In May 2007, Alan Smith and Stuart Downing were on the scoresheet as England B secured a 3-1 victory over Albania.
That win was the last time we saw an England B team take to the pitch, as Steve McClaren managed a side of English players who were vying for a spot in the England first team, for varying reasons.
Be it coming back from an injury like Michael Owen, or trying to prove you belong in the international main event as David Beckham’s replacement like David Bentley, the England B team had good intentions.
For those that don’t remember, the B team, first introduced in 1947, was set up to give international football experience to English players on the periphery of the England setup, for varying reasons.
The idea with a B team was that younger players or those inexperienced at international level could gain that experience, without earning a full cap in the process. That evolved into using the side to allow injured players to work back up to full fitness, and giving certain people chances to warm up in the build-up to major tournaments.
England B sounded like the ideal stepping stone and the perfect way to get an incredibly talented pool of English footballers in and among the national team setup, without letting them fall by the wayside.
However, the reality was that England B didn’t always endear itself to fans, with attendances fluctuating significantly, and players, particularly the best ones who didn’t like being ‘relegated’ to the lower tier setup if you will, in order to earn a spot back in the first team.
We at GIVEMESPORT, along with many other fans of the Three Lions, can’t help but wonder how useful it would be today, if Gareth Southgate reinstated the England B team concept and fired it back up.
Think about it. England currently have an embarrassingly talented array of players, some who can only impact the XI from the bench, and others who cannot get a call-up no matter how good they look at club level.
From the strange abundance of right backs that has accumulated, to the stacked goalkeeper department and a seemingly endless array of forward options, Southgate has a real headache in finding the balance with players who are worthy of being in the international setup.
Chelsea sign Kalidou Koulibaly (Football Terrace)
It means there are plenty of top players, playing in the Premier League and beyond, missing out entirely, because after youth levels, it’s the full honours or nothing.
With that in mind, we’ve constructed an XI using the pool of players available. Trying to keep things as realistic as possible, it makes use of players advanced in age who haven’t been given the chance to become an England regular, and younger players who are expected to become England stars, but haven’t quite gotten there yet.
Let’s take a look at what we’ve come up with.
GK – Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal)
There’s no winning here. If it’s not Ramsdale, it’s Dean Henderson. And if it’s not Henderson, there’s Sam Johnstone and Nick Pope.
Arsenal‘s main shot stopper has been playing at a higher level more frequently than Henderson, however, and gets the nod as a result. Pope and Johnstone are unfortunately destined to serve as second and third choices.
RB – Kyle Walker-Peters (Southampton)
Breaking through at Tottenham, Walker-Peters made a brave decision in moving permanently to Southampton in 2020, and it’s paid off. He’s gotten much more game time and become one of the most dependable options in the Premier League.
He’s unfortunately a step below the competition, though. When Trent Alexander-Arnold can’t retain his place in Southgate’s XI, you know it’s a mess. Walker-Peters was made for England B, and he’d likely thrive there.
CB – Craig Dawson (West Ham)
Capped regularly at England under-21 level and a member of the 2012 Team GB Olympics football team, Dawson has been unfortunate to not get one England call-up throughout his career.
But, he’s finally getting the plaudits he’s deserved through the years since moving to West Ham, and at 32, is endlessly experienced. A cool head and a monster on the pitch, he’d be great for the younger players.
CB – Tyrone Mings (Aston Villa)
Truthfully, Mings isn’t quite up to scratch when you consider the talent England now have available in central defence.
However, he is a leader, he’s seriously experienced, he has the trust of Southgate and he is a Premier League level centre back. He’d be perfect for an England B team.
LB – Tyrick Mitchell (Crystal Palace)
A tough pick between Mitchell and Brandon Williams, the Crystal Palace left-back is probably the player with the higher ceiling and better stock at the moment, given Williams’ uncertain future.
Mitchell has gone from strength to strength since breaking through into Palace’s first team, and at just 22, now has two caps for England. For the time being, though, he isn’t going to get into the full England XI regularly enough, so let him develop in the B team.
CM – Josh Brownhill (Burnley)
One of the star players in a relegated Burnley side, Brownhill has his best years ahead of him at 26 and looks every bit a Premier League player.
Unable to get a look-in with the depth in talent Southgate has to pick from in midfield, the B team is the ideal place for Brownhill to make an impact and work upwards.
CM – Will Hughes (Crystal Palace)
Hughes is a player just about everyone thought would’ve been an England regular by now. His progression didn’t quite go as many expected, but he’s strutting his stuff once again under Patrick Vieira at Palace.
With his undeniable technical ability and his obvious ceiling that is yet to be reached, he’d light it up for England B if they were revived in 2022.
AM – James Maddison (Leicester City)
Sitting in the number ten role is Maddison, who cannot find a way into England’s first XI as a regular, merely due to the competition ahead of him.
Simply put, Maddison is far too good a player to not be involved in the national team in some capacity. He’s been tearing it up for Leicester, and a role within England B might just be the stepping stone he needs to convince Southgate fully of his abilities.
RW – Callum Hudson-Odoi (Chelsea)
Once considered England’s next major star and the subject of a bidding frenzy from Bayern Munich, Hudson-Odoi’s stock has fallen in the last few years at Chelsea.
A lack of regular minutes has seen him fail to improve on the three England caps he earned in 2019, thus a spot in the England B team feels like the perfect place for him to write a redemption story.
ST – Ivan Toney (Brentford)
It could’ve been Dominic Calvert-Lewin or even Tammy Abraham, but we’ve gone with Ivan Toney, who has been nowhere near the senior England setup despite his rise to prominence with Brentford.
With just about everyone stuck behind Harry Kane, Toney presents a genuinely new option in attack and wouldn’t involve ‘relegating’ Calvert-Lewin or Abraham, who have regularly deputised in Kane’s absence already.
LW – Eberechi Eze (Crystal Palace)
A nasty Achilles injury in May 2021 completely halted the impact Eze had upon signing for Palace.
Now trying to recover his best form, a call-up to a revived England B side would not only continue his pathway with the Three Lions from youth level, but aid his recovery and present him with a new pathway to earning his first full cap.