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Published 17 March 2022 9 min read
England Men's Senior Team

Gareth Southgate explains England squad selections

Written by:

Frank Smith

Gareth Southgate discusses Marc Guehi’s first call-up, Ben White and Nick Pope’s recalls and why several members of the EURO 2020 squad were left out for the games with Switzerland and Cote d’Ivoire

Whenever an England manager announces a squad, it is always likely to be a fierce topic of debate in pubs and sitting rooms across the country.

The England men’s senior team squad for the Alzheimer’s Society International against Switzerland on Saturday 26 March and the first ever game with Cote D’Ivoire on Tuesday 29 March will prove no different, after several changes since the November camp.

England Under-21 captain Marc Guéhi has been promoted to the senior squad for the first time after his outstanding start to life at Crystal Palace, while there are also recalls for Arsenal’s Ben White and Burnley’s Nick Pope.

Much of the debate around squads is usually because of who has been left out, as much as who has been included.

And in Thursday’s press conference, Gareth Southgate explained why stalwart Kyle Walker was left out, plus the omission of Manchester United’s attacking duo Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho.

Some of England’s most exciting uncapped players were also referenced by Southgate at St. George’s Park, including Jarrod Bowen, Curtis Jones, Max Kilman and Jacob Ramsey.

You can read Southgate’s comments on those topics below and his press conference is available in full at the bottom of this article. 

You can also see the England squad in full here.

Marc Guéhi has been called up to the England senior squad for the first time
Marc Guéhi has been called up to the England senior squad for the first time

On giving Marc Guéhi his first senior call-up despite England Under-21s having two important qualifiers

Southgate: “Well we are preparing for a World Cup so we are always supportive of what the Under-21s are doing but the priority has to be the first team, always.

“With Marc, he has had a really consistent season. I have been very impressed with him on and off the ball, in the biggest games he has been very calm, we know a lot about him through our development teams as well, he is a junior World Cup winner, so there are some centre halves who are pushing and were very close but we have added Marc and Ben White this time and we think it is a good opportunity to see two slightly younger players and see how they cope with being with us.”

The prospect of Guéhi making the World Cup squad

“We are a long way from that [World Cup]. Anybody who is in and around the squad now is in contention for the World Cup but that doesn’t mean that players who are not in the squad cannot also be in contention for that. 

“This is a good opportunity with us to work more closely with Marc and for him to get a feel for life with the seniors.”

Jadon Sancho has been in impressive form for Manchester United of late
Jadon Sancho has been in impressive form for Manchester United of late

The decision to leave out Rashford and Sancho

“The other attacking players in the squad are slightly ahead of him at the moment in our feeling. You can see the names there: Phil FodenRaheem SterlingBukayo SakaEmile Smith RoweJack Grealish, if you look at the seasons that they have had. 

“Jadon without a doubt over the last few weeks, his performances have improved with Manchester United but it is an area of the field where we have really big competition for places and at the moment we have those guys slightly ahead.”

On Rashford, he continued: “He is in the same position as everybody else. Whether they are in the squad or not in the squad, they all have to play well over the next period of this season and in particular the beginning of next season.

“It is a difficult time for him and he is clearly not at his best but there is plenty of time. We know a lot about Marcus any way, we know what he can bring to us and hopefully he can rediscover that form that we know he is capable of.”

Omitting Kyle Walker and including Reece James, who has missed Chelsea’s last three games with injury 

“With Kyle, I had a long chat with him and we felt this was an opportunity to look at the two younger full-backs. We know all we need to know about Kyle and he will be back with us for the games in June and we are very happy with what he has done. 

“He is a very important part of the progress we have made as a team and you can see in the biggest matches with Manchester City this year, that he is still a key player for them. But these young full-backs are exciting and we need to give them their opportunities as well.

“There is a little bit of a doubt over a couple of them and we still have big games to get through over the weekend so this squad could change a little bit but as we stand, we thought it was a good opportunity for Trent and for Reece.”

