‘You’re here on merit’: Kyle Walker not shocked by Grealish’s England absence

<span><a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Phil Foden;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Phil Foden</a>, <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Jack Grealish;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Jack Grealish</a> and <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Kyle Walker;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Kyle Walker</a> (left to right) at the training camp on 4 June. Only Foden and Walker made the final 26-man squad.</span><span>Photograph: Eddie Keogh/The FA/Getty Images</span>

Kyle Walker believes Jack Grealish did not deserve to be selected on merit for the England squad at Euro 2024.

Gareth Southgate’s exclusion of Grealish was the most high-profile and contentious of his selection decisions. But Walker, who has been appointed as England’s vice-captain for the tournament and plays with Grealish at Manchester City, backed Southgate for preferring others who have had better seasons.

While Grealish struggled to recapture the form he showed during City’s treble campaign of 2022-23, Cole Palmer, Anthony Gordon, Jarrod Bowen and Eberechi Eze have excelled.

“Was I shocked when Jack was left out? Shocked because I know what Jack can do. Was I shocked because of the players that he [Southgate] has brought in? No, because I think they’re all at a great quality and they’ve all had fantastic seasons,” Walker said in an interview with ITV Sport.

“I think Jack would be the first one to say he could have had a better season. I think he’s come out publicly and said he could have had a better season. So what does a manager base it on? Form or people that he knows have had good tournaments or a good season the season before?

“You’re here on merit. And I believe it should always be like that. You’re in this team because you’ve played well for your club which then puts you into the England fold.”

Trent Alexander-Arnold is in line to start in England’s midfield for their opening game against Serbia on Sunday, with Southgate believing the Liverpool player can offer the side “a different dimension”.

“We think he can offer something we don’t have, he can give the team a different dimension and he’s been diligent in understanding the [midfield] role,” said Southgate. “He has as good a passing range as anyone in world football, really.

“He’s been invested in learning and understanding all aspects of the game in that role and I’ve enjoyed working with him on that project in the last 12 months. His mentality and attitude have been absolutely first-class.”