Three ex-Reds are in the England squad for the tournament which starts this weekend while current Barnsley player Callum Styles could make history with Hungary

John Stones, England

JOHN Stones’ case for being the greatest sportsperson ever from Barnsley would be strengthened even further if he can help England to their first European Championship win this summer.

It is a debate that will never be truly settled as it is impossible to compare people in different sports and different eras.

How can you measure the tragically cut-short career of superstar Busby Babe Tommy Taylor against Olympic sprinter Dorothy Hyman, three-time World Cup winning cricketer Katherine Brunt, her idol Darren Gough, or the Reds’ FA Cup winners of 1912?

Others will throw different names in the mix. You are essentially picking your favourite.

But Stones, undoubtedly, has to be at least in the conversation for the Barnsley person who has achieved the most in sport ever.

Six Premier Leagues, two FA Cups, two EFL Cups, a Champions League and a Club World Cup is a phenomenal CV for a lad from Thurlstone who started at Penistone Church and spent a decade in the Barnsley FC academy.

It is missing an international trophy as his 72 England caps include extra-time defeat in a World Cup semi-final in 2018 to Croatia and that harrowing penalty shoot-out loss to Italy in the last Euros at Wembley – a game sandwiched by the break-in of ticketless fans and racist abuse of the penalty-missers.

The 30-year-old has had a difficult season with injury, starting just 12 Premier League games for champions Manchester City then returning for the FA Cup final loss to Manchester United last month.

The defence is the least proven area for the Three Lions going into their group games with Serbia on Sunday, Denmark the following Thursday then Slovenia on Tuesday, June 25. With Harry Maguire – who was also in the Oakwell academy briefly – not making the final squad due to fitness concerns, it is unclear who might start.

Stones started Friday in a 1-0 friendly loss to Iceland but came off at half-time due to an ankle problem sustained in the first minute.

He returned to training but has since been out with illness then returning to train again yesterday.

The other options are Marc Guehi of Crystal Palace, Lewis Dunk of Brighton, Ezri Konsa of Aston Villa and Liverpool’s Joe Gomez.

If they find a solid back four, with the astounding array of attacking talents at Southgate’s disposal, England appear to have as good a chance as anyone to win the competition.

For Stones, assuming he stays fit, it is realistic to target – after the competition in Germany – the 2026 World Cup in north America then the home Euros two years later when he will be 34.

Kieran Trippier, England

A CAREER that has reached the highest level started as a Barnsley loanee from Manchester City in a 2-1 defeat at Middlesbrough on a cold Tuesday evening in February 2010.

Trippier played 77 minutes – alongside another future England international Jay Rodriguez – then two more matches that season before returning for the following campaign, appearing 44 times in total for the Reds.

He was at the club at the same time as his current England team-mate John Stones who was then an under 18s player and occasionally joined in first team training.

Trippier scored late equalisers for Barnsley in Yorkshire derbies against Leeds and Doncaster Rovers, displaying in the latter the free-kick ability he would show for England in the 2018 World Cup semi-final when he opened the scoring.

He gained promotion to the Premier League with Burnley, played in the Champions League final for Tottenham Hotspur, won the Spanish title with Atletico Madrid and now captains Newcastle United.

He has 47 England caps and is set to play in his fourth major tournament. Despite mainly being a right-back, he may start as England’s first choice left-back with Luke Shaw’s fitness in question after an injury.

Trippier, 33, has been captain for England several times including in a friendly win over Bosnia and Herzegovina last week.

Ivan Toney, England

If Barnsley fans had to guess which of their 2016 promotion-winning squad would go to the European Championships in the future, few would have predicted striker Toney.

Conor Hourihane nearly got there, losing a penalty shoot-out in the play-offs with the Republic of Ireland, while Alfie Mawson was called into an England senior squad before sustaining the injury which would curtail his career eventually.

Toney scored two goals in 20 games for Barnsley, in the first of five loans from Newcastle United who also sent him to Shrewsbury, Scunthorpe and Wigan.

His goals were important for the Reds as he netted in back-to-back games at Wigan, in an early round of the EFL Trophy which they went on to win, and the winner in a massive league victory at Colchester which took them off the bottom of League One and began the rise to the play-offs.

He also scored twice for Peterborough against Portsmouth in 2019 which secured Barnsley their next promotion without playing.

A prolific two-year spell at Peterborough led to a move to Brentford who he fired into the Premier League with 31 goals in 2020/21. He netted 20 goals in the 2022/23 top flight season then was banned for eight months for betting offences.

Toney has been regularly selected for England since his return earlier this year and has been included in the final Euros squad along with Harry Kane and Ollie Watkins.

There was uncertainty over whether he would make the final 26 after not scoring in the last 12 games for Brentford and being an unused substitute for the first pre-tournament friendly, but he was not one of the seven players left out.

He is unlikely to start but is known for his reliability from the penalty spot so may prove a useful substitute in tight knock-out matches.

He came off the bench against Iceland on Friday.

Callum Styles, Hungary

Styles is set to make history if he plays as a midfielder for his adopted nation Hungary in the tournament in Germany.

No Barnsley player has ever appeared in the Euros before, with Styles’ former team-mate Michal Helik being an unused substitute for Poland in the last tournament.

While he is an opinion-splitting figure for Barnsley fans, having struggled to perform consistently well across the last three seasons and being loaned out in the last two in search of Championship football to continue his international career, it would be a significant and historic achievement.

It is easy to forget his last-ditch tackle against Nottingham Forest in July 2020 which led to Patrick Schmidt’s injury-time winner, or his goal at Brentford the night of the ‘great escape’ as well as his excellent performances at left wing-back under Valerien Ismael, including some spectacular long-range goals, as the Reds almost reached the Premier League behind-closed-doors in the 2020/21 season.

At that point he looked destined for the top level and, although he has not shown that same form since with the Reds, Millwall or Sunderland, he has performed well for Hungary and may have a massive opportunity to prove himself again in the coming weeks. That might dictate his club future too, with one year remaining on his Reds deal.

Styles is the only League One player in any squad at this year’s European Championships, and the only one from the third tier of any country.

The Lancashire lad only discovered his grandmother was from Hungary during lockdown then mentioned his eligibility in an interview with the matchday programme for Barnsley’s 2-1 win over his future club Millwall in February 2021.

A subsequent article with the Chronicle was circulated online and it was not long until the Hungary manager Paolo Rossi called him up.

He now has 22 caps, but came off injured against Israel on Saturday. He is reported to have recovered.

Hungary – who lost in the World Cup final in 1938 and 1954 – are in their third successive Euros having been absent from major tournaments for 30 years.

They play Switzerland tomorrow, hosts Germany on Wednesday and then Scotland – who left out Styles’ former Barnsley colleague Jacob Brown – on June 23.

They are around 150 to one to win the tournament but will look to at least replicate their performance in 2016 when they got to the first knock-out round.