Quick thinking Ben White ready for England step after Brighton and Leeds success

Ben White was already impressing plenty of Premier League managers and today's call-up to England's provisional squad for Euro 2020 will increase his profile and value further.

Tuesday, 25th May 2021, 5:31 pm
Updated Tuesday, 25th May 2021, 5:34 pm

It’s the little things that often make a huge difference when defending at the elite level.

Ben White had a hugely successful season while on loan in the Championship with Leeds but how would he cope with the step up to the Premier League?

Well the 23-year-old has answered that in an impressive manner. White has had the full support of Albion head coach Graham Potter and has started 36 of the 38 Premier League matches.

Brighton's Ben White has made an impressive transition to the Premier League and has started 36 of the 38 league matches this campaign

Often he is on the right side of a defensive trio but you cannot play in Potter team if you are anything but flexible. White has also featured at right wing back, centre back, left side of a three and also in a defensive midfield role.

White is one of those special players who can to pop up with perfect timing and make that vital interception or slide in at the last moment to block a shot on goal.

This of course is no fluke and it comes down to the little differences. It's seeing the picture a fraction earlier and spotting the danger just that split second ahead of your average defender. White has that.

In the Premier League, victory or defeat often boils down to fractions of a second. The VAR era is a nightmare for forwards, goals chalked-off for their left toe being offside etc but so too for defenders.

You simply cannot afford to be slightly cumbersome or clumsy these days. One touch, one rash move, one split second too early or late and you are toast.

Combine VAR with the sheer pace of players such as Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford, Mo Salah and Adama Traore and defenders walk a very fine line each match.

White however has found a way and proved he's comfortable defending one vs ones in wide areas. He has the second highest interception rate of any English defender this season with 62 and didn’t concede a single penalty.

My colleague Graham Smyth, the Leeds United reporter for the Yorkshire Evening Post, simply said “Enjoy him,” when it became clear Leeds’ three attempts to sign him last summer had failed. I see exactly what meant.

His role for Brighton however is very different. Last year in the Championship Leeds were steamrolling teams on their way to the title with huge amounts of possession.

Brighton, in contrast, finished this campaign two spots above the drop and under pressure defensively. The fact they have the second best defensive record in the Premier League since January speaks volumes for the contributions of White, Lewis Dunk, Adam Webster and Robert Sanchez.

Southgate has also been carefully monitoring White's progress since his time at Leeds and felt this was the time to call-up the Albion academy graduate.

"Ben is younger so there's an investment there for the future," said Southgate, when asked of his decision to select White ahead ahead of his Albion skipper Dunk.

"We've tracked him since he was on loan at Leeds. We've seen him play in midfield, he's comfortable on the ball and has pace. We think it's a good opportunity to come and work with us."

Southgate also highlighted how crucial defensive versatility is to his squad. "Kieran Trippier can also play at left-back. Alexander-Arnold can play at wing-back, I think he can play midfield.

"I've seen Reece James play on the right side of a back three, at wing-back and as a midfielder. In a tournament, those flexible players who can fulfil different roles will be hugely important."

Watching White this season certainly has been enjoyable and the player, who was once released by Southampton, deserves his chance to impress on a national level.

He's made the initial 33-man squad on merit and should he make the cut to 26 on June 1, he will not look at all out of place.