Football is very competitive heading into a World Cup year and that’s certainly going to be the case with England during the 2017/18 season, as Gareth Southgate has opened the door to those playing for less established clubs.
The likes of Michael Keane, Jordan Pickford, Tom Heaton, Ben Gibson and Jake Livermore have all been involved in Southgate’s sides during recent international fixtures and the list of players fighting for a spot to travel to Russia next season is very broad.
Each player, whether capped or yet to be called up to the national squad, has a task ahead of them to prove their credentials in the forthcoming season and Burnley duo Jack Cork and Ben Mee have both spoken about their ambitions of working their way into the national side.
Burnley skipper Heaton earned his first England start over the summer in the friendly defeat to France and his team-mates are now hoping to follow him into the England line-up, with long-serving Clarets defender Mee suggesting he’ll put more focus on forcing his way into the England squad this term.
Speaking at Burnley’s new training complex ahead of the new Premier League season, the 27-year-old defender said:
“It’s definitely an ambition of mine and might be something I focus on more this season. Last season I just wanted to play well in the Premier League and this season I want to kick on, maybe improve on to that standard. I’ll be knocking on the door and trying to prove that I can do that.”
Summer signing Jack Cork, who joined from Swansea City in July for a fee reported to be around £10m, also spoke about his international ambitions but stated his main focus was securing regular football for his new side.
“Everyone would love to play for their country, I’m not sure if he (Gareth Southgate) is looking to go a bit younger now, I’m not sure if he is looking that way. I’d love to play for England but for me personally, it’s just trying to play here really and get into the team.”
“We’ve got some good quality midfielders here and it’s going to be difficult to get into the side. It’s going to be tough keeping in the side, I just want to play as much as I can for Burnley really.”
Defender Mee, who has spent five-years with Burnley after leaving Manchester City in 2012, added that it was encouraging to see the England boss looking outside of the established elite in the Premier League for potential players.
“I think it’s a big thing, there’s a lot of good players around the middle and lower teams who could probably do a job in the position within the squad. We’ve just go to work hard and try and catch the eye.”
Burnley kick-off their new Premier League season with a difficult task on the road next weekend against Antonio Conte’s defending champions Chelsea, before hosting West Brom at Turf Moor in their first home game of the campaign.