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England’s World Cup Squad If You Can Only Choose Championship Players - Part One

Updated: Nov 3, 2022

Last summer, we wrote an article about England’s Euro squad if you can only pick Championship players. Despite the physical threat received to us from a Watford fan because we only named Will Hughes on the bench, we’re back with a special World Cup edition.

The idea for a solely English second-tier squad initially came from the fallout of the proposed Super League (remember that?) and how the president of UEFA, Aleksander Ceferin, stated at the time, that players who would sign up to play in this monstrous anti-competition would be banned from World Cups and European Championships.

Gareth Southgate is expected to announce his final 26-man squad for the World Cup next week, with the FIFA deadline for final squad submissions being Sunday 13th November.

This is also in the last weekend of Championship fixtures before the league halts for the tournament, with the season then restarting on Saturday 10th December, eight days before the World Cup final.

With the squad limit increasing from 23 players to 26 players in the World Cup for the first time and England’s actual 26-man squad for last summer’s Euros featuring 19 players who have played in the EFL, this scenario of a solely Championship-picked squad isn’t as far-fetched as you may think.

So, with that in mind, we asked a fan from each Championship club to pick one English player from their own team to get on the plane to Qatar. The results were surprising and we’re overloaded in midfield, but let’s get to it.

The Rules

  1. All 24 teams in the Championship must have at least one player represented in the squad

  2. Loan players from Premier League clubs count

  3. The team’s formation must be the same as England’s last game, a 3-3 draw against Germany in the Nations League, which was a 3-4-2-1 line-up

The Squad - In Full

  1. Lee Nicholls

  2. Max Aarons

  3. Ryan Giles

  4. Jack Whatmough

  5. Scott Wharton

  6. Shaun Hutchinson

  7. Lewis Baker

  8. Josh Brownhill

  9. Keinan Davis

  10. Chris Willock

  11. Grady Diangana

  12. James Bree

  13. Wes Foderingham

  14. Ben Whiteman

  15. Jacob Greaves

  16. Dennis Cirkin

  17. Tom Ince

  18. Billy Sharp

  19. Alex Scott

  20. Matt Grimes

  21. Brooke Norton-Cuffy

  22. Ben Sheaf

  23. Freddie Woodman

  24. Charlie Patino

  25. Ryan Wintle

  26. Jobe Bellingham

The Starting XI

Goalkeeper: Lee Nicholls (Huddersfield Town)

None of the fans asked for this picked a goalkeeper, after all, why would you? There are plenty of more exciting options to choose from. Being a Huddersfield Town fan myself, Lee Nicholls was the first (and only real option) to choose from my club. He was the goalkeeper in the 21/22 PFA Championship Team of the Year, he’s a supreme shithouser and he’s England’s Number One for this. Oh, and he’s made the most saves in the league out of all the English ‘keepers so far this season.

Right Wing Back: Max Aarons (Norwich City)

One of just two survivors from our Championship Euro 2021 squad, Max Aarons keeps his place as RWB in this team. Jacob from Norwich City fan podcast, Canary Cast, picked him as The Canaries’ sole representative and here’s why.

He said: “A player who has been linked with every European giant under the sun. He’s played well over 100 games before the age of 23 and has shown remarkable consistency to make him arguably the stand-out RB in the Championship.”

Centre Back: Jack Whatmough (Wigan Athletic)

Defenders weren’t high on many fans’ lists but Whatmough is going straight into the team for this passionate justification by Barry Worthington from the Wigan fan podcast, Progress With Unity.

We imagine Three Lions was blaring in the background while he told us. He said: “England had waited 50 years for a successor to Bobby Moore, then Jack Whatmough stepped out of the shadows at Wigan Athletic. A class defender, who reads the game so well that he hardly has to make a tackle, he simply steals the ball off opposition strikers. He’s solid in the air, calm and assured in possession and can pass with either foot, a Rolls Royce of a defender.”

Go on Baz, it’s coming home!

Centre Back: Shaun Hutchinson - Captain (Millwall)

To much surprise, Jake Cooper is not in but Shaun Hutchinson is. Joe from the Millwall fan podcast, A Millwall Podcast Like No Other, choose their captain to get his England call-up.

He said: “A career that has spanned over 14 years, playing six seasons in the Scottish Premiership and seven seasons in the Championship. Our captain, and Mr Reliable, Mr Shaun Hutchinson aka Hutch.”

