West Ham forward Michail Antonio has been named in the England squad by manager Gareth Southgate as he goes in search of his first cap for the Three Lions.
The manager, who took over on a temporary basis after the resignation of Roy Hodgson off the back of the European Championships in France last summer, has mixed things up somewhat with his maiden squad as the permanent manager.
The former Middlesbrough boss has recalled Sunderland striker Jermain Defoe and West Brom midfielder Jake Livermore, whilst there are first senior nods for Southampton duo James Ward-Prowse and Nathan Redmond, who are veterans of Southgate’s U21 side.
Furthermore there are some big names missing, the Arsenal trio Theo Walcott, Danny Welbeck and on-loan Jack Wilshere have all been overlooked, whilst captain Wayne Rooney misses out due to a lack of match fitness having been out for Manchester United in recent weeks.
In terms of the Hammers, whilst striker Andy Carroll once again misses out – which was expected after a poor return from injury, it’s good news with top scorer Antonio getting the nod.
The forward, who has been utilised all the way from right-back to up top by manager Slaven Bilic this season, has bagged nine goals so far, including the opener at Bournemouth on Saturday upon his return from suspension, where he looked sharp all afternoon.
The former Nottingham Forest man, who rejected the chance to play for Jamaica a year a go, was given his first call up by former Irons manager Sam Allardyce in his one and only squad, and was also named in Southgate’s first as interim manager, although he is yet to play for the Three Lions having been left out of the last squad for ties with Scotland and Spain.
Considering the snub in the last squad Antonio will have been desperate to get back in for the games against Germany and Lithuania next week, and his place is more than deserved.
Aside from Saturday’s goal, just 48 seconds after Cherries striker Joshua King missed a penalty, it has been a while since the 26-year-old had been on the score sheet for the Hammers, having not scored in 2017 until now, however, his work off the ball in in the build up to goals – picking up four assists in two games against Crystal Palace and Middlesbrough – has been remarkable.
In what has been a tough period for Bilic’s side, Antonio has stood above the rest and continued his outstanding season. This call up, and hopefully a first cap, can only lead to even better things from Antonio.