On June 2, 2021, Ben White made his international debut for England, playing in the final 19 minutes of their 1-0 win against Austria. It was the culmination of a long-winded journey beginning in Southampton’s academy, then Brighton’s, before cutting his teeth in League Two and League One with Newport County and Peterborough United and playing a vital role in defense as Leeds sealed automatic promotion to the top-flight, before excelling in the Premier League with Brighton and earning the club’s Player of the Season award on the same day as his first England start, playing the entire 90 minutes of a 1-0 win against Romania.
White joined Arsenal the following month for £50 million and quickly silenced the doubters with a promising debut campaign in North London, prompting Gareth Southgate to give him yet another call-up in March 2022, playing the full 90 in a 2-1 win against Switzerland and coming off at halftime in a 3-0 win against the Ivory Coast. With William Saliba returning on the back of a sensational loan spell at Marseille, White was shifted from central defense to right back but nevertheless thrived as Arsenal finished second and ended their lengthy Champions League drought.
Southgate has called him up for two major tournaments, coming in as a replacement for the injured Trent Alexander-Arnold as England finished second, but he failed to make a single appearance. He was named in the Three Lions’ 26-man squad for the 2022 World Cup, only to leave Qatar due to personal reasons on November 30, after failing to play a single minute in three group stage matches.
He was excluded from the March squad with Marc Guehi being recalled to the side as the Three Lions got off to a victorious start in Euro qualifying with wins vs. Italy and Ukraine, before missing out once more in June with Harry Maguire, Tyrone Mings, John Stones, Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier and Guehi ahead of him in the pecking order for CB and RB.
White slotted into his natural position of center back alongside Saliba for their Premier League opener against Nottingham Forest, and despite losing new recruit Jurrien Timber to a long-term injury, they prevailed 2-1 via early goals from Eddie Nketiah and Bukayo Saka. After starting in their 1-0 win vs. Crystal Palace and a 2-2 draw to Fulham, White was moved to the right back position with Gabriel Magalhaes and Oleksandr Zinchenko returning to the backline, and he did exceptionally well with three blocked shots, two key passes, two clearances and one big chance created, as Arsenal secured a comeback 3-1 win at home against Manchester United via extra time goals from Declan Rice and Gabriel Jesus.
It wasn’t enough to see him earn a recall to the national team, with Maguire partnering Guehi in central defense in their Euro qualifier in Ukraine, as Zinchenko opened the scoring within a half hour only for Kyle Walker to equalize before the break. The following match, Guehi slotted into the middle alongside Lewis Dunk as England got off to an early start via goals from Phil Foden and Jude Bellingham, only to concede in the 67th minute as Maguire scored an own goal, but Harry Kane restored the Three Lions’ lead shortly after in a friendly victory against Scotland.
England sit atop their qualifying group six points ahead of Italy (who have a game in hand), Ukraine and North Macedonia, and will be resuming action in a month when they play Australia in a friendly before facing off against Italy in a rematch of the 2021 Euros Final at Wembley in a decisive Euro qualifier. It remains to be seen whether or not Ben White will be involved in either of those matches, but one thing’s for sure: he will turn 26 years old on October 8 without having made his competitive debut for the Three Lions.
By: Joseph Baker / @Joebakerwinch
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / James Williamson – AMA / Getty Images