Gareth Southgate hailed Harry Maguire's importance to England
Gareth Southgate hailed Harry Maguire's importance to England

The decision to select Harry Maguire

“I don’t think it ever crossed our minds not to select Harry Maguire for this squad. He has been a key part of the starting XI that got us to a World Cup semi-final and a European Championship final.

“I know the club are going through a difficult period but you have to look at who are our best players and the core of that team and he is in that group. No doubt in my mind that he is one of our best centre backs and form in that sense is temporary. 

“There is also in our forward areas a lot more competition for those wide places, so I will always be accused of double standards on picking on form but there are nuances to that because we are not picking the 100m finalists here, where the fastest time wins and it is all very clear. There is a more difficult path on selecting a football team and selecting a squad, but Harry is now on over 40 caps, a consistently strong performer for us, he was over the Autumn period as well, and hopefully he can continue that vein of form with us that he has had for such a long period of time.”

The inclusion of James Ward-Prowse and absence of Jarrod Bowen, who is injured 

Prowsey was in the squad in the Autumn and has had a good season with Southampton.

“With Jarrod, we never got to that point of having the final meeting where we had to make a decision because we already knew earlier this week that he was going to be out injured. But he has certainly done everything he can on the pitch to put himself in the frame.”

Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope is back in the Three Lions' squad
Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope is back in the Three Lions' squad

The recall for Nick Pope

“We were very pleased with what Sam Johnstone did through the summer and his profile of being able to use the ball with his feet is very important but I think when you are playing in the Championship you have to be playing at the very top, with minimal errors, to be able to keep out a goalkeeper who is playing well in the Premier League. 

“Nick, I think, was slightly under par right at the beginning of the season. I think his performances from then on have been good and strong and we know what he is about. So he is a very good goalkeeper. I know Sean obviously has a view on all of that but it is great to have him back in the squad.”

Competition among the goalkeepers

“That is what you hope and that is what you want. There are areas for all of them to improve and the ideal if we are going to be a really top team, is they have to be outstanding at keeping the ball out of the net – number one – but we also want goalkeepers that can use the ball well and progress the game and under the biggest pressure moments, you need a goalkeeper who can play out from the back well.

“Then how are they going to handle pressure because everyone will have a view on Jordan Pickford but what you can’t dispute about Jordan is that he has dealt with the pressure of being England’s number one extremely well.

“A lot of goalkeepers over the years have not been able to handle that and he has fulfilled that in the biggest tournaments and in the biggest moments. So the others have still got to chase him and I think it is important that we acknowledge that fact.”

See England v Côte d'Ivoire

On not selecting Max Kilman

“He has had a good season with Wolves. There are a lot of good defenders around. Fikayo Tomori would be another one who we have been tracking closely, because we do our due diligence, we know the attributes which are needed for the balance of the team and I am not going into huge coaching conversations here because that would not be appropriate. You can make comments about what is needed and that can be a perceived criticism of a player – I got caught doing that once before so I am not going to do that again.

“But he is very much on our radar. He is one of a number we have tracked closely. I think Marc Guéhi’s consistency and the way he has played over a long period with Crystal Palace, he is calm with the ball, aggressive without it, he is quick, mobile. 

“Ben White also has that mobility and speed as well and is playing in that pressurised environment, so it is going to be good for us to see those two a bit more closely but the door is always open.”

The emergence of Jacob Ramsey

“Yeah absolutely [he is on my radar]. Jacob is doing really well. At this moment in time, I think Conor Gallagher is slightly ahead. Jude Bellingham has been in our squad for a while but those two are two young players who are really pushing Jude, there is no doubt about that, and they are pushing some of the older players as well in that group.

“That is an area where Curtis Jones is also emerging at Liverpool and there are some good attacking midfield players who are good at pressing the opposition and look like they can score goals as well.”