Adam Wharton’s meteoric rise from the Championship to England’s Euro 2024 squad in just five months

No one had heard of Adam Wharton at the start of 2024 (Photo: Getty)

Crystal Palace sensation Adam Wharton could play for England in their Euro 2024 opening game against Serbia on Sunday night.

Gareth Southgate named the 20-year-old in his 26-man squad for the tournament at the expense of the likes of Tottenham star James Maddison andformer Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson.

That’s despite Wharton only making his Three Lions debut last week, coming off the bench for the last 28 minutes of the 3-0 win over Bosnia and Herzegovina.

It is quite simply a remarkable achievement given that just five months ago, barely anyone, let alone Southgate, had heard of the tenacious midfielder…

Breakthrough at Blackburn

Wharton made his senior debut for boyhood club Blackburn Rovers in August 2022 aged 18 where he played alongside his elder brother Scott.

He was an instant hit with the fans, and made 22 appearances across all competitions with his side on course for promotion until a late dip in form saw them finish seventh in the Championship, missing out on the play-offs on goal difference.

The following season he was a regular starter, and though Blackburn were no longer competing at the top of the table, he continued to put in eye-catching performances, even chipping in with a few goals and assists.

Wharton came through the ranks at Blackburn Rovers (Photo: Getty)

It wasn’t long before clubs in the Premier League were taking notice, and while Chelsea were interested, it was South London where Wharton would end up…

Soaring high with Crystal Palace

On January 2024 deadline day, Wharton signed for Crystal Palace on a five-and-a-half year contract, for a fee of £22.5million. Blackburn wanted a lot more and it’s now clear to see why.

Two days after the transfer, and just three days before his 20th birthday, Wharton made his Eagles debut as a first-half substitute against their arch-rivals Brighton.

It was… a complete disaster, as Roy Hodgson’s side were thrashed 4-1 at the Amex, with Wharton directly at fault for the Seagulls’ third goal.

Wharton has played just 28 minutes of senior international football (Photo: Getty)

But he would go on to start every game after that, beginning with a cruel 3-1 home defeat to Chelsea, where he quickly endeared himself to the Selhurst Park faithful with a passionate display, showing his strengths both on and off the ball.

That would prove to be former England boss Hodgson’s last game, with Oliver Glasner arriving to turn Palace’s season around, and while the entire squad have benefitted from the Austrian’s arrival, few have fared better than Wharton.

Glasner won just one of his first six games in charge, before winning six of the final seven of the season, drawing the other, as his side charged up the table to finish a club best 10th.

In that run included a 1-0 win at Liverpool, 5-2 against West Ham, 4-0 against Manchester United and 5-0 against Champions League-bound Aston Villa – Wharton was key to all these victories.

Wharton is the perfect link man between Palace’s electric attack and defence (Photo: Getty)

His crowning moment was perhaps the demolition of United where he found himself directly competing against Kobbie Mainoo, a very similar profile of player who earned his first England caps back in March after a good run of form.

But Mainoo – like the rest of the Red Devils – was completely anonymous that rainy Monday night, as Wharton and his midfield partner Will Hughes all but destroyed Erik ten Hag’s United career.

The 20-year-old does not hesitate to fashion chances for his teammate, quickly establishing a brilliant chemistry with the likes of Eberechi Eze and Jean-Phillipe Mateta, but it’s his defensive work that’s really shone, with an average of 3 tackles, 4.8 balls recovered and 1.3 interceptions per game.

Euro 2024 with England

While a surprise, Wharton’s call-up to Southgate’s 33-man preliminary squad was not underserved but few imagined he would actually be on the plane to Germany.

But while high-profile names like Maddison, Harry Maguire and Jack Grealish failed to make the cut, Wharton did.

He’s played just 10 times for his country at youth level, only one of those for the England U21s – 21 minutes against Luxembourg back in March, while his senior career consists only of that late cameo against Bosnia.

But he was impressive in that friendly and based on form, Southgate, who came through Palace’s academy, could not overlook him, especially with defensive midfield being such a tricky and crucial position for his Three Lions team.

Declan Rice will start in midfield, most likely alongside Trent Alexander-Arnold, but if Southgate decides he needs a more solid base to help England’s awesome attack, he’ll no doubt look to Mainoo or the young man from Selhurst Park…

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