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Merson Says: Toney should go to Euros for penalties over Watkins

I would pick Ivan Toney just for his penalties instead of Ollie Watkins in England’s Euro 2024 squad.

I don’t see the point in taking them both because Harry Kane will play every minute and if he gets injured then England won’t win the Euros anyway – and I’ve been bullish that they’ll win the tournament.

In a 23-player squad, there aren’t any spots to waste on centre-forward positions. I’d be flabbergasted if Gareth Southgate took the pair when Marcus Rashford can also play up front.

Toney vs Watkins – Penalty record

Scored Missed
Ivan Toney 29 2
Ollie Watkins 4 5

Watkins has improved ten-fold with Aston Villa while Toney hasn’t set the world alight since his return with Brentford, but that’s understandable having not played for eight months.

We’ll start to see the best of Toney during the run-in now that he has his striker partner Bryan Mbeumo is back.

I like Watkins but you must take Toney for his penalties, especially with England’s history in shootouts.

England’s March squad

Goalkeepers: Sam Johnstone (Crystal Palace), Jordan Pickford (Everton), Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal).

Defenders: Jarrad Branthwaite (Everton), Ben Chilwell (Chelsea), Lewis Dunk (Brighton), Joe Gomez (Liverpool), Ezri Konsa (Aston Villa), Harry Maguire (Man Utd), John Stones (Man City), Kyle Walker (Man City).

Midfielders: Jude Bellingham (Real Madrid), Conor Gallagher (Chelsea), Jordan Henderson (Ajax), James Maddison (Tottenham), Declan Rice (Arsenal), Kobbie Mainoo (Man Utd)

Forwards: Jarrod Bowen (West Ham), Phil Foden (Man City), Anthony Gordon (Newcastle), Harry Kane (Bayern Munich), Cole Palmer (Chelsea), Marcus Rashford (Man United), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Ivan Toney (Brentford), Ollie Watkins (Aston Villa).

Southgate should test Palmer and Branthwaite in friendlies

It’s unfair to bring in players like Cole Palmer and Jarrad Branthwaite and play them at Wembley alongside a lorry load of players with three or four caps each.

If Palmer has a chance of going to the Euros, then play him with the likes of Kane, Bukayo Saka and Jude Bellingham where they can get a bit of understanding between them.

Cole Palmer performs his trademark goal celebration after giving Chelsea a 2-0 lead against Leicester
Image: Cole Palmer has shone for Chelsea this season

Everything goes through Palmer at Chelsea but that won’t be the case with England. He has to play in one of these friendlies to understand he won’t be touching the ball 100 times and get used to that.

It’s a different game at the international level, especially for someone like him where he’s the star man at Chelsea. In my opinion, it’s too soon to see Palmer starting at the Euros having only a few caps.

Jarrad Branthwaite has to play in both games to see where he’s at. At Everton, they play on the edge of their own box. Head it, block it, kick it away. They’re under the cosh for 75 per cent of the games you’re in.

NOTTINGHAM, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 12: Jarrad Branthwaite of England during the UEFA U21 EURO Qualifier between England and Serbia at City Ground on October 12, 2023 in Nottingham, England. (Photo by Joe Prior/Visionhaus via Getty Images) ***Local Caption*** Jarrad Branthwaite
Image: Jarrad Branthwaite has played for England’s U21s

With England, you’re playing on the halfway line and dominating matches but against Brazil and Belgium you’re playing up against players who are electric and running in behind. How do you cope with it? These two good teams will come and have a go at England. He deserves to be in, he’s done well, but now we’ve got to see where he’s at.

I know what Jordan Pickford can do, so we need a different goalkeeper to play the next two games just in case he gets injured. Aaron Ramsdale should play in both because he’s not going to play a lot of football between now and the end of the season.

Sterling’s time is up but Bowen is unlucky

Euro 2024 has gone for Raheem Sterling now. He’s having one of those times as a forward where everything goes wrong. The more you try, the worse it gets.

It’s confidence. The pressure is on at Chelsea and the fans are on his back. He could have had a hat-trick the other day and we’d be here now saying how is he not in the squad? Instead, we’re thinking how’s he got that many caps? That’s how quickly football changes.

When Sterling’s hot, he’s unplayable and he turns up in big tournaments. I don’t know if Southgate has made his mind up on him but I don’t see him at the Euros. It’s hard to make a case for him after the weekend.

Jarrod Bowen can play in three or four positions across the frontline. I like him, he’s a manager’s dream and gives you everything but he might just miss out of the Euros squad.

He’s unlucky but Southgate has so many options. He’d have been sweating if Sterling was ripping it up. There’s going to be some disappointed players this summer.

Will White regret snubbing England?

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The Soccer Saturday panel discuss Ben White’s decision to make himself unavailable for England selection.

Some players think they don’t have a chance of playing for England so what’s the point in going to a tournament, but Ben White is one injury away from starting.

White has experience from playing in big games with Arsenal every week. He’s really not a million miles off it. He could even play at centre-back.

But ultimately, it’s up to him. We all have choices in life and that’s his. I just hope in 20 or 30 years he’s not sitting there with his grandchildren who ask if he played when England won the Euros and he says, ‘I could have but I didn’t want to’.

The pinnacle of playing football is for your country at a major tournament. Often at major tournaments, someone who wasn’t initially in the team ends up being the hero.

England’s Euro 2024 fixtures

Sunday June 16 – Group C: Serbia vs England (Arena AufSchalke, Gelsenkirchen – kick-off 8pm UK time)

Thursday June 20 – Group C: Denmark vs England (Waldstadion, Frankfurt – kick-off 5pm UK time)

Tuesday June 25 – Group C: England vs Slovenia (RheinEnergieStadion, Cologne – kick-off 8pm UK time)

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