How the England B team would look if Gareth Southgate ended its 11-year hiatus


Since the final whistle blew at Turf Moor on May 26, 2007, there hasn't been a single England B international.

The concept of a second-string team seems somewhat strange in the Gareth Southgate era, but the B team was an integral part of the England set-up for over half a century. In fact, the history of the side can be traced back to the very first England manager - Walter Winterbottom - who first proposed the idea to the FA in the 1940s.

In the absence of an under-21 side, the B team was used to introduce younger players to the international stage and offered them the valuable opportunity to represent their country. The very first friendly took place against Switzerland B in 1947 and although the game finished 0-0, it would open the door for numerous matches to come.

The history of the B team has largely revolved around the national manager at the time, with some regularly using the concept and others completely neglecting it. For example, the B team took a lengthly hiatus between 1957 and 1978 and the eventual establishment of the under-21 side raised questions about the legitimacy of a second, senior team.

Nevertheless, managers Ron Greenwood, Bobby Robson, Glenn Hoddle and even Steve McClaren kept the team alive with Paul Gascoigne proving the most notable beneficiary. The role of the B team evolved into giving experience to those just outside of the final squad, players returning from injury and individuals who were too old to be introduced in the youth sides.

The England B team

Yet that day in Burnley in 2007 marked the end of an era, with the B team bowing out with a 3-1 victory over the Albanian first-team. Michael Owen - making a comeback from injury - captained the team on the day with Stewart Downing scoring a brace.

Since then, the B Team has become something of a quirky relic in the England history books and there have been few suggestions that Southgate will instigate its return. David James has been one of few campaigners for England B to make a comeback but poor attendances and questions over its practically makes it unlikely.

That said, it's an interesting thought to consider what a modern-day England B team would actually look like. The obvious thought would be to include a number of young players on the rise, but that wouldn't be true to the traditional purpose of the team.

So, what would the criteria be for Southgate's very first B team? Well, first and foremost, the initial purpose of the team must be maintained with players who turn out for England U21 and those close to the senior side out of the question. 


Players with over 10 caps would also be ruled out, with these individuals in no real need for further international game-time unless they made the A side. As for players returning from injury, it would be simplest to completely fold this category with crocks in the England senior-team being impossible to forecast.

All in all, it makes for a tricky equation and designing a starting XI, never mind an entire squad, quickly becomes a selection dilemma.

Nevertheless, GiveMeSport has sought to outline exactly what the team would look like and it certainly makes for bizarre viewing. Forget the exciting and prosperous football of Southgate's modern era and welcome the long-ball joy that is England's B team for 2018.

GK - Tom Heaton

Picking the goalkeeper was no easy task. There are so many English, Premier League goalkeepers who have a handful of caps to their name and Heaton is one of them with three from 2016 and 2017. Nevertheless, injuries have set back his international career and the B team would be the perfect place for him to shine again.

The Burnley shot stopper certainly has quality behind the sticks, while Nick Pope knocks on the door of the senior side and Joe Hart laments his impressive tally of caps.

Burnley v Crystal Palace - Premier League

RB - Matthew Lowton

Beyond Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier, England aren't spoilt for choice at right-back but Lowton has been a true asset for Burnley over the last three years. Although Burnley's form has declined this season, he showed his defensive prowess across the widely successful 2017-18 campaign and would be a solid asset to England B's defence.

For all his recent struggles, Carl Jenkinson also had to be considered but his lack of game-time at Arsenal - as well as his failure with Birmingham City - sees him miss out.

Burnley FC v Newcastle United - Premier League

CB - Jamaal Lascelles

The Newcastle man has certainly been in the conversation for England squads in the past and has all the credentials for a B team centre-back. Game-time has proven harder to come by this season, though, and there is definitely plenty of competition when it comes to English defenders on the fringes of international football.

Nevertheless, Lascelles has proven himself to be an accomplished leader on his day and would boss a number of weaker international teams.

Cardiff City v Newcastle United - Premier League

CB - Ben Mee

There's numerous defensive options to choose from at both Burnley and Bournemouth, yet Mee sneaks his way into the starting XI here. We could easily have opted for his centre-back partner James Tarkowski, but it only makes sense to choose the player still awaiting for his first appearance in England colours.

Mee wouldn't take any nonsense against some of the more physical international teams and would ensure perfect organisation across the B team's defence.

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Burnley FC - Premier League

LB - Aaron Cresswell

Rewind 12 months and Cresswell was well and truly in contention for the England squad, eventually earning himself three caps across 2016 and 2017. Nevertheless, that makes him the perfect player to deploy at left-back for both the benefit of the team and him garnering minutes against international opposition.

