England squad: Gareth Southgate recalls Ollie Watkins for Australia and Italy matches

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Ollie Watkins has scored four goals and provided three assists in seven Premier League appearances this season.

England manager Gareth Southgate has recalled Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins for October’s games against Australia and Italy at Wembley.

Watkins, who last played for England in March 2022, continued his impressive start to the season with a hat-trick against Brighton on Saturday.

Chelsea forward Raheem Sterling was left out of the squad for the fourth time in a row.

England will face Australia in a friendly on October 13 and Italy in a Euro 2024 qualifier on October 17.

Watkins, 27, said he didn’t think there was „anything more he could do” for a recall after seven goals and three assists in 11 games this season.

„Ollie has started the season well and in the last couple of weeks he’s hit a bit of scoring form,” Southgate said.

“You have to be careful with that because you can’t go with recent bias in the exam.

„But he’s in good form, obviously at a high level, we know his character, his personality because he’s been with us before. He’s a good guy around the team.”

West Ham’s Jarrod Bowen, who was called up to the England squad for the first time in May 2022, returned without a place in the September squad.

Bukayo Saka was also included despite Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta describing the winger’s latest injury as „a concern” after he left with a muscle problem after 34 minutes against Lens on Tuesday.

England’s perfect Euro 2024 qualification record ended in a 1-1 draw with Ukraine in September, which they followed up with a 3-1 friendly win over Scotland.

Arsenal striker Eddie Nketiah and Chelsea centre-back Levi Colville have both been named again after earning their first call-ups to the England squad for September’s matches.

Jordan Henderson, who left Liverpool to join Saudi Arabian side Al-Etifaq in July, has retained his place at Southgate, as has Manchester United centre-back Harry Maguire. He made his first start of the season in a 3–0 Carabao Cup win over Crystal Palace on 26 September.

England have the chance to strengthen their position at the top of Group C after beating Italy 2-1 in their opening match in Naples in March.

Southgate’s side are six points clear, although second-placed Italy have played a game less.

England team

Goalkeepers: Sam Johnstone, Jordan Pickford, Aaron Ramsdale

Defenders: Levi Colville, Lewis Dunk, Mark Quahehi, Harry Maguire, John Stones, Fikayo Tomori, Kieran Trippier, Kyle Walker, Trent Alexander-Arnold

Midfielders: Jude Bellingham, Conor Gallagher, Jordan Henderson, Calvin Phillips, Declan Rice

Forward: Jarrod Bowen, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Harry Kane, James Maddison, Eddie Ngedia, Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saga, Ollie Watkins

’Unfortunate for players to miss out’

Like Watkins, Bowen has been rewarded for a strong start to the 2023-24 season, in which he has scored five times in seven Premier League games.

Southgate said he and his staff were „pleased with the performance of the wide players over the last four games” – which again contributed to the decision to skip Sterling.

„The team is playing well and there is some consistency there,” Southgate said.

„We’ve got Jarrod Bowen in those wide areas and he’s playing well. There’s a chance to learn some different things in Australia’s game as well.”

Bowen’s West Ham team-mate James Ward-Bross did not win.

Asked about the decision to leave Ward-Browse and Sterling, Southgate said: „Some have had better spells than others and there’s different competition for places.

„They are unlucky not to be with us at the moment and they have to play well.

„Persistence is an important thing in sports.”

’VAR is not going to solve every problem’

Discussing his comments, referring to Jesse Lingard’s disallowed goal in the 2019 Nations League semi-final, the England boss said he was not in favor of the technicality.

„I’m not for it. I’m still not sure if the Jesse Lingard goal that knocked us out in the semi-final was legitimate,” Southgate said.

„I don’t like that. I think we have to accept the referees’ decisions, but we know we’re unlikely to go back to a world where technology is not part of that decision-making process.

„It’s not going to solve every problem, and I don’t think there’s any solution to achieve that.”

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