Jesse Lingard was recalled to the England squad on Thursday after an absence of nearly two years, a reward for the attacking midfielder’s impressive displays on loan at West Ham after leaving Manchester United.
Lingard, who was a member of the England team that reached the World Cup semifinals in 2018, last played for his country at the Nations League finals in June 2019.
Injury and personal issues caused him to fall out of favor under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at United last season and he had made only three appearances for the team — all in domestic cup competitions — this season before being loaned to West Ham in January to ignite his career.
Lingard has scored four times in six Premier League games at the London club to force his way back into England coach Gareth Southgate’s thoughts, and was selected in a 26-man squad for World Cup qualifiers against San Marino, Albania and Poland this month.
“We weren’t sure how it would work out, but we were able to give Jesse a great reference in terms of our experience with him and we were just pleased he was back playing football,” Southgate said of Lingard’s move to West Ham.
“I think it’s one of those moves that has worked for everybody — Manchester United have got a player who probably needed a change of scenery, West Ham have benefitted from his performances, and Jesse is back playing at a really good level. Ideally we’d have seen that over a longer period of time, I can’t dispute that, but we know he can play at the level, we know the quality he has got.”
There were attacking midfield places free in the squad because of injuries to James Maddison, Jack Grealish, Jadon Sancho and Harvey Barnes that meant they were left out.
Two other players back in the squad after a long period out were center back John Stones, who has regained his place in Premier League leader Manchester City’s team, and left back Luke Shaw, who has been a standout for Manchester United in recent weeks.
Stones last played for England in October 2019, while Shaw’s most recent international appearance was in September 2018.
“Jesse, of the three, is a little bit more fortunate to be in,” Southgate said. “I think Luke and John have performed over a period of time. We have injuries in attacking areas that have opened up an opportunity for Jesse but I have to say his performances for West Ham have been excellent.”
Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins and West Bromwich Albion goalkeeper Sam Johnstone were handed first call-ups, but there was no place for Liverpool right back Trent Alexander-Arnold, a sign of England’s strength in depth in that position.
Kieran Trippier, Kyle Walker and Reece James were the right backs called up by Southgate, who said Alexander-Arnold’s performances this season for Liverpool haven’t been up to the standard of the previous two years.
“It’s a remarkable position of strength,” Southgate said. “I said that to Trent earlier today, I made that same call to Kyle and to Kieran in the past. Their response was a good one and they took up the challenge and found themselves back in the squad.
“Trent is a super talent and I’m sure he’ll play a big part with us in the future.”
Jude Bellingham, a 17-year-old midfielder at Borussia Dortmund, was selected but Southgate said he does not expect to see the player link up with the squad.
Restrictions in Germany would make it compulsory for Bellingham to self-isolate for up to 14 days on his return to the country, and Dortmund has said none of its players will be allowed to travel with their country if it means they cannot train and play for the club when they return.
Dortmund will be playing in the Champions League quarterfinals in early April.
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