Published 30 September 2021 8 min read
England Men's Senior Team

Southgate explains squad selection for October

Written by:

Frank Smith

England manager Gareth Southgate discusses his squad ahead of the October games against Andorra and Hungary

Gareth Southgate has used his press conference on Thursday afternoon to discuss the selection of several members of his England squad for October’s matches and also explained the omission of some others, including talented youngsters Jude Bellingham and Mason Greenwood.

England face a trip to Andorra on Saturday 9 October (7.45pm) before returning to Wembley to take on Hungary on Tuesday 12 October (7.45pm) as the Three Lions look to extend their lead at the top of their 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying group.

Southgate named a 23-man squad on Thursday afternoon and there were recalls for AC Milan defender Fikayo Tomori, Aston Villa forward Ollie Watkins and Arsenal goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale, plus Phil Foden is back following injury.

Tomori has enjoyed a hugely successful 2021. After joining AC Milan on loan in January, his move was made permanent in the summer and he is now a mainstay in the centre of defence for the European giants.

Southgate said: “I have been very impressed [with Tomori]. I think he finished last season well and we were tracking him closely at the end of last season and he has started well again this season.

“He is playing for a club where there is an expectation to win every week so he is performing under pressure. 

“I thought he did very well against Liverpool in the Champions League game and his next game was against Juventus, so he has had big matches as well as the general league games.

Fikayo Tomori has impressed at AC Milan since joining earlier this year
Fikayo Tomori has impressed at AC Milan since joining earlier this year

“I like Fikayo in terms of the aggressiveness of his defending. Because he has speed, he has the confidence to defend on the front foot and his use of the ball is improving all the time as well.

“Obviously Milan are delighted with him because they ended up buying him and it has been a good experience for him.”

Another player who has impressed this season following a big-money move is Ramsdale.

The 23 year old, who was part of England’s Euro 2020 squad, has joined Arsenal in the summer and after missing out on September’s fixtures, has replaced Burnley’s Nick Pope in the Three Lions’ squad this time around.

Southgate explained: “Aaron was with us all summer so we had the opportunity to work with him for a long period of time and understand his strengths. 

“Nick is still, I think, coming back from the injury he had a little bit and I think Aaron is just in a better vein of form at the moment.

“From Aaron’s perspective, I think he has moved to a club with high expectations and a style of play where he is asked to build with his feet, from the back, which he is coping with really well. It is an important factor when I look at the biggest matches in particular, for the goalkeeper to be able to do that.

“So he has really adapted well to that move. His performances this season have been full of confidence.”

Ollie Watkins celebrating his debut England goal
Ollie Watkins celebrating his debut England goal

Patrick Bamford was called up for the first time for September’s matches and started against Andorra but with the Leeds United forward out injured, there has been a recall for Watkins.

The former Exeter City striker was called up by the Three Lions for the first time in March and marked his debut against San Marino with a goal.

A further two caps were to follow but the 25 year old just missed out on UEFA Euro 2020, having been named in the provisional 33-man squad.

Southgate said: “We would have selected Ollie last month but he was injured. He was very close to making the squad for the Euros. 

“He is still getting back to full fitness with Villa, we know that, and he is a striker where I loved his mentality when he was working with us. 

“He didn’t come in and have a look at things and dip a toe in the water. He was really determined to take the opportunity whenever he trained with the group and whenever he was on the pitch.

“We have some good centre forward options, with a couple missing through injury, but Ollie impressed us with his mentality and his ability when he was with us.”

There are also spots in the 23-man squad for Chelsea duo Mason Mount and Reece James, plus Manchester United full back Luke Shaw, despite the trio not featuring for their clubs of late.

Southgate said: “Clearly they have still to appear for their clubs [since injury] so there is an element of the unknown with that but our understanding is that Mason and Reece have a good chance [of playing] for the weekend. We will have to track that.

“Luke’s was more of an illness rather than anything else, that was our understanding of it.

“We don’t play until next Saturday so there is a bit of time and we will know more as the week progresses on all of those situations.”

Harry Maguire’s absence from the squad was to be expected, with the defender injured, but two of the more surprising omissions for supporters was that of Bellingham and Greenwood.

Despite being just 18 years old, Bellingham has become integral to Borussia Dortmund and has made 58 appearances for club and country since the beginning of the 2020/21 Bundesliga season.

And having made a decision to rest Greenwood for the September fixtures after discussions with the player and his family, Southgate has decided to do the same with Bellingham for the October matches.

Jude Bellingham has impressed for club and country despite only being 18
Jude Bellingham has impressed for club and country despite only being 18

Southgate said: “They don’t come as a pair but they are both in similar situations, in that they are young players with a heavy load at the moment. 

“I have spoken with both of the players. Jude at the moment has a high level of matches, he is playing Champions League games, he is playing league games, as an 18-year-old he had a full season last season and then into the European Championship, so he has had no break, and we have to remember that these lads are still physically growing. 

“When we talk about young player development, we have got to be really careful how we handle them and make sure. These are two players who we think can be really exciting players for England for the future but we don’t want to overload them and we want to make sure we make the right decisions.

“They are very much decisions taken with me having conversations with the players and their families, rather than any sort of deal from the clubs.

“We have very good relationships with both clubs and we have spoken to them about the situations but it is not a deal with the club, it is very much us looking at young players.

“Normally with these sorts of things, these players would be in our under-18s, under-19s or under-20s and these sorts of things happen all the time but the profile of these two boys is much higher, they are both playing very well, so I can understand why people would raise their eyes. 

“It is not a case that we don’t think the players deserve to be in the squad – we would be picking them if we didn’t have those longer term aims and ambitions in mind.”

Another of the players from the Euro 2020 squad to miss out was Ben Chilwell.

The left-back did not feature for England in the tournament in the summer and has yet to play for the Blues in the Premier League this season.

Southgate said: “There is no hiding that Ben had a difficult summer with us. He would have been disappointed not to play as often as he would have liked – there were specific reasons for that when we played Kieran Trippier and of course Luke Shaw was one of the outstanding players for us in the tournament.

“I said to Ben at the end of the tournament that I knew that would have been a hard experience with the period of isolation that he had to have as well after the Scotland game and what he has to do is fight now to get back in.

“When you have these disappointments as a player, you have the opportunity to roll your sleeves up and show your character and I am sure he is going to do that and force his way back into Chelsea’s team. 

“He had 45 minutes last night and he had the cup game last week but at the moment getting back in that team is the priority really, I think.”

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