20 June 2023

Gareth Southgate admits England players could pay for a lack of action

20 June 2023

Gareth Southgate has indicated an ongoing lack of game time at Manchester United could impact Harry Maguire’s international role as the England boss braces for summer movement in his squad.

Monday’s 7-0 Old Trafford annihilation of North Macedonia made it four wins from as many Group C games, meaning it is a case of when rather than if their place at Euro 2024 is secured.

June’s matches were played out against a backdrop of talk about England players’ club future, with injured Jude Bellingham completing a big-money move to Real Madrid during a camp that ended with Arsenal’s club-record offer for West Ham skipper Declan Rice.

Harry Kane, Kyle Walker, Mason Mount, Jordan Pickford and James Maddison are also the subject of summer interest, while the likes of Kalvin Phillips, Conor Gallagher and Harry Maguire have decisions to make on their future.

Phillips says he intends to fight for his place at Manchester City and England stalwart Maguire continues to be linked with a move due to the Manchester United captain’s drop in game time and form.

“He is captain of an incredible football club so that is a difficult situation,” Southgate said.

“He will obviously be frustrated not to play as much as he would like but I think he has handled that really well, he has publicly talked well about supporting the team.

“We have got a few players with a lot going on, really.

“They have managed to park that brilliantly in their period with us but there is potentially quite a few moves this summer that would be hugely important for their own careers, never mind for us.”

Asked if Maguire needs to play a bit more, Southgate said: “It’s clear, really.

“I think him and Kalvin are the two who have played the least in terms of guys in this squad this season.

“But we have gone with them because in these two positions we think they are still ahead of others that might have played more.

“But it is then hard when that competition gets more even and you are not playing regularly to see their form, see their fitness, so that is the challenge for everybody.”

We think they are still ahead of others that might have played more. But it is then hard when that competition gets more even and you are not playing regularly to see their form, see their fitness so that is the challenge for everybody

Maguire was named in the Euro 2020 team of the tournament for his excellent displays in England’s run to the final two years ago, as was Raheem Sterling.

The 28-year-old endured a tough 2022-23 season following his £47.5million switch to Chelsea and missed June’s fixtures as he recovers from a nagging hamstring issue.

“He’s a fighter,” Southgate said of 82-cap forward Sterling. “What we know is he’s scored an incredible amount of goals for us, important goals, that’s now a more even competition.

“In the past he was the name on the team sheet. we knew his goals were critical. There is now more competition there, but I will expect him to respond.

“He’s not been happy with this season at his club this year, the part he has to get right this summer is his physical fitness and I would expect him to be flying next year.

“If we have all of those players available when we need them then that’s brilliant but it rarely happens.”

As for Southgate, the England boss says his biggest challenge is to “keep pushing this team” and looking for improvements – a pursuit of progress that saw Trent Alexander-Arnold successfully deployed in midfield this month.

The Liverpool right-back scored in a man-of-the-match display against Malta and produced a fine assist in Monday’s 7-0 drubbing of North Macedonia.

Those displays means Southgate “would have no hesitation” picking Alexander-Arnold as a midfielder against even better teams going forwards.

“He’s an exceptional player for Liverpool in whatever position he plays,” the England boss added.#

“It’s not for me (to say what he needs to do at his club). He has produced any number of assists for Liverpool and has had a massive impact on their team.Our team is different, the balance of our team is different.

“And the way we have been able to play is different, and the way we defended is slightly different.

“The most pleasing thing for me is that he has probably had his most enjoyable England camp ever. He’s desperate to be a part of the team, he has shown everybody what he can do in that role.

“I felt that way for a long time but when he is not doing those things regularly it is harder to transfer. His performances have spoken for themselves.”

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