I REMEMBER the days when football phone-ins were stacked up with callers bemoaning England’s lack of creativity and flair at major tournaments, or a problematic left flank that seemed to go undiagnosed for more than a decade.

So often it feels as though the Three Lions have gone into a World Cup or European Championships with a safety-first approach. A marker laid down by leaving a flair player at home (read Paul Gascoigne, Matt Le Tissier, Chris Waddle) or a manager who sticks rigidly to a tactical system that chokes life out of the players available (Fabio Capello, we’re talking to you).

Looking past his penchant for right-backs, Gareth Southgate has managed to dodge any serious selection controversy when naming his 26 for Euro 2020. And given how long he had to think about it, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised.

Barring the one obvious issue at the heart of his defence, the England manager’s biggest issue is shoe-horning such a collection of attacking talents into one line-up - and in particular how he finds a spot for his one man in top form, Jack Grealish.

It is a worry that Harry Maguire may be asked to feature from a standing start, having missed the last fortnight of the season at Manchester United. But it is not a catastrophic one.

If there is any chance the big centre-back is fit to start, he should.

John Stones should also start but Croatia’s physical attack demands someone who can command in the air, and though Tyrone Mings has had a decent season at Villa, he simply has not done enough in an England shirt to warrant a start, for me.

If pressed, either Connor Coady or Ben White – who was picked as the 26th man yesterday – would be a preferable partner.

The opposition’s aerial strengths do not favour switching to the 3-4-3 England used until the end of last year. Using Kyle Walker and Luke Shaw tucked in as centre-halves and Reece James/Bukayo Saka and Ben Chilwell down either flank could leave them vulnerable against a side with plenty of 6ft plus options.

Then we have the old argument about just how cautious Southgate plays it.

In the 3-4-3, Declan Rice plus Kalvin Phillips/Jordan Henderson in the middle, the midfield would feel claustrophobic, unnecessarily defensive.

Southgate has always had a touch of pragmatism, though, and so it is inevitable that at least two ‘defensive’ midfield options will be in operation, whatever the system.

My preference would be to go 4-2-3-1 and that a place is found in the side for Grealish – the only man who looked to be firing on all cylinders during the two pre-tournament friendlies.

If he is overlooked, and England struggle to create as they did in the World Cup semi-final, I can see the social media implosion now.

Harry Kane is a sure-fire starter and it can be debated whether his tendency to drop deeper these days makes a number 10’s job more difficult, or forces Southgate into more mobile options on the wings.

But it is the only way I think Southgate can front-load his side, mix-and-matching the huge talents he has at his disposal.

Whether he uses Mason Mount as the 10 and Grealish on the left, or puts the Villa creator in behind Kane and two pacier options like Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford either side, I don't mind.

Some may say Grealish has not played enough football since returning from three months out. Some also say those miniscule shin pads put a rather obvious target out there for the more sly-minded defender.

But he is a match-winner. And though I think the same of Phil Foden, there is something about Grealish that tells me he is ready to be the face of this tournament.