Is Mee the answer to England’s centre-back conundrum?


England boss Gareth Southgate was reportedly set to spring a surprise by naming Burnley's Ben Mee in his squad for March's postponed friendlies.

According to the Athletic, Mee was set to get his chance on the international stage after years of sturdy defensive performances for the Clarets before the coronavirus intervened.

The 30-year-old had reportedly finally caught the eye of Southgate, who is a regular at Turf Moor to check on the likes of Nick Pope, Dwight McNeill and Mee’s centre-back partner, James Tarkowski.

It is often Tarkowski who gets the praise for the performance of Burnley’s backline, resulting in the ex-Brentford man being handed two caps by Southgate in the build-up to the 2018 World Cup.

The 27-year-old was even placed on the standby list for the tournament in Russia and his recognition by England has only increased his profile, resulting in him being linked with a big-money move to Leicester City last summer.

While Tarkowski remains a reliable performer at the back, it is understood Southgate was keen to take a look at Mee in an international environment as he considers all of his options.

The Three Lions coach arguably has some tough decisions to make when it comes to selecting his centre-backs for the European Championshi, with Manchester United’s Harry Maguire seemingly the only certainty to make the squad.

The postponement of the Euros until 2021 means Southgate has more time to run the rule over the likes of Joe Gomez, Michael Keane, Tyrone Bings, John Stones and Fikayo Tomori , who have all been called up in the last 12 months.

Meanwhile, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Mason Holgate, Conor Coady and Jack O’Connell’s names have been put forward as potential options for Southgate.

Where Mee fits into that pecking order is anyone’s guess, but Southgate is supposedly a fan due to his dependability and leadership, virtues Burnley boss Sean Dyche has been hailing for some time.

His stats also mark him out as one of the most consistent defenders in the Premier League, playing every minute of the season so far and helping to keep 11 clean sheets for the Clarets.

His consistency gives him the edge over the likes of Stones, Mings and Tomori, among others, but time is not on his side, even more so with the Euros pushed back a year.

Even with the postponement of the European Championship, it is still worth Southgate looking at Mee when football does resume – even if the Burnley man is only a short-term option.