James Maddison: Is midfielder ‘undroppable’ after impressive first England start?

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James Maddison goes close with a header against Ukraine
James Maddison’s best chance against Ukraine was a second-half header, but it was too close to the goalkeeper

It may have been a long time coming – but for James Maddison, his full England debut was worth the wait.

Three and a half years since his first international appearance as a substitute against Montenegro, Leicester midfielder Maddison started as the Three Lions comfortably beat Ukraine to remain unbeaten in their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign.

Injuries and form had denied the 26-year-old the chance to make that full international debut earlier, but he certainly made up for lost time with a very promising display at Wembley.

“It almost feels like a second debut, it was so long ago,” Maddison told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“I’ve worked hard. I love football and just wanted to be back in the England squad. I always watch from my living room and wanted to be part of this.

“As a footballer and someone who strives to be successful, it’s tough to watch your friends playing and not be involved yourself.

“It has been a good journey and one I’m proud of. I hope I’ve gained the manager’s trust so he knows he can select me.”

A creative force – how Maddison impressed

Maddison, playing on the left of a front three, linked up well on that flank with his former Leicester colleague Ben Chilwell, who started at left-back.

Regularly cutting inside, his movement caused the Ukraine defence plenty of problems and he probably could have marked his full debut with a goal but for poor finishing.

But everything else he did was good. He created five chances, the most by a player in his first England men’s start since Theo Walcott against Andorra in 2008.

His performance earned plenty of plaudits from those watching but Maddison was pragmatic in his assessment of his own display.

“I did alright,” he said.

“I will be critical when I watch it back, I always am.”

Maddison ‘now undroppable’

James Maddison in action against Ukraine
James Maddison played 86 minutes against Ukraine

Former Chelsea striker Chris Sutton believes Maddison should now be considered a permanent fixture in Southgate’s England squad.

“A lot of people have been calling for James Maddison to start for England long before now,” he said on BBC Radio 5 Live.

“I think he deserved a start earlier and he must be undroppable on the basis of today’s performance.”

Ex-England, Chelsea and Liverpool forward Joe Cole said on Channel 4: “We can’t wait another three years to see him in an England shirt.”

Former Manchester United and Leicester striker Dion Dublin said on BBC Radio 5 Live: “I’m pleased for James Maddison.

“He has deserved a start, he’s been brilliant at Leicester and it’s something different for us all to watch in an England shirt.”

Maddison’s early season form for Leicester – he scored six goals and provided four assists in the first 12 Premier League games – earned him a place in Southgate’s World Cup squad in Qatar.

However, a knee injury denied him the opportunity to play at the tournament.

“I think the World Cup was important for me,” Maddison added.

“Even though I didn’t play and I was struggling with injury, I was able to be a good egg around the camp. I supported the lads and that puts me in good stead with the manager.”

Southgate: Maddison ‘excellent’ on the ball

For Southgate, it was not just about Maddison’s personality in the squad but also his performance on the pitch.

“We were always going to start James Maddison,” the England boss said.

“He’s been playing really well for his club so we had no doubt he would fit in.

“His use of the ball was excellent.”

England are not in Euro 2024 qualifying action now until they face Malta on 16 June so Maddison’s focus will now switch to helping Leicester – one point above the relegation zone – retain their Premier League status.

“It has been a brilliant start to qualification and I’ll take this form back to Leicester,” Maddison said.

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