You may not like it, but ‘Hutch’ isn’t just Millwall's captain, he’s our England captain for this too. Why? An old-school experienced defender feels right. No more questions at this time.

Centre Back: Scott Wharton (Blackburn Rovers)

Left-sided centre halves are hard to come by, so we were chuffed when Ryan Hildred , Blackburn Rovers fan, picked defender Scott Wharton.

“He’s a left-sided centre half which England are in desperate need of,” says Ryan. “Composed on the ball and a threat from set pieces too.” Good enough for us!

Left Wing Back: Ryan Giles (Middlesbrough)

The Wolves loanee takes our final starting defender spot, and Jonny Bullock from Middlesbrough fan podcast, The Boro Breakdown, initially said there’s no sentence needed for why Giles is the sole choice for Boro.

Then we prompted him a bit more and he said: “He’s a really attacking player at left wing-back but can comfortably play LM if you’re playing four at the back. Defensively, he needs work but he’s brilliant.”

Hmm, an attacking full-back that needs work defensively but is brilliant? Can’t think of anybody in the actual England squad like that.

Centre Midfield: Lewis Baker (Stoke City)

This is the part of the article where we have some really tough competition. Gareth Southgate took just seven midfielders in his Euro 2020 squad whereas we have nine in this squad and most of them are centre midfielders.

Baker gets the nod and Ben Rowley from the Stoke City fan podcast, The YYY Files believes Southgate would like him in his side. He said: “A more mobile James Ward-Prowse type of player, Baker scores plenty of goals, he has 12 goals since January and is incredible from all kinds of set pieces.”

Plus he’s played for England from U17 to U21 level so he’s in.

Centre Midfield: Ben Whiteman (Preston North End)

Gareth Southgate loves a defensive midfielder and that’s why we’ve got a couple of choices in here. Josh Knowles, a Preston fan, believes Ben Whiteman deserves a starting spot as he’s the ‘best defensive midfielder in the league’, here’s why.

He said: “Whiteman is perfectly fitted into the shoes of Ben Pearson and Paul Gallagher combined. He has the defensive attributes of Pearson in covering space and protecting the back four but has the attacking prowess with the long-range passing, free-kick ability and quality from set pieces that North End lost with Gallagher. He can play as a 6 or an 8 and is still a good age.”

Attacking Midfield: Josh Brownhill (Burnley)

Josh Brownhill has been superb this season, according to Joe from the Burnley fan podcast, TurfCast.

He said: “He’s been our best player so far for me. He’s moved into a role which is more suited to him this season playing in an attacking midfield role, rather than a defensive midfield role which he played in under Sean Dyche. He’s much better when he’s let loose and doesn’t have to worry about breaking play up, as that has been left to Jack Cork and Josh Cullen.”

Brownhill gets the nod in an attacking role, he’s been important to Burnley’s success so far this season and he’ll have the licence to get forward in our team.

Attacking Midfield: Chris Willock (QPR)

Clive from QPR fan site, Loft For Words, is no-nonsense when it comes to picking Chris Willock and well, why wouldn’t you be? “Chris Willock because he’s Chris Willock,” he said. It’s hard to disagree, he’s been one of the best performers in the Championship for the past few seasons and he’s one of the first names on the team sheet. Clive almost said Manchester United loanee Ethan Laird would be a strong second choice, who didn’t make the final squad but deserves a mention.

Centre Forward: Keinan Davis (Watford)

Watford fans, rejoice you’ve got a player in the Starting XI! It was a straight shootout between Davis and Billy Sharp, from surprisingly just two centre forwards chosen by fans but Davis gets to start purely because age is on his side. However, Sheffield United fans, Sharp is the first sub and will get his time to start if Davis doesn’t start well, this is the beauty of a big squad to choose from.

Jordi Connor, from the Watford fan podcast, From The Rookery End, summarises why Davis narrowly beats Sharp.

He said: “Our World Cup squad would need a strong presence up front and Davis fits the bill. He came of age with Forest last season and has immediately cemented himself as Watford's first-choice centre-forward. With his ability to do everything in the opposition's half, from winning and holding the ball up around the halfway line and bringing others into play, to his composed finishing in the six-yard box, he is a complete centre forward and perfect for a Championship Select.”

Who would you pick if you had to do the same challenge? Get involved using #SecondTierWC.

If you want to hear the rest of the squad and the reasons why, click here for Part Two.



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