The outsiders who could make late bids for England's Euro 2024 squad - including Spurs & Crystal Palace stars

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The Three Lions are closing in on announcing their squad for this summer’s tournament in Germany

Do you remember that mad month or two before the World Cup in 2018 where everybody was debating whether or not Jonjo Shelvey should get an England call-up, a kind of porpoise-smooth Andrea Pirlo with an accent like a short-lived Eastenders antagonist and a range of distribution not unlike that which caused the Cuban Missile Crisis? Simpler times.

Every other summer (and the occasional winter when oil money besmirches better judgement) we seem to have unhinged conversations of this ilk about the relative merits of various English fringe players. In the end, these matter of little. Its not as if Shelvey would have started any matches for the Three Lions even if he had been bundled away to Russia in Gareth Southgate’s hand luggage, and so, to that end, it’s a little like arguing over what colour shoelaces the officiant at your wedding wears. Superfluous detail.

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But argue we will, all the same. The faces and the names and the justifications may change on a bi-annual cycle, but the thrust of the farce lingers eternal; there are some England players who are guaranteed to be in the squad, some who are guaranteed not to be, and then a hazy, third cohort who flicker, ephemeral and wraith-like, on the cusp of recognition. It is these who smelt the ores of beer garden disputes and who generate the kind of precious, precious traffic that online football media sustains its sickly life force on. (Too late now, sucker! You already clicked the link!)

This time around, there are a handful of likely - or rather, unlikely - lads who will be waiting in the proverbial wings like desperate X Factor boot camp contestants, more in hope than belief, praying that Southgate’s fickle benevolence shines down upon them.

Amongst them, you would imagine, will be Adam Wharton. Ever since his arrival at Crystal Palace in January, he has taken the Premier League by storm. A calm, composed, almost metronomic storm. The manner in which the 20-year-old strolls around top flight engine rooms, disrupting and creating in equal measure, is freakishly precocious in a way that brings to mind Manchester United’s newly-anointed boy prince Kobbie Mainoo. Wharton is an ideal foil, an unseen schemer with a steady hand and an instinctive understanding of the game that increasingly colours the £22 million Palace paid for him as one of the canniest bargains of the season.

One day sooner or later, his time in an England shirt will come. It quite simply has to. And if Southgate is willing to entrust the aforementioned Mainoo with a notable role in his plans for Euro 2024, then common sense dictates that there is no reason why Wharton couldn’t also feature. Then again, the Waistcoated One works in mysterious ways.

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Just ask Dominic Solanke. From an English perspective, only Cole Palmer and Ollie Watkins have outscored the Bournemouth striker in the Premier League this season, and yet he remains, some would argue, cruelly overlooked. As column inches continue to be dedicated to Ivan Toney and his prospective inclusion - despite the fact that his goal drought extended into a tenth consecutive outing last weekend - his compatriot on the south coast chugs along quietly and efficiently, unassuming and unflustered.

Solanke has now scored 18 times in the Premier League this season, and with his lithe physicality, cunning for stretching defences, and knack for materialising in opportune positions, he feels like exactly the kind of well-rounded fallback that England could readily use in a precarious bind. You suspect that if his chance were to come, it would have come by now, but a strong end to the domestic campaign may force Southgate into reconsidering his options.

And finally, we have Eric Dier. Cue that Ian Wright meme where he meets his old school teacher. Shunned by the Three Lions, and then by Tottenham, the centre-back has thrived ever since being shipped out to Bayern Munich on loan in January. If any other English defender has come within a couple of minutes of a Champions League final while representing one of the most illustrious clubs in European football, you would fairly presume that they are all but nailed on for a call-up this summer. England are hardly blessed with a cosmos of centre-back alternatives, and beyond John Stones and Harry Maguire, it is hard to earnestly suggest that, based on current form, Dier is not at least on par with the likes of Ezri Konsa, Lewis Dunk, Joe Gomez, Jarrad Branthwaite, Marc Guéhi, or Levi Colwill.

Old school in many respects, he is a dogged contender of duels, both aerially and on the ground, and his anticipatory reading of the game is never far below exceptional. With 49 senior caps to his name he boasts a greater degree of international experience than most, and a considerable chunk of those appearances have come at major tournaments. If the England setup truly is a meritocracy, then Dier’s German renaissance should absolutely catapult him back into contention.

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Because really, that’s what this is, a question of meritocracy. Will Southgate opt for the boldness of newly garnered appreciation, or will he rest his laurels on the old, familiar faithfuls that have carried him this far? In an ideal world, it would be a little from Column A, a little from Column B. And if he does err towards that balance, then the likes of Wharton, Solanke, and Dier must all be on his mind as the summer swiftly approaches.

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