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Published 09 November 2023 4 min read
England Men's Senior Team

Gareth Southgate explains his England squad selection for November

Written by:

Frank Smith

England take on Malta and North Macedonia in UEFA European Championship qualifiers during November

As can often be the case when a squad is announced, many of the questions in Gareth Southgate’s press conference on Thursday afternoon focused on who wasn’t in the 25-man group, rather than who was.

The omission of players like Raheem Sterling, Eddie Nketiah and Ben White were among the questions asked by journalists at Wembley Stadium connected by EE.

A number of exciting young talents were also referenced by the England head coach during the 20-minute press conference, with the excellent form of players like Tino Livramento, Anthony Gordon and Cole Palmer highlighted.

You can read Southgate’s answers to several questions and watch the press conference in full below.

Match Centre: England v Malta

Can you explain why Raheem Sterling is missing from the squad once again? How difficult will it be for him to force his way back into the squad before the EUROs?

The door is 100% open, not only for Raheem but for other players who aren't in this squad. There's no doubt about that.

We don't need to know about his quality or his personality. He is a crucial part of why we've had the journey we've had over the last few years.

I can only repeat what I've said in the last couple of squad selection meetings. The team is playing really well, we had an exceptional win here against Italy last time round so who do we leave out to put him in? It's as simple as that, really.

When pressed further on Sterling’s omission…

He wasn't available in March or June and the team had started on a good run. We won in Italy for the first time in 60 years and the two performances in June were excellent.

So we've stuck with that group. We've stuck with that group pretty much through this qualifying campaign. We've deliberately not made many changes because we felt that's fair to the guys that have been in the squad. Performances have been excellent and there is huge competition for places.

There's no question Raheem is looking dangerous for his club. He looks invigorated since the start of this season, and as I said, there are a few players that aren't in this squad for whom either they're injured or the door is absolutely open. We'll always be open to that.

There are players in this squad that missed quite big chunks of time with us – [such as Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier – so we've often had that type of situation. And, as I say, we're really pleased with the team so there is that continuity, really.

Gareth Southgate reiterated how important Raheem Sterling has been for England over the years when asked why he wasn't included in this squad
Gareth Southgate reiterated how important Raheem Sterling has been for England over the years when asked why he wasn't included in this squad

Raheem didn't make himself available in March because he didn't feel he was quite fit enough. Is that the message that despite how many caps you've had with England, there's so much competition for places that if you don't make yourself available for camp, it could lead to your exclusion?

No, I'm not looking to send a message. That is an area of the pitch where we've probably got as much competition for places as anywhere.

You look at Jarrod Bowen, who has seven goals this season already, Anthony Gordon is playing very well at Newcastle as well, Cole Palmer is starting to play well, so it's just a changing landscape there.

When we first started, we didn't really have any depth of wingers to play with wingers. We had Adam Lallana, who was a different type of player, we had Marcus Rashford, we had Raheem, but we didn't have the ability to refresh the team, and that's why we played with wing-backs for a long period going into Russia.

So now we have a lot more depth in those areas and I would say probably more depth there than in any other position

I understand all the questions [on Raheem] but that is the reality of where we are.

Who is struggling fitness wise? We thought Jude Bellingham, James Maddison, Callum Wilson and Bukayo Saka were the main ones that are carrying knocks?

Some of those, we could lose one today after a scan and we could lose one tomorrow. So we don't really know.

You'd be amazed at how complicated it is picking a squad because of course all clubs are sensitive to information and you're trying to piece everything together. So I couldn't be certain that everybody that is in that squad will be there on Sunday night.

There are varying levels of doubt. With that, Callum is probably the biggest doubt. But equally I'm pretty confident that the others can get through and they're all keen to be in the squad, so that's a really good sign.

Eddie Nketiah was another player Southgate spoke highly of
Eddie Nketiah was another player Southgate spoke highly of

Would Eddie Nketiah have been included if he was fit? With Callum Wilson and Ollie Watkins, there's a big battle going on between three exceptional players to be Harry Kane's understudy?

There is, and there's also Ivan Toney and there's Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who's starting to get games again. So there is competition at the moment.

I've said to Eddie, we see Callum and Ollie slightly ahead of him, but he's progressing really well as a young player.

I don't think his injury is a big problem from what he's been saying and we've enjoyed working with him in these last couple of camps.

We wanted to include him as a younger forward that we didn't know as much about and he's an excellent finisher.

He’s left a positive impression on us. He's not in at the moment but maybe that could change over the weekend.

With John Stones out injured, is this a real chance for one of the other centre-backs to come in and take the opportunity?

Yeah, it's an area of the pitch where we've had a big turnover in the squad. We have had two or three players who had a lot of caps with us who have not been playing for their clubs or injured in the last few months.

I'm really disappointed for John. The quality of his play is outstanding.

He's having a difficult time injury-wise at the moment so it's a shame to see him not playing but, as you rightly say, it gives other people an opportunity and we also need to know a little bit more about some of the players in that area of the pitch.

There are only two specialist full-backs listed, with Trent Alexander-Arnold listed as a midfielder. There was so much made of the number of full-backs you had. Is there still the same depth in that position?

Well, there is. I was hoping to call-up Reece James but he doesn't feel he's quite ready, and I understand that he's had a long path back from a number of injuries. So he's probably a little bit cautious in that respect but I can understand why.

We have got options. But yes, there aren't perhaps the experienced options that we might have in other areas of the pitch.

I think some of the younger full-backs are doing well. I think Tino Livramento has done really well in his games for Newcastle, but I think being with the Under-21s is still the right thing for him at the moment as well.

Harry Maguire continues to be a key part of England's squad
Harry Maguire continues to be a key part of England's squad

How happy are you to see Harry Maguire back to being a regular name in the Manchester United starting line-up?

Yeah, it's great. I thought it might be the first time we wouldn't get a question about him [in the press conference]!

But no, it's clear you want your players to be enjoying their club football, and he's battling for the team so yes I'm really pleased for him.

Is Ben White available for selection?

I assume so. Ben's been very solid for Arsenal. He is a different profile of full-back, he's a centre-back playing at full-back, really. He's obviously doing a good job for his club and he's just behind a couple of others in our reckoning.

Just because he's not been called up since the World Cup when he left prematurely. So he's been left out purely for footballing reasons? There's no lingering issue off the back of that?

Again, we've got Kyle Walker, we've got Kieran Trippier, we've got Trent Alexader-Arnold and we've got Reece James. So it's a position where we've got strength.

As I said, there are a couple of good young ones coming through, and again, we're on a good run. The defence is playing well so that's where we are.