IT WASN’T quite a “full English” – but maybe enough to put a smile on Gareth Southgate’s face.
Three Lions gaffer Southgate was at Old Trafford on Sunday to see Marcus Rashford begin his campaign with a two-goal blast which gunned down Chelsea.
But of bigger value to Southgate was the number of English players in duty across the Prem – and especially among the Big Six.
Southgate has not hidden his fears that the Prem’s influx of foreign talent is in danger of preventing opportunities for his emerging players.
Yet Rashford was joined in the United starting line-up by Luke Shaw, Jesse Lingard and new-boys Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
And while things did not exactly go to plan for Frank Lampard’s Blues, there were positives from the three Englishmen in his starting side, Ross Barkley, Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount.
Chelsea, too, have two more of Southgate’s young starlets, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi, on the way back from injury.
That made eight English starters at Old Trafford.
In addition, Spurs featured Kyle Walker-Peters, Danny Rose, Harry Winks and Harry Kane against Aston Villa, while Oliver Skipp came off the bench and Liverpool started Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez and Jordan Henderson.
Manchester City had their own English trio of Raheem Sterling, Kyle Walker and John Stones, while Arsenal’s young side included Calum Chambers, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Joe Willock and Eddie Nketiah.
It meant that 22 of the 66 starters for the Big Six – exactly a third – were English, with Sterling, Kane, and Rashford scoring seven goals between them.
That was a big jump. Indeed, on the opening weekend of last term, the same six clubs started just 13 Englishmen.
Across the Prem as a whole, there were 83 Englishmen starting, with another 13 used off the bench.
Some of them, including Jamie Vardy and James Milner, have opted out of international consideration. Others, in truth, will never realistically come into Southgate’s thinking.
But the more who are playing, especially for the biggest clubs, the more options the England boss will have.
Of course, it is hardly a reason for celebration.
Arsenal’s starting side may look very different when Unai Emery has a fully-fit and up to speed Hector Bellerin, David Luiz and Nicolas Pepe to select.
Even 83 players represents just 37.7% of all those in the starting sides, less than one in four.
Yet the quality of so many of those who are playing or will play more – Ben Foden came off the City bench, while Dele Alli is out with a hamstring injury – is a positive step.
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