LONDON • Sam Allardyce insists that Ross Barkley still has a future with the national team after leaving the Everton midfielder out of his first England squad on Sunday.
Barkley's strong start to the season, where he has scored twice in four games, has not impressed Allardyce sufficiently to earn inclusion for England's opening World Cup qualifier against Slovakia on Sunday.
The manager, who also confirmed that he would name his captain today, said: "We've had to make some very, very difficult decisions. None more so than Ross Barkley (aged 22 and an unused member of England's Euro 2016 squad). It's disappointing for him.
"The door will always be open for Ross but at this moment, I think the squad I've named is right."
On what things he and his coaching staff had looked at when selecting players, he said: "We've looked at all avenues, what sort of pre-season they've had, what happened last season, this season, look at the balance of the squad…"
Goalkeepers: Fraser Forster, Joe Hart, Tom Heaton.
Defenders: Gary Cahill, Nathaniel Clyne, Phil Jagielka, Danny Rose, Luke Shaw, Chris Smalling, John Stones, Kyle Walker.
Midfielders: Dele Alli, Michail Antonio, Eric Dier, Danny Drinkwater, Jordan Henderson, Adam Lallana, Wayne Rooney, Raheem Sterling, Theo Walcott.
Strikers: Harry Kane, Daniel Sturridge, Jamie Vardy.
While Barkley, who was watched by Allardyce in Saturday's win over Stoke and the assistant Sammy Lee in the opening-day draw with Tottenham, was left out, along with Jack Wilshere. There was better news for the recalled Luke Shaw, Phil Jagielka, Danny Drinkwater and Theo Walcott.
There was a surprise first call-up for West Ham winger Michail Antonio, with the squad showing five changes from the one that went to Euro 2016.
Allardyce believes that Antonio deserves his first call-up, completing his rise from non-league football to the national team.
The 26-year-old midfielder joined West Ham from Nottingham Forest for £7 million last year, having played for Reading, Sheffield Wednesday and Southampton since starting his career at Tooting & Mitcham.
"The journey," Allardyce said, when asked to explain why he selected Antonio, who scored in West Ham's 3-1 defeat by Manchester City on Sunday.
"The quality of the player that has shown through in every league he has played.
"The impact he had at the end of last season and the start of this, his attacking flair, his quality for final-third delivery and his goal record from a wide position."
Allardyce has also left out Marcus Rashford and believes the Manchester United striker needs to secure a first-team place at Old Trafford before he is a regular at senior international level.
The 18-year-old, who was included in Roy Hodgson's squad for the European Championship, came off the bench to score his first Premier League goal of the season at Hull on Saturday.
"I think that having international experience in the Under-21s will be invaluable for us later down the line," Allardyce said.
"And, if he's breaking into Manchester United's team, he will be in my squad.
"But because of his inclusion only as a substitute - as good as it was against Hull City - I think that the value of having probably a full game with Gareth (Southgate, the England Under-21 manager) will be invaluable to him and, later on, for us. A bit like Harry Kane and people like that in the past."
England created few chances in a frustrating 0-0 draw with Slovakia in the final group game at Euro 2016 but Allardyce expects a different proposition in the forthcoming game.
He feels their opponents will have to make more of an attempt to win the game and cannot be content with a draw.
"They're a team that has to come out and attack us to try and win the game. They're playing at home," said the England manager. "Whereas in the Euros we all knew that one point was enough for them and they made a very solid defensive unit that was very difficult to break down.
"I think it will be difficult in Slovakia and we have to plan for them playing on their own patch and us trying to break them down."
THE TIMES, LONDON, THE GUARDIAN