Gareth Southgate warned England’s players not to rest on their laurels after proving he is ready to choose potential over experience ahead of the World Cup.
Eyebrows were raised on Thursday when the Three Lions boss named a much-changed, youthful squad for the back-to-back Wembley friendlies against Germany and Brazil.
Uncapped Tammy Abraham, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Joe Gomez were fast-tracked into the senior squad as Southgate surprisingly dropped Daniel Sturridge, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Chris Smalling. Aaron Cresswell, Jake Livermore, Fraser Forster and Jermain Defoe also fell as Southgate wielded the axe, with the England manager warning that he is prepared to do it again for the World Cup.
Asked how many of the 23 places are already filled in his head, the England boss said: “I am not certain there’s many because I think we have really good competition for places.
“So what we think is the team now, the speed of development of some of our young players and progress is eye-catching and I don’t think anybody can sit and safely think they’re going to be involved next summer. In every position on the field there’s really strong competition so whilst if I had to do it tomorrow I’d know who I’d take, over the next six months that could evolve drastically.”
Abraham, Loftus-Cheek and Gomez will have a chance to stake their claim this month, with Southgate ready to back them should they prove their worth.
“Absolutely (I am ready to take young players to the World Cup),” he told BBC Radio 5 Live. “I think we’re building for now. We’ve got to make decisions on players that we believe we can play, whether it is now or later, at the highest possible level and be successful.
“We believe these guys are, so they’ve got an opportunity. They’ve got to grasp that opportunity and they’ve got to keep improving, not only with us but with their clubs as well. But I think whether we see the benefit this summer or in the summers to come, I think we have to look forward.”
Southgate, who is moving to a back three, announced his squad at Wembley the day after seeing English talent flourish there as Tottenham thrashed Champions League holders Real Madrid.
Such occasions “can only benefit England”, so too, Southgate believes, the players “working under top coaches” at club level.
“We want to get excited about our young players, they are now competing,” he added. “Over the next few years can they start winning trophies and winning medals?”
He added: “Then I think we can be taken as serious contenders for things, once we’re learning how to win as well.
“But it’s exciting because, as I’ve said over the last few months, our young are hungry.
“They’re not quite where they want to be yet, but everybody can see the potential in them and I think that’s a good route for us to go.”
Source: By PA Sport Staff
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