EXCLUSIVE

Darren Bent has suggested that Everton defender Michael Keane was a little lucky to be named among the England starting XI against Bulgaria with the other options at Gareth Southgate’s disposal.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with Football Insider, the former England striker says that the Three Lions are well equipped at the heart of the defence and that the Toffees’ star was fortunate to be among the starters on Saturday.

The 26-year-old made his eighth appearance for his country against Bulgaria, having last played international football back in March.

While regular starter John Stones is out injured, it was Harry Maguire and Keane partnered at the heart of the defence, Bent suggesting that Liverpool’s Joe Gomez should have been starting instead.

Asked if Keane could consider himself lucky to be starting for the Three Lions, Bent told Football Insider: “Yeah, there’s a few – obviously he got the nod, him and Maguire. You’ve got John Stones, Tyrone Mings was on the bench, Tarkowski wasn’t in the squad.

“At the moment England seem to be really strong in certain areas. There’s another one I forgot about, Gomez at Liverpool, who should be starting. I think he’s their best defender; strong, powerful.

“The likes of Conor Coady, Ben Mee – they must be thinking they’re never going to get the opportunity because Coady has impressed for a while now for Wolves and still hasn’t got the chance. Who do you take out the squad?”

Keane has played every minute of Everton’s season so far, with four Premier League and one League Cup outing under his belt.

He was left as an unused substitute for both of England’s UEFA Nations League final games against the Netherlands and Switzerland back in June.

In other Everton news, Football Insider can reveal that the Toffees had agreed to sign a Premier League 21-year-old before the plug was pulled at the eleventh hour.