Brighton and Hove Albion manager Chris Hughton backed defender Lewis Dunk for a return to the England squad after his performance in a 2-1 victory over rivals Crystal Palace on Saturday.
Dunk was one of the Seagulls’ top performers against Palace, making key blocks to keep Wilfried Zaha and Michy Batshuayi at bay while Glenn Murray and Anthony Knockaert scored either side of Luka Milivojevic’s penalty for the hosts.
England boss Gareth Southgate handed Dunk his first and only England cap to date when he played him in the Three Lions’ 3-0 friendly win over the United States in November, and Hughton said the 27-year-old’s form is as good now as it was then.
“What got him the cap in the first place is what he has now,” Hughton told reporters.
“There wouldn’t be any player in the England manager’s thinking that is not going to be up and down.
“I thought Lewis was very good. Both him and Shane [Duffy] needed to be. Anything less from our two centre-halves and I don’t know if we end up winning the game.”
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Hughton acknowledged that Dunk, like the rest of Brighton’s defenders, has been through some tough spells this season and would not necessarily be among Southgate’s first picks for England’s forthcoming European Championship qualifiers against Czech Republic and Montenegro.
Should Dunk be overlooked when Southgate announces his squad on Wednesday, Hughton backed the Brighton-born stopper to play for his country again in future regardless.
“They’re not all going to be brilliant every week — it comes with the territory,” said Hughton.
“Dunky’s a centre-half and he is going to be tested in this division.
“There’s a lot of competition [in the England squad]. If he’s picked, then that’s brilliant for him and the club, but if he’s not then it’s something for him to keep aiming for.”