ADRIAN KAJUMBA: Dunk made it impossible for Southgate to ignore him

ADRIAN KAJUMBA: Lewis Dunk has FINALLY got the recognition he deserves with his first England call-up in five years… the Brighton star has been rewarded for displays that have made him impossible to ignore

  • Brighton’s Lewis Dunk has made the England squad for the first time in five years 
  • The defender is widely respected among his peers after his excellent displays 
  • Click here for Mail Sport’s updates from Southgate’s squad announcement 

At long last the deserved recognition for Lewis Dunk from outside of Brighton is now flooding in.

As a key cog in their upwardly mobile teams of the last couple of seasons, awareness has been growing.

But a window into the high regard in which he is now held by his peers was provided by Brentford’s Ben Mee who posted his team of the season on social media on Sunday with Dunk one of his two centre-backs.

And then an even greater accolade followed – an England recall for the Seagulls skipper.

Dunk’s last and only appearance for England came back in 2018 against USA.

Brighton defender Lewis Dunk has finally received an England re-call by Gareth Southgate

Dunk’s one and only England cap came against the USA in 2018 (top row second from right) 

Dunk has been a key cog to Brighton’s success and is highly regarded amongst his peers

His absence since has surprised some and caused baffled frustration among others, and not just at Brighton, given the form of some of those picked instead of him.

But his return to the England fold is better late than never for Dunk, 31, when it seemed like his international days might already be over and that one cap might be his lot.

And it is reward for his evolution into a defender who has simply made himself impossible to ignore.

When he first broke into Brighton’s team as a teenager under Gus Poyet and began being watched by bigger clubs there were doubts about just how good a defender he was.

As he continued under Sami Hyypia and Chris Hughton and his England potential was starting to be assessed the conclusions and demands were different – an excellent defender though it was his ability on the ball that raised doubts.

Back then, with Brighton’s place in the football pyramid different to now, the priority for Dunk was to be a no-nonsense defender – head it, kick it, block it – and he did that to a high enough standard to first catch Gareth Southgate’s eye.

But since Graham Potter first and now Roberto De Zerbi have been in charge at Brighton, Dunk has thrived under two managers whose approaches have allowed him to show that whatever is required, he can deliver.

Potter did not realise just how good a footballer Dunk was until he got to work with him and gradually gave him more responsibility in possession.

The 31-year-old has thrived under Graham Potter first and now with Roberto De Zerbi

Dunk (left) will look to prove he deserves to be regularly called-up following a five-year absence from the international scene

Dunk’s displays which have helped Brighton qualify for Europe became too much for Southgate to ignore

De Zerbi has taken playing out from the back and risk taking in defensive areas to a whole new level since replacing Potter.

And Dunk has risen to the demanding Italian’s challenge, continuing to excel at the basics but be just as adept kick-starting moves and playing one-twos around centre-forwards, helping him remain an integral part in the Brighton’s ongoing rise.

‘The passing & composure from Brighton’s two central defenders is fantastic,’ pundit Jamie Carragher tweeted last month. ‘John Stones & Lewis Dunk are the best English CB’s right now.’

Naturally shy despite his commanding size and influence at Brighton, Dunk could have been forgiven for doubting whether he truly belonged during his previous England involvements.

They came when he was just over a year into his Premier League career and relatively new to rubbing shoulders with English football’s elite.

But, almost five years on, he has now more than proved his worth at the highest level.

And it is no longer just those of a Brighton persuasion who will vouch for that.

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