Gareth Southgate has admitted Luke Shaw’s inclusion in his England squad was an attempt to boost his confidence after only starting once game for Manchester United in five months.
Southgate named a squad full of his former under-21 charges for the qualifier against Lithuania and the friendly against Germany this month, with the likes of James Ward-Prowse and Nathan Redmond being named in the squad for the first time.
However, the choice to select Shaw, whose only start since October came against Bournemouth this month, has raised eyebrows, given that he gave his reasons for omitting the likes of Andy Carroll and Theo Walcott as that they had no played regularly enough for their clubs.
He said: ""We are definitely nodding towards the future with some of the decisions we are making."
“Generally we've tried to pick players who are playing regularly, and one or two have missed out because of that.
"Luke is probably the exception. He's a player we have a lot of belief in.
"Having worked with him before we think he can be an important player for the future.
"Now would be a good time to give him that confidence boost."
Southgate’s selection of 34-year-old Jermain Defoe is the only departure from his policy of picking youthful players, with England short of firepower due to injuries to Wayne Rooney, Harry Kane and Daniel Sturridge.
Defoe’s last England cap came in 2013 and he has since left the Premier League for the MLS before returning to save Sunderland from relegation last season.
He is the top-scoring Englishman in Southgate’s squad with 14 goals this season and the former under-21 manager praised Defoe’s strike rate before insisting his England career was never over just because of his age.
"Year after year he's phenomenal, but this year in particular, in a team that aren't creating as many chances as other teams, his strike rate is outstanding,” he added.
"I didn't want to just look at his age and think he's finished with England. He's somebody that is immensely proud to have represented England at every age group. I think you get young players with a point to prove and older players with a point to prove.”
Southgate did however concede he hadn’t spoken to Walcott about his omission and expected him to be annoyed at the decision, especially given his 17 goals in all competitions this season.
He said he hadn’t seen Walcott play recently and gave that as the reason for his snub, despite the 28-year-old playing 33 matches already this campaign and all 10 of Arsenal’s last 10 games.
"Theo has a really valid claim for being included,” said Southgate. “I didn't see him featuring in the games this week and so in terms of having him in the longer squad I needed to look at one or two other players that I don't know too much about.
"That's a really tough call on him and one I don't expect him to be chuffed to bits about.
"Andy I don't think has played enough. It's a bit like Danny Welbeck. Danny is a player I really like but at the moment is a little bit short of match minutes."
England squad in full:
Goalkeepers: Hart, Heaton, Forster
Defenders: Bertrand, Cahill, Clyne, Jones, Keane, Shaw, Smalling, Stones, Walker
Midfielders: Alli, Antonio, Barkley, Dier, Lallana, Lingard, Livermore, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sterling, Ward-Prowse
Forwards: Redmond, Defoe, Rashford, Vardy.