — once one of his most trusted lieutenants — from his initial 33. England aren’t going to Germany for a good time: they’re going there to win.

Southgate intended to select Maguire but said the centre-back’s recovery from a calf injury has been “complicated”.

The decision to leave Grealish behind was, for some in the England camp, more shocking. Certain players were upset, others angry and disappointed. Some close to the squad — who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect relationships — pondered whether cutting out Grealish altogether makes things simpler during the tournament, as Southgate does not have to handle public clamour for his selection or risk the TV cameras watching Grealish’s every move on the bench.

Grealish’s omission was unexpected (Stu Forster/Getty Images)

There was also concern in the camp about whether England would miss Grealish’s creativity — an issue compounded by the omission of James Maddison. Many anticipated Southgate choosing between the two playmakers. Few imagined he would cut both.

“We’re a close team and everybody — the players, staff — felt it in the last couple of days,” Southgate said on Thursday. “We knew this decision was looming. We’ve still felt we’ve been able to make better decisions in terms of injuries and availability by giving ourselves more time.

“But, of course, that means that you’ve got this difficult scenario where people are having to wait for bad news, and trying to do it as respectfully and with as much human side as possible. But I also know that for the players that I’m coming to with this, that’s a devastating blow.”

On the other hand, this was good news elsewhere in the squad. Wharton and Eberechi Eze joined their Crystal Palace team-mates Dean Henderson and Marc Guehi in the final 26. Southgate was expected to choose between Ollie Watkins and Ivan Toney. Instead, both will go to Germany.

“We know that Harry Kane is the starting guy, but Ollie and Ivan have different attributes and strengths that we might need at any given time,” Southgate said. “We’ve got different profiles of players, different options and we’ll use them.”

Having named a preliminary squad of 33 players, Southgate knew he would have to cut seven players to meet the 26-man criteria before Friday’s 11pm (BST) deadline.

Typically, Southgate makes a point of speaking to those who won’t make the final cut, rather than telling players they are “in”.

Maddison was informed he would not be going to Germany late on Wednesday night. Some players and staff had already begun heading to bed when Southgate informed the Tottenham Hotspur midfielder of his decision.

The 27-year-old has seven England caps and was part of Southgate’s squad for the 2022 World Cup, although he did not make an appearance in Qatar. He released a statement on X in which he described himself as “devastated” to miss out on Euro 2024. Maddison is a popular figure among the England squad, several of whom said that he will be missed in camp.

Many thought Southgate would axe Maddison or Grealish — not both (Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

Curtis Jones was also spoken to by Southgate on Wednesday evening. The England manager emphasised how pleased he had been with Jones’ contribution in training since his first senior call-up.

Having had a taste of the international setup, Jones will hope a full pre-season under Arne Slot at Liverpool will provide a platform for further opportunities with England. Jones’ Liverpool team-mate, Jarell Quansah, was also informed he will not make the final squad but is staying with the group to experience his first England international at Wembley.

Jones and Maddison had both left the camp by mid-morning on Thursday, while the remaining players stayed at Tottenham’s Hotspur Way facility in north London.

England trained with 27 players on Thursday lunchtime. Lewis Dunk, Luke Shaw and Maguire followed individual programmes as they sought to recover from injury. Jude Bellingham is not scheduled to join up with the squad until Saturday after his involvement in Real Madrid’s success in the Champions League final at Wembley on June 1.

It was only after that session that Southgate trimmed down his squad further.

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— England (@England) June 6, 2024

Grealish, spoken to by Southgate shortly after training, was caught off-guard by his omission. He expected to continue with the squad, and had been preparing to face Iceland tonight (Friday).

Southgate’s decision makes for a hugely disappointing end to what has been a difficult season for Grealish. Within the England squad, there is a lot of admiration for Grealish’s talent, as well as great affection for his personality. He has received conciliatory words and messages of support from several senior England players.

“It’s been really tough,” admitted Declan Rice in Thursday’s press conference. “’Madders’ and Jack are probably two of my best mates in the squad. I have spent most of my time with them since I’ve been here. To see them guys (down), it’s not a nice feeling.

“We’re so close as a group and there’s no one that’s feeling really bitter about being left out. It’s more about the team. Those guys wished us all the best, as did all the others.

“I’m gutted but it is one of them things.”

As for Maguire, injury has proved the determining factor in his omission. He missed the last four games of the Premier League season with a calf problem, but England and Manchester United staff were optimistic he would return in time to participate in the tournament.

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— England (@England) June 6, 2024

In the past week, however, his recovery has not developed as hoped. When England played Bosnia and Herzegovina at St James’ Park, there were already serious concerns over Maguire’s ability to make the European Championship. He was doing some running in training on Thursday and believed he was capable of contributing in Germany, but it was not enough to convince Southgate.

