For the first time, an England manager has the chance to take a man from Wigton to a European Championships.

(Not you, Melvyn).

Why wouldn’t he take it? Do the right thing, Gareth, and there’ll be a pint waiting for you in the Throstles Nest.

Pick Jarrad Branthwaite, and a Cumbrian market town and indeed its county will thank you.

But don’t just do it for that, or for us. Do it for England: for the future, and for now.

This isn’t the time for the forces of conservatism. This isn’t the moment, with respect, for Lewis Dunk or for Joe Gomez.

It’s not – again with respect – the moment for Jordan Henderson.

Euro 2024 is the stage for the coming men. The Palmers. The Mainoos. The Ezes. And, you’d better believe it, the Branthwaites.

News and Star: Branthwaite was in the last England squad but did not get an appearanceBranthwaite was in the last England squad but did not get an appearance (Image: PA)

This afternoon, Gareth Southgate will select his provisional training squad for this summer’s tournament in Germany, with the final squad to be confirmed later.

Either he picks one of the top emerging defenders in Europe – possibly the most coveted of his kind in the world, Pat Nevin reckons – or he does not.

Either he sticks with the Maguire-led defensive line of the recent and longer past, or he recognises that Jarrad Branthwaite is a generational player, a 21-year-old being linked with all the top clubs for very good reason, and gives him his head against the best of the continent.

Is Wigton’s finest ready to start every game for England? Perhaps not. Is he ready for that first opportunity, the shirt? Of course he is. And once he has it, will he demonstrate that he’s good enough?

Well, evidence so far points one way. And it’s not – again, with respect – the way of Lewis Dunk.

Southgate toyed with the future in England’s most recent friendlies. He picked Branthwaite in his squad for games against Brazil and Belgium. But he didn’t play him.

As such, we learned certain things, but mainly things we already knew, or other things we now know aren’t going to propel England to elusive success.

News and Star: Branthwaite, pictured left playing for Allerdale Schools, has risen to the ranks of the Premier League's top young defendersBranthwaite, pictured left playing for Allerdale Schools, has risen to the ranks of the Premier League's top young defenders (Image: News & Star)

So why not, having exhausted those, turn to the boy: the ‘baby giraffe’ (Steven Pressley’s description of Branthwaite at Carlisle) who is now towering above many peers, is wanted by Manchester United, monitored by Real Madrid and has the footballing attributes to be a fixture in the Three Lions team for years to come?

Can he play? Yes. Can he defend? Absolutely. Has he the maturity for the big stage? Clearly. Is he the finished article? Not yet – how many are, at 21? – but so many of the component parts are there: his size, his left foot, his sense of defensive timing, his knowledge of when to step in and sit back, his deceptive pace and also, showcased recently, his willingness to threaten in the other team’s box too.

At times the learning as a Premier League regular has been brutal, as encounters with Erling Haaland, Cole Palmer and Alexander Isak may remind us. But those stand out because they’re the battles Branthwaite has lost.

Those he’s won, helping Everton assemble the fourth-best defensive record in the Premier League, are the majority. Achieving his level of consistency, at his age, at such a hyper-competitive level, marks Branthwaite out as a genuine, emerging star.

The scouts of elite clubs know this. His faithful, proud followers in Cumbria do.

Do England – do they really?

We will soon find out. Sometimes you have to go with your gut – and not just that, recognise a moment.

Recognise that the bold call, the daring call, the new call, isn’t always the risky call. Sometimes it’s playing safe that leads you down the familiar old path to failure.

Sometimes it’s taking a gamble on a brilliant prospect that opens different and more interesting doors.

You’ll never know until you try. And try, with this soaring football star of our county, England really must.

Do the right thing, Gareth.