Chris Smalling insisted he would continue to fight for his place in the England national team but the Manchester United defender could be forgiven for giving up on international football after the latest squad announcement.
It would have been a long shot for England manager Gareth Southgate to make a U-turn on his decision to omit the centre back but on current form it would not have been a total wildcard.
Southgate dropped Smalling in November 2017 explaining his decision was down to the 29-year-old not being able to play out from the back.
Smalling was understandably irked by Southgate’s comments.
“You don’t play for one of the biggest clubs in the world for as long as I have and won every trophy bar the Champions League without being able to do everything a top defender needs to do – be it playing or defending,” Smalling said in November 2017.
“I don’t really feel like I need to prove anything to Gareth.”
And it’s a decision that still baffles the United centre-back as he admitted last month that he is still at a loss to understand his axing.
“To be honest, it’s disappointing,” he told MEN Sport. “I’m not going to lie, I wish I was there. But I play for one of the best clubs and I played under countless managers, be it Jose, Louis van Gaal, Sir Alex, and there’s a reason why they signed me for one of the biggest clubs.
“I obviously hear [Gareth Southgate’s] comments. Whether I agree or don’t, at the end of the day I play for Man United and generally when I’m fit I play. Now it’s a case of I keep playing for United and see what happens.”
And, after Tuesday’s announcement he must be left scratching his head as to what he needs to do to get back in the set up.
Harry Maguire, Michael Keane, John Stones and James Tarkowski were Southgate’s picks at centre back for the upcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers against Czech Republic and Montenegro next week.
Exactly a week on from an impressive performance against Paris Saint-Germain where his solid display kept out one of the brightest and fastest youth prospects in Kylian Mbappe and the United defender had to see Southgate select a Burnley defender who hasn’t kept a clean sheet in the league in nearly two months picked ahead of him.
It wasn’t just against PSG the 29-year-old impressed, his performance at the Parc des Princes came after convincing displays against Liverpool, Crystal Palace and Chelsea.
Smalling’s dealt with the most formidable attackers in the league and some of the best in Europe in recent weeks and still can’t get a look in.
With Southgate in contract until 2022 and Smalling not getting near the team despite his current form the centre back could be forgiven for drawing a line under his England career