Gareth Southgate is monitoring Sheffield United defender Jack O’Connell ahead of a potential England call-up, reports Sky Sports.
Southgate has increasingly been seen at Bramall Lane this season following Chris Wilder’s side getting promoted to the Premier League.
During the most recent international break, Dean Henderson was selected. He became the first Blades player to be named in a senior Three Lions squad since Brian Deane in 1992.
Henderson was called up to replace the injured Tom Heaton. However, the Manchester United loanee played no part in the Euro 2020 qualifiers against Czech Republic and Bulgaria.
Southgate had previously spoken publicly about Henderson – who is a regular for the Under-21s – and the prospect of the goalkeeper making the step up.
Yet now it seems that O’Connell could be close to joining the 22-year-old in an England camp.
Why Jack O’Connell deserves England call-up
We have written extensively about why several Blades should be on Southgate’s radar. But O’Connell, in particular, is a standout option.
The 25-year-old has played every minute of league action this season. He has helped Wilder’s men to the joint best defensive record in the division.
In nine matches, the South Yorkshire team have conceded just seven goals. Only leaders Liverpool can match that and O’Connell is key to that success.
He also has plenty in common with recent Three Lions debutant Tyrone Mings. A year younger than Mings, O’Connell is also left-sided and was playing in the Championship last term.
Yet the Blades ace can boast being part of the best defence in the second tier of English football in 2018/19 as well.
The only thing that possibly works against O’Connell in comparison to Mings is that he plays in a three-man central defence, rather than a flat four.
Southgate has previously voiced his reservations about calling up centre-backs used to different systems. In reference to Conor Coady – who operates in a back three for Wolverhampton Wanderers – he told the Birmingham Mail:
“The system we’re playing at the moment, it’s difficult to map him into, and how would he be as a centre back in a four?”
Clearly Southgate has seen enough of O’Connell to at least be considering him, though. With another international break coming up next month, who knows?