Luke Daniels can count himself as unlucky to miss out on this spot, but his performances for Bournemouth would certainly ensure him a place in the overall squad.

West Ham United v Stoke City - Premier League

RM - Michail Antonio

Antonio could probably play in any position for this England team, yet the lack of clear wide options means he's needed on the flanks. The West Ham man was firmly in the running for an England call-up in 2016 and must be considered for the B team, even if he's struggled for form recently and missed a number of key chances at the weekend.

His pace would cause problems for plenty of international first-teams and - in spite of recent evidence - he could provide goals when England B needed them most.

Leicester City v West Ham United - Premier League

CM - Jonjo Shelvey

For many, Shelvey should have been on the plane to Russia this summer and the lack of a creative midfielder has certainly been a weak point for the senior team. And with only six internationals caps to his name, he could use some game-time in the England jersey and could become the main playmaker for the second-string XI.

If anything, the argument would be that Shelvey is too good for the B team but a low start with Newcastle this season sees him given the nod.

Hull City v Newcastle United - Pre-Season Friendly

CM - Mark Noble

It just couldn't be an England B team without this man, could it? West Ham fans have been campaigning for Noble to receive a call-up for years now and although his legs are starting to go, he could be a perfect midfield enforcer for England B. The 31-year-old could work well with Shelvey and also provide incisive passes of his own from deep.

Admittedly, there was plenty of options for the team in central midfield and players like Jake Livermore, Jack Cork, James Ward-Prowse and Danny Drinkwater only narrowly missed out.

Brighton & Hove Albion v West Ham United - Premier League

LM - Marc Albrighton

Perhaps not his favoured position, but the Leicester City man has plenty of experience on the left flank and would be an important player for England B going forward. A Premier League winner, Albrighton has proven he can deliver important crosses and assists on the biggest stage despite never being acknowledged by England.

Albrighton would also bring the intensity to outwork a number of weaker nations and would fulfil his defensive duties without prompting.

Brighton and Hove Albion v Leicester City - Premier League

ST - Glenn Murray

The piece de resistance, the strike force. Murray has continued to prove himself as a competent goalscorer at Premier League level and already boasts six goals in 10 appearances this season. He would be able to latch onto crosses from Antonio and Albrighton as well as using his predatory instincts in the six-yard box.

Perhaps the major question mark over Murray's inclusion is the fact he's come close to a real England outing, but Southgate is yet to give him the call.

Brighton & Hove Albion v Leicester City - Premier League

ST - Troy Deeney

There was a genuine debate about Deeney's absence from the England set-up last month and his statistics for both goals and assists speak for themselves. The Watford man has improved his conditioning this season, too, suggesting he could keep up with high-tempo games and continue to cause havoc with his physical pressure.

And as Deeney said himself earlier in the season: "I think that's what separates me from a lot of people, mentality and leadership."

Arsenal FC v Watford FC - Premier League


Karl Darlow - enjoyed a solid season with Newcastle last year and with no international experience, could be a worthy candidate to provide back-up for Heaton.

James Tomkins - the Crystal Palace man has proven himself to be a handy Premier League defender over the years and has an experienced head on his shoulders.

Callum Chambers - the Arsenal loanee hasn't set the world alight at Fulham this season, but would certainly hold out against weaker international sides.

Danny Drinkwater - definitely a player for Southgate to consider as Noble's engine begins to fade in games, Drinkwater would be very comfortable at this level.

Jack Cork - another Burnley player riding the success of last season, Cork would be a reliable option for the England B team's solid midfield.

Charlie Austin - England turn to Southampton for their back-up strike force and Austin would be a serious threat if he could rediscover his form of 2014.

Danny Ings - a proven goalscorer despite his Liverpool struggles and injury problems, he'd ensure Murray and Deeney were always looking over their shoulders.

Southampton FC v Watford FC - Premier League

It's certainly not a glamorous team, that's for sure.

Nevertheless, the number of conditions required for the England B team makes it difficult to pick a more exciting team without hampering the senior squad. Looking at the side above, despite a few promising inclusions, it perhaps serves to demonstrate why Southgate has decided against ending the 11-year hiatus.

Either that or England would need to change their philosophy regarding a B team, possibly by opening their arms to younger prospects or incorporating senior players who only make the bench. For the time being, though, supporters will just have to imagine how the team would shape up and that day in 2007 will continue to be a pub quiz answer at most.

Who do you think would make a new England B team? Have your say in the comments section below.

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