Southgate hands birthday boy Toney England call-up
Gareth Southgate has gifted Ivan Toney the perfect birthday present by recalling him to the England squad.
The Bees striker, 27 today, has bagged 16 goals in 24 Premier League outings this term and has been a pivotal figure in firing Thomas Frank's men into European contention.
Toney is facing 262 FA charges relating to the breach of betting rules but Southgate has included the in-form ace in his party for the Euro 2024 qualifiers against Italy and Ukraine.
The Three Lions boss said: "The fact is he is playing for his club and playing well, there hasn't been a trial as yet or any judgement so I don't know on what basis we wouldn't pick him.
"Before the World Cup he had a brilliant run of form, he has had a bit of an injury that has inhibited him.
"He has been consistent throughout the season, he is playing really well, I like his presence in games. He deserves his opportunity."
Manchester City defender Kyle Walker has also been included, despite his own off-field issues.
Chelsea winger Raheem Sterling, a regular under Southgate, misses out but club team-mate Ben Chilwell is back in the fold.
Struggling Liverpool star Trent Alexander-Arnold has been dropped in favour of Blues wing-back Reece James, while Crystal Palace's Marc Guehi replaces Conor Coady.
Callum Wilson, part of the Three Lions' squad at Qatar 2022, has also been overlooked after a quiet period with Newcastle.
England kick off their qualification campaign with a trip to Naples to face Roberto Mancini's Azzurri on March 23 before welcoming Ukraine to Wembley three days later.
The Italy game will be a fourth meeting between the two nations in less than two years.
Southgate's men lost the delayed Euro 2020 final in a heartbreaking penalty shootout before taking just one point from two Nations League clashes last year.
Aside from Toney, there are not too many surprises in Southgate's 25-man party.
The absence of Sterling, who has 20 goals in 82 caps for the Three Lions, is down to injury — Chelsea boss Graham Potter has revealed the 28-year-old attacker is nursing a hamstring issue.
Alexander-Arnold can have few complaints about his omission, having been a notable underperformer in an inconsistent Liverpool side this season.
The return of James, 23, is a welcome sight after the dynamic defender missed last year's winter World Cup with a knee injury.
Defender Coady, 30, on loan at Everton from Wolves, has always been a popular but peripheral figure in recent squads so it is perhaps unsurprising Southgate has looked towards the future with Palace star Guehi.
Despite his club's struggles, Guehi has largely impressed in 26 top-flight outings this term and will hope to add to his three senior caps.
Walker made the cut amid a police investigation on the back of allegations he exposed himself in a bar.
Southgate added: "It is a complicated situation, I have spoken at length with him.
"He is back playing with his club, there is no conclusive evidence to leave him out at this stage. I have to be careful about being the moral judge on things.
"We have had a couple of long conversations, we feel we want him with us.
"But we know when you're an England player there is an even higher bar on how you conduct yourselves and what is expected. We are not taking those decisions lightly."
England squad to face Italy and Ukraine
Goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford (Everton), Nick Pope (Newcastle), Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal).
Defenders: Ben Chilwell (Chelsea), Eric Dier (Tottenham), Marc Guehi (Crystal Palace), Reece James (Chelsea), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), John Stones (Manchester City), Kieran Trippier (Newcastle), Kyle Walker (Manchester City).
Midfielders: Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund), Conor Gallagher (Chelsea), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), James Maddison (Leicester), Mason Mount (Chelsea), Kalvin Phillips (Manchester City), Declan Rice (West Ham).
Forwards: Phil Foden (Manchester City), Jack Grealish (Manchester City), Harry Kane (Tottenham), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Ivan Toney (Brentford).