“We definitely wouldn’t have had him in the group stages,” said the England manager. “There were too many hurdles to get through without really being clear on where we might get to.”

Maguire will return to the supervision of the Manchester United medical team to prepare for next season.

Maguire’s absence is a significant loss, certainly in terms of experience. Aside from John Stones (71 caps), there is a dearth of international experience at centre-back. Between them, Joe Gomez (14), Lewis Dunk (six), Ezri Konsa (three) and Marc Guehi (10) have just 33 caps. Maguire has 63.

Inexperience is ultimately what counted against Everton’s Jarrad Branthwaite, too. Southgate may have deemed a player with a solitary England cap too big a risk when shorn of one of his most experienced defenders. Selecting 32-year-old Dunk, assuming he can get fit, suggests Southgate felt a need for a veteran presence among his defensive group.

Jarrad Branthwaite, right, had an excellent season for Everton (Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images)

“It’s a bit early for Jarrad,” the England manager told the media. “He had a fabulous season, and it was good to get him on the pitch the other night.”

James Trafford took part in goalkeeper coach Martyn Margetson’s session on Thursday, but will not be retained for the game against Iceland. That means Southgate has found a place for Dean Henderson, who was not included in the squad for the 2022 World Cup.

Third-choice goalkeeper is, in some respects, an awkward position to fill: they are the player in the squad least likely to play. Southgate has not always believed that role was suited to Dean Henderson’s temperament.

Taking Trafford and Aaron Ramsdale, however, would have meant selecting two goalkeepers who finished the Premier League season on the bench. Henderson’s match sharpness has ultimately proved integral to his inclusion.

These decisions have not been easy, and yet this is still an England squad with some injury concerns. “Lewis Dunk won’t be available tomorrow (against Iceland) but can train from next week,” confirmed Southgate yesterday.

Then there’s Luke Shaw. The left-back hasn’t played since February, but his unique profile within the group meant he was always likely to be selected. “It’s a calculated risk,” said the England manager, saying Shaw might have “some involvement” in the second group game against Denmark on June 20.

Shaw scored during the last Euros final for England in July 2021 but has only played 15 international games since (Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)

Southgate also intimated that picking Shaw may have been what ruled out his club team-mate Maguire. “You can take one gamble and that’s a gamble that we’ve got enough evidence to believe can pay off,” he said.

Realistically, it may be the third group game against Slovenia on June 25 before Shaw is ready to start. His absence will have significant implications for Southgate’s starting XI for the opening game against Serbia on June 16.

Guehi stands to be the major beneficiary. The Crystal Palace defender is in line to start the tournament at centre-half with Stones, flanked by the experienced pair of Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier.

Behind them, Jordan Pickford is an automatic pick in goal, with Ramsdale in line to be his immediate deputy.

Rice and Bellingham will play in midfield, but their partner is yet to be determined. The two players believed to be foremost in Southgate’s mind are Kobbie Mainoo of Manchester United and Chelsea’s Conor Gallagher. Given the speed of his ascent, Wharton will also feel he has a chance of forcing his way in.

Ahead of them, Southgate is likely to select a front three of Kane, Bukayo Saka and Phil Foden.

Southgate’s decisions made for a dramatic day. The hope will be that when the dust settles, the changes invigorate this group.

“Sometimes you regenerate the group more than you were expecting a couple of months ago, but that’s gonna bring — and has already brought — a hunger and competitiveness,” said the manager, who called upon his players to move beyond a difficult day in camp, starting with today’s friendly against Iceland.

“The key now is we’ve got to bond as a group. There are some players that have been with us for a long time, where those bonds are really strong.

“We’ve got to find that and the group have got to work together. The atmosphere around the hotel, the way we are on the training ground — these are the key things of success in tournaments.”


England Euro 2024 squad: Southgate confirms Grealish, Maguire omissions

England Euro 2024 squad in full

Goalkeepers: Dean Henderson (Crystal Palace), Jordan Pickford (Everton), Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal).

Defenders: Lewis Dunk (Brighton), Joe Gomez (Liverpool), Marc Guehi (Crystal Palace), Ezri Konsa (Aston Villa), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), John Stones (Manchester City), Kieran Trippier (Newcastle), Kyle Walker (Manchester City).

Midfielders: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Conor Gallagher (Chelsea), Kobbie Mainoo (Manchester United), Adam Wharton (Crystal Palace) Declan Rice (Arsenal).

Forwards: Jude Bellingham (Real Madrid), Jarrod Bowen (West Ham), Eberechi Eze (Crystal Palace), Phil Foden (Manchester City), Anthony Gordon (Newcastle), Harry Kane (Bayern Munich), Cole Palmer (Chelsea), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Ivan Toney (Brentford), Ollie Watkins (Aston Villa).

Additional reporting: David Ornstein, Rob Tanner, Patrick Boyland and James Pearce

(Top photo: Eddie Keogh/The FA via Getty Images)