South­gate de­cides against pro­long­ing squad agony

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - SOCCER - PAUL WIL­SON

GARETH SOUTH­GATE has made the sen­si­ble de­ci­sion to name his World Cup squad early, this com­ing week in fact, per­haps be­cause of his close prox­im­ity to the fur­ni­ture re­ar­rang­ing that took place when Glenn Hod­dle trimmed Paul Gas­coigne from his list at the last mo­ment in 1998.

As South­gate has ex­plained, in­juries per­mit­ting there is no need to pro­long any­one’s agony when you have a cou­ple of weeks to spare and a rea­son­able idea of the group you would like to select. Bet­ter to let ev­ery­one know the good or bad news early and give the in­di­vid­u­als in the fi­nalised squad as much time as pos­si­ble to get to know each other.

South­gate has al­ready been un­lucky in los­ing Alex Oxlade-Cham­ber­lain and Joe Gomez to in­jury

England at the mo­ment are a young squad, with few sea­soned in­ter­na­tion­als ab­so­lutely de­mand­ing se­lec­tion, and for that rea­son South­gate may feel able to re­sist the temp­ta­tion to in­clude one or two names for the fu­ture sim­ply to in­crease their ex­pe­ri­ence.

Jadon San­cho and Ade­mola Look­man, the two star­lets break­ing through in the Bun­desliga, have both been men­tioned, though the cir­cum­stances are not quite the same as when Sven-Go­ran Eriks­son took a 17-year-old Theo Wal­cott to Ger­many in 2006. Back then the team vir­tu­ally picked it­self, ev­ery­one knew pretty much how it would line up and, hav­ing been pre­ferred to strik­ers of the qual­ity of Jer­main De­foe and Dar­ren Bent, Wal­cott failed to man­age a minute on the pitch in the World Cup. He was put back with the un­der 21s by the next man­ager, Steve Mc­Claren, and ended up miss­ing out on the 2010 fi­nals un­der Fabio Capello when he boasted vastly more ex­pe­ri­ence.

The flip side of the youth pol­icy is what might be termed the el­der states­man ques­tion. As al­ready men­tioned, England do not have too many of those but South­gate is be­lieved to be will­ing to name Joe Hart among his three goal­keep- ers, even though the most ex­pe­ri­enced in­ter­na­tional at his dis­posal is un­likely to be first choice.

Mar­tin Ke­own fa­mously re­tired from in­ter­na­tional foot­ball af­ter Brazil knocked England out of the 2002 World Cup in Ja­pan, and who could blame him? In the later stages of his ca­reer he had been se­lected for the 1998 and 2002 tour­na­ments by two dif­fer­ent man­agers and failed to kick a ball in ei­ther.

If Jack But­land and Jor­dan Pick­ford are the first two goal­keep­ing names on the list, surely it would do no harm to fur­ther Nick Pope’s en­cour­ag­ing devel­op­ment rather than take Hart along as un­re­quired back-up. Sim­i­larly, if Gary Cahill and Chris Smalling are un­likely to be first-team choices, it might be bet­ter to make up the num­bers with an Al­fie Maw­son or a James Tarkowski, de­fend­ers presently on the pe­riph­ery of the squad but play­ers who are likely to be around when the next World Cup comes along.

So, on that ba­sis, here is a sug­gested squad. The three goal­keep­ers who de­serve to go are But­land, Pick­ford and Pope, al­though South­gate may pre­fer Hart to the Burn­ley player. Three cen­tre-backs who seem cer­tain to make the trip are John Stones, Harry Maguire and Phil Jones, and an­other Burn­ley player, Tarkowski, would be an ad­ven