Adam Wharton achieves never-before-seen feat on England debut and could partner Declan Rice in Serbia Euro 2024 opener

ADAM WHARTON had not even played for England’s Under-21s until March, let alone the senior team.

International football, particularly ahead of a major tournament, is all about grabbing your chance when it comes — even if we are only talking about a few precious minutes on the pitch.

Crystal Palace star Adam Wharton stood out during his England debut

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Crystal Palace star Adam Wharton stood out during his England debut
England star Wharton completed all his passes against Bosnia

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England star Wharton completed all his passes against Bosnia
Wharton made history with his stunning performance for England

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Wharton made history with his stunning performance for England

And the 20-year-old Crystal Palace midfielder has done exactly that.

Wharton —  still playing for Blackburn in January — could walk down many high streets unnoticed but in a few weeks’ time he might  be a household name.

Outstanding in 15 Premier League starts for Palace following his £18million move, Wharton could now be part of Gareth Southgate’s 26-man Euro 2024 squad.

Incredibly, he is even pushing for a starting place in the opener against Serbia in Gelsenkirchen in 11 days.

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If everyone is fit, boss Southgate knows ten of his starting XI. Yet there remains a huge question mark over who partners Declan Rice in central midfield.

It could be Wharton. It might be 19-year-old Kobbie Mainoo. Trent Alexander-Arnold and Conor Gallagher are also in the running.

Liverpool’s Curtis Jones has been included in the provisional 33-man party but is yet to get a chance.

The final audition will take place against Iceland at Wembley on Friday.

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Southgate has until midnight after that to submit a final squad to Uefa.

Wharton looked at home in midfield after arriving as a 62nd-minute sub in the 3-0 friendly win over Bosnia and Herzegovina on Monday.

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Since Opta stats began in 2008, Wharton became the only midfielder to attempt 30-plus passes on his England debut and complete every single one — 37 out of 37.

Wharton’s rise has been meteoric. In March, he was selected for the Elite League squad, formerly known as the Under-20s. He played 55 minutes in a 5-1 win over Poland.

A few days later, he was parachuted into the U21s’ squad and came on as a 68th-minute sub in a 7-0 thrashing of Luxembourg in Bolton.

By then, Wharton had already hit the ground running for Palace — although he was handed a brutal lesson on his debut in a 4-1 hammering at Brighton.

Wharton told SunSport in May: “It wasn’t the best start. I got caught on the ball and then they went on to score from that. It was a wake-up call.

“It helped me as much as it was a bad moment at the time. Without that, I wouldn’t have learned that lesson.”

Wharton attracts interest

Wharton has not looked back since. Liverpool and Newcastle were interested when the Eagles took the plunge — but now Bayern Munich are hovering.

Asked about Wharton’s impact in his first senior call-up, a smiling Southgate said: “There is no question he has impressed us. I’m really pleased.

“He showed in the cameo what we’ve seen in training in the last week and what we’ve seen with his club.

“He is a very calm boy. He seems to have taken everything in his stride and when you talk to him, he is unflappable — as he was on the pitch.

“That ability to receive a ball and see a picture early and play it forward, that isn’t something you should underestimate.

“The other players have recognised his quality. There’s a lot still ahead of him.

Southgate praises Wharton

“Players like Toni Kroos and Luka Modric have been around for a decade and know how to control the rhythm of a game.

“That’s a step beyond where we’re at with Wharton and Mainoo. They’re really tender in their development.

“They’re doing really well and we’re excited about working with them.

“But we’ve got to be realistic about what that’s going to look like in terms  of controlling the tempo at the highest possible level — which is also a step none of them have seen.”

So, Southgate will maybe call on Alexander-Arnold, who started against Bosnia in central midfield but switched to right-back before scoring a cracker for 2-0. Despite being aged 25, the Liverpool man has only won 24 England caps.

The Three Lions chief said: “It is a role he is discovering. He is hungry to learn and has been since I talked to him about playing there a year or so ago.

Alexander-Arnold competition

“We will have different challenges in this tournament and we are going to  have to have different ways of solving problems that teams pose us.

“Trent has had a difficult international career because of the strength in depth in that area.

“We haven’t always been able to give him the amount of football that his talent deserves.

“But we  always tried to find a way  to do that — and I think he knows that and appreciates that.”

Southgate was then asked whether Alexander-Arnold would be comfortable in that central role at a tournament.

He replied: “That is the unknown. Obviously with Gallagher, with Mainoo, even with Wharton, you know exactly what they can and what they can’t do.

“None of these players can do everything so you are trying to work out what is the right balance.

“Obviously, Declan is going to be in there so what is the balance with him? It could be different for different games.

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“I think we will play against a back five at certain times and we have got some good options.

“Both in terms of what we start with but also how we can adapt the team during matches.”

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