16 March 2023

Gareth Southgate admits Kyle Walker’s long-term England future could be at risk

16 March 2023

Boss Gareth Southgate admits Kyle Walker’s long-term England future could be at risk.

The Manchester City right-back is being investigated by police after allegedly exposing himself in a bar but is in Southgate’s squad to face Italy and Ukraine this month.

The alleged incident is said to have happened after City’s 2-0 Premier League win over Newcastle earlier in March.

Walker had previously breached lockdown rules in 2020, with Southgate warning then how off-field behaviour will have an impact on selection.

Southgate has defended the 32-year-old’s call-up and believes nothing is stopping him from being included yet but conceded if Walker has a case to answer then it could leave his England future in jeopardy.

He said: “I don’t want to go too much into hypotheticals but there was no conclusive reason not to select him in the squad. If that changes then we’ve got to review the situation and he would understand that as well, but at the moment we are where we are.

“I think whenever I speak with a player, that’s always between myself and the player. I understand the additional scrutiny on the situation but I don’t think I can answer that any differently.”

Walker is joined in the squad by Ivan Toney, who is facing a potential ban for breaching better regulations.

Toney is still waiting for a Football Association verdict after being charged with 262 breaches of FA gambling rules, with a lengthy suspension possible.

But Southgate wants the Brentford striker, who turned 27 on Thursday, to bring his own brand of havoc to the international side.

“I also like his sense of belief on the pitch. I saw him at Arsenal and he went on to that pitch thinking he would cause some havoc that day,” he said.

“That’s a good sign, that’s what you need if you’re going to play for your country. The challenge is always to convert from one environment and take that same mentality and belief into the next. That’s what we hope to give him the opportunity to do.”

Southgate returns for another European Championship qualifying campaign which starts against Italy in Naples on March 23 before hosting Ukraine on March 26 in Group C.

He considered his future ahead of the World Cup, before England went out to France in the quarter-finals in Qatar, but is re-energised as he looks to go one better having lost the Euro 2020 final to Italy on penalties.

He said: “I’ve seen fan bases where they’d almost rather the team lost so they can move onto the next manager. If I felt ahead of the tournament that might have helped the team get a free hit then I would have taken that decision.

“It didn’t feel that way when we left Wembley (against Germany in September).

“It wasn’t going to be a case of doing it just because I’d had a bit of stick because that’s the job. But I didn’t want to be in the way of the performance of the team.

I do think we can (win Euro 2024). That’s the challenge. I don’t think the players need any more evidence of what’s possible

“Now, we have to start from scratch again. We have to have the humility to park that, yes, we want to be European champions and we’ve had a lot of experiences that could help us to get there but, as our opponents next week found, you can very quickly be in trouble in qualifying.

“We’ve got to respect the challenge qualifying holds for us.

“I do think we can (win Euro 2024). That’s the challenge. I don’t think the players need any more evidence of what’s possible. They have played basically in the biggest games in world football bar one.

“They’ve had results against most of the top teams but we’ve got to do that more consistently.

“The scenario of going to Italy, where we haven’t won for decades (1961), is a classic of the type of game that we’ve got to start winning. If we are looking for the next step to take as a team, that is it.”

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