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Published 24 May 2023 4 min read
England Men's Senior Team

Press conference: Gareth Southgate explains England call-ups for Eberechi Eze, Lewis Dunk and Tyrone Mings

Written by:

Frank Smith

Raheem Sterling, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Levi Colwill among the other players spoken about by the England manager

Gareth Southgate sat down with members of the media this afternoon to discuss his England men’s senior team squad for the UEFA EURO 2024 qualifiers against Malta and North Macedonia.

Eberechi Eze, Lewis Dunk, Tyrone Mings, Sam Johnstone and Trent Alexander-Arnold were among those called up by Southgate for the trip to Malta on Friday 16 June and the match with North Macedonia on Monday 19 June, with tickets for the game at Old Trafford still available.

You can see the England squad in full here and hear Southgate’s thoughts on his selection below.

Question: Your first England game in Malta comes 19 days after the end of the Premier League season. How difficult has that made your job and how much has it influenced the decisions and the selections you've made?

Southgate: "Well, it hasn't influenced selections at all. It's of course a difficult season for the clubs, the players and for us so we're always mindful of the welfare of the players and the most difficult thing when you have a gap like that, is to allow the players some time to recuperate but also not decondition physically. So that's the balance we've got to try to find. 

“Of course, like every other country, we've got important qualification matches on the road to Germany so we've picked the strongest squad as we can and we're looking forward to working with the players. And I think the players always enjoy coming back together. 

“So there's always a lot of noise around this time of year but the reality is, everybody's got the same situation and I think we'll manage it as well as we can."

Gareth Southgate explained the absence of Raheem Sterling
Gareth Southgate explained the absence of Raheem Sterling

Question: Raheem Sterling is obviously going to be a headline omission from this squad. He missed the last one as well because of injury. What's the situation there?

Southgate: "I spoke with him a week or so ago for a general catch-up and he's not happy physically with his condition; he’s been carrying a hamstring problem. 

“He really wasn't in consideration so we didn't get to the point of whether he should be in, whether he should be out. He doesn't think he's operating at the level that he needs, so that was the conversation I had with him."

Question: Why has Eberechi Eze got the nod?

Southgate: “We've liked him for a long time, he was very unfortunate just before the EURO because we were going to call him into a prep camp to have a look at him and he got a bad injury – the day we were going to, I remember talking to Roy Hodgson about him then and Roy telling me he'd picked up an injury in training that day. 

“He has finished the season really strongly, he can play in a couple of positions across that attacking line, he's a goal threat, he's got nice ability and burst of speed to go past people and to take people out of the game with dribbling skills. 

“So we’re looking forward to seeing him a bit closer and everybody I speak to talks brilliantly about him as a person as well."

Ebere Eze represented England at both MU20s and MU21s level between 2018 and 2021
Ebere Eze represented England at both MU20s and MU21s level between 2018 and 2021

Question: In the case of Lewis Dunk and Tyrone Mings, was it from your perspective just that those two have been playing so well for their clubs and they were impossible to ignore?

Southgate: "Yeah, absolutely. I think both clubs have been excellent. I think Unai Emery has done a brilliant job at Aston Villa, they look a really well-coached team, and it is the same with Brighton.

“Brighton's football this year has been exceptional and Lewis Dunk and Levi Colwill have been a big part of that. 

“So he's shown great composure with the ball, with his defending, he's often asked to defend in one-against-one situations, and he thoroughly deserves his call."

Question: You'll be aware that some commentators, maybe even some Premier League managers, are saying these are two games against, with all due respect, not the elite of world football. I'm sure you won't see it like that and I'd expect you to say the opposite, but there'll be some people saying you shouldn't pick your best players and give the younger players a chance. That's not your way of thinking, is it?

Southgate: "Well, I don't think the rest of the world will be doing that this summer and we've played North Macedonia twice at home and never beaten them.

“If we want to be a top team and we want to be European champions, we've got to nail the big games like we did in March and you've got to make sure that you nail the more complicated ones because everybody has the view that you've just given. 

“So I think it's a good test of commitment, it's a good test of togetherness – I think this group don't want to let each other down – and we want to keep progressing as a team. 

“We have five opportunities to work together before a European Championship – if we can qualify for the European Championship – and we played so well in March that we've got to back that up and make sure that we're not needing to go to North Macedonia at the end of this competition requiring a result to get through. 

“So I think this group of players have got enough humility to recognise that and to approach the task in the way we want them to please."

Lewis Dunk and Tyrone Mings are among the recalls for this England squad
Lewis Dunk and Tyrone Mings are among the recalls for this England squad

Question: There's a number of young England players playing well in the Premier League. The Under-21s have the EUROs coming up, was that a factor in them not being in this squad? Was it more beneficial for them to join up in a tournament situation?

Southgate: "Well, I don't think they're quite ready to be ahead of the players that we've picked but there's a good chance that if we had problems they would be the next ones in. 

“Me and Steve Holland will go to at least a part of that tournament to watch them. I think that's important. We've got some good players in there who we like and I think it's important they recognise that well. 

“They can see from the decisions we've made there's a pathway here for young players – we've always done that – and we're excited about some of those players as well. Definitely."

Question: Trent Alexander-Arnold is back in the England squad. A lot's been made about a newer midfield role that he's playing. You've played him in midfield against the game against Andorra. Did that come into the thinking about calling him back into the squad?

Southgate: "Well, he's a super footballer and he's obviously playing in a slightly different role which I think has invigorated him in the last few months. 

“He has always, of course, been in advanced areas of the pitch with the ball, he's just a little bit more central now, so that's interesting for us, there's no question. It is something I've talked with him about in the last couple of weeks and we're looking forward to working with Trent and we'll see how that all plays out."

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