Jadon Sancho

There’s always drama when it comes to an England squad.

Whether it be a glaring omission or a bewildering inclusion, there’s always something to moan about. Then there’s the deafening clamour for a player to be included. A wildcard maverick forward who plies his trade for a smaller club but is in excellent form and will bring something different, a missing spark, to the Three Lions.

In 2014 Adam Lallana and Ross Barkley fit the bill, then it was Jamie Vardy following his heroics at Leicester. At last summer’s Euros, the calls were for Jack Grealish and this time around there might have just been a riot if James Maddison didn’t have a seat on the plane. Once upon a time, there were similar calls for Jadon Sancho to be in the England squad, too.

That’s when he was breaking through at Borussia Dortmund and taking the Bundesliga by storm with some electric performances and a lethal streak in front of goal. He was so good that Manchester United were desperate to sign him and only managed to do so on the third attempt at the cost of £73million.

Sadly, things have headed in a downward direction for Sancho since the move and as Gareth Southgate announced his squad for November’s World Cup on Thursday the winger wasn’t a passing concern. As the list was revealed his name wasn’t among the highlight omissions with Reece James, Fikayo Tomori, Ivan Toney, James Ward-Prowse and Tammy Abraham.

At the manager’s press conference no questions were posed about Sancho’s absence. No outcries were made. You would have even been forgiven for forgetting he could have been picked. Sancho’s exclusion from the squad was not a surprise in the slightest. But the fact that it wasn’t even a story is concerning.

A winger who cost so much money playing for one of the biggest clubs in the country should be a shoo-in for any England squad but West Ham’s Jarrod Bowen was almost certainly closer to making the cut.

Sancho hasn’t played for England for over a year – a 5-0 win over Andorra in October 2021 – but with even that lack of involvement in the Three Lions set up he could have made it. Callum Wilson hasn’t earned a cap for three years but is in. Maddison has played once and has rarely been fancied by Southgate. Marcus Rashford hasn’t featured at all since his penalty miss against Italy but has sailed past his teammate and into the squad.

It’s a unique World Cup scheduled at a remarkably stupid time so, as Southgate admitted, form might matter more than ever which has seen some players earn their spots as a result. The fact of the matter is Sancho has not been in form for quite some time now.

It has been incredibly difficult to watch. Not only because it’s clear just how good Sancho can be but because of how much he has taken to United. He is regularly the United player with the most time for supporters outside the Carrington gates and outside Old Trafford, taking plenty of time for signatures and selfies.

And while an airline – that really has too much to say on social media – takes crass potshots on Twitter, you only need to look at Sancho’s last tweet to get the measure of the man. It’s a photo of him celebrating with a shinpad a young supporter, Jacob, had gifted him and dedicating the goal to him in return.

Fans want Sancho to be a real success at Old Trafford. He’s a good, professional player with bags of talent and even more time for supporters. Him in full-flow with Antony on the other flank and either Rashford or Anthony Martial in the middle could be a sight to behold. Now he needs to use this World Cup heartbreak to get there.

Flashes of improvement have been witnessed under Erik ten Hag but he’s not at the consistent level he was at in Dortmund. The exclusion from the squad should sting but the apathy to that decision from all corners can hopefully be a real driving force for him to get back there and the best way to do it is by performing for his club.

He would obviously rather be in Qatar but he can see this as an opportunity. Sancho now has over a month to get back to full fitness ahead of the Premier League’s return and then really get about kicking on and realising all the massive potential at his disposal. There is a lot of the season to go and he can be the X-factor to get United back in the top four.

The omission is bound to sting, but he must take that disappointment and turn to to his advantage.

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