BEN WHITE was travelling home to Brighton on Sunday night when he got THE phone call.
Gareth Southgate’s name appeared on the screen.
Ben White has replaced injured Trent Alexander-Arnold in the England Euro 2020 squad – but only found out on the drive home from MiddlesbroughCredit: PA
The defender has enjoyed a fine season at Brighton
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The central defender had left Middlesbrough in a car provided by the FA and was 90 minutes into the 300-mile journey south.
Yet after a quick conversation, which White will remember for the rest of his life, he mentally tore up his list of potential holiday destinations and turned his attention to Wembley.
Then, he prepared for a quick turnaround in Brighton before heading to St. George’s Park this morning to meet up with his new international team-mates.
After a jubilant phone call to his parents, Carole and Barry, the rest of the trip to the seaside on Sunday flew by as his head was now firmly in the clouds.
White, 23, impressed in his two games at Middlesbrough. He delivered a goal-line clearance to ensure a 1-0 win over Austria last week.
And the Albion ace then produced a measured display in an otherwise ropey Three Lions defensive performance in Sunday’s 1-0 victory against Romania.
James Ward-Prowse was the other main option to replace crocked Trent Alexander-Arnold and the Southampton schemer can count himself unlucky to miss out.
But England’s car-crash defending, which saw Tyrone Mings struggle in both friendlies, was clearly the reason why Southgate opted for another centre-back.
White’s route to Euro 2020 has been unconventional, as he had not been selected for England at any level until now.
He once heard of a potential selection for the Under-19s but it never materialised.
White comes from the Dorset town of Ferndown and with neither parent a football supporter, he was not pushed into the sport.
At an early age, he was thankful that a customer of his hairdresser mum agreed to go in goal in his back garden so he could practice his shooting.
After being rejected by Southampton aged 16, he joined Brighton and had successful loan spells at Newport, Peterborough and Leeds before enhancing his reputation for Graham Potter’s side at the Amex over the last year.
Southgate name-checked White for the first time when announcing his World Cup squad for the qualifiers in March.
Ben White was travelling home to Brighton from Middlesbrough when he got the callCredit: Getty
While the coach said White was not quite ready to be selected in the spring, things have clearly changed. This team for Euro 2020 is proving to be a difficult puzzle to piece together.
England have a major problem in central defence, with Harry Maguire slowly recovering from ankle damage and Joe Gomez missing altogether.
Although Conor Coady has come in, England look short of quality and it seems likely they will switch to a back three for Sunday’s game against Croatia.
That could even open the door for White to start.
At the World Cup in Russia, Southgate only decided to play with a back three because he wanted to start Maguire but felt he was too inexperienced to play in a central two with John Stones.
Southgate accepted England’s defending as a team was poor on Sunday and was unhappy with the work-rate from his forwards.
He said: “I didn’t like us without the ball in the first half but that was the whole team. That started from the front.
Gareth Southgate criticised his side’s defending against RomaniaCredit: Getty
“We weren’t disciplined in the way we defended. Our recovery runs were not good enough. It meant that the midfield was stretched and the back players had too many decisions to make.
“They were having to come into spaces where they shouldn’t have needed to be. Without doubt we can improve on that.
“There is a lot of work to be done on the training ground as, without a doubt, we cannot give up the number of chances we did against Romania and not expect to be punished.”
Southgate now faces a big few days to select his team for the side which eliminated England from the 2018 World Cup semi-finals.
Asked how he decides the starting XI, Southgate said: “We are constantly talking as a coaching staff, constantly looking at the players and looking at the opponent.
“Because the best team for the game with Croatia may not be the best team for the game with Scotland. We have to make sure we get those calls right.”
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