Matt Maher: English invitations give cause for celebration


              

              

              

              
Aston Villa's Ollie Watkins (left) and Tottenham Hotspur's Davinson Sanchez (right) fight for the ball during a Premier League game in Villa Park, Birmingham.  Image Date: Sunday, March 21, 2021. PA Photo.  Check out the PA story of SOCCER Villa.  The photo should read: Tim Keeton / PA Wire.  RESTRICTIONS: EDITORIAL USES ONLY No use of unauthorized audio, video, data, match lists, club / league logos or

Ollie Watkins of Aston Villa (left) and Davinson Sanchez, Tottenham Hotspur (right), fight for the ball during a Premier League game at Villa Park, Birmingham. Image Date: Sunday, March 21, 2021. PA Photo. Check out the PA story of SOCCER Villa. The photo should read: Tim Keeton / PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: EDITORIAL USES ONLY No use of unauthorized audio, video, data, match lists, club / league logos or live services. Online use of the match is limited to 120 images, with no video emulation. There is no benefit from betting, playing or posting individual clubs / leagues / players.

When was the last time all Albion, Villa and Wolves had players invited to the same Three Lions team?

Seeking an answer – March 2011 – required considerable digging, not least because then Baggies goalkeeper Scott Carson was only involved as a late replacement for Ben Foster (then with Birmingham) due to a recent illness. Carson has joined Wolves winger Matt Jarvis and three Villa Stewart Downing, Ashley Young and Darren Bent in Fabio Capello.

Before that opportunity you have to go back to the early 80s, when Emlyn Hughes skipped the Wolves and all three clubs fought him in the upper half of Division 1.

Clearly, the lack of representation in international organizations is further evidence that West Midlands football has often failed to achieve its collective weight in recent decades.

In that regard, invitations for Conor Coady, Tyrone Mings, Ollie Watkins and Sam Johnstone are cause for celebration.

Wolf’s skipper Coady, like Villa Mings defender, becomes a regular member of Gareth Southgate’s team. For Johnstone and Watkins, both invited for the first time, next week is an opportunity to show the Three Lions boss what they can do with Euro 2020, for which barely two months have passed.

Of this pair, forward Villa Watkins is more likely to see action in a real match, just based on the fact that there will always be greater opportunities for outside players.

English goalkeeper Scott Carson (left) and Matt Jarvis (right) go to Wembley Stadium for training,

His best chance may happen tonight, when a visit to San Marino – the lowest ranked team in the world – surely offers Southgate a platform to experiment and an excuse to rest like Harry Kane for more testing matches against Albania and Poland.

Even if Watkins doesn’t come out on the field in any of his three matches, the invitation is just another step in an extraordinary journey that took him to the Premier League within six years of being out of the league. You doubt there will be other chances.

He’s not the only Villa player to have caught the eye of Southgate this season. The England boss last week checked the names of Matty Cash when discussing right-back options, while both Ezri Konsa and Matt Targett were considered for the current team.

This is encouraging news for Villa, but also for the region that until recently struggled to include even one player in the England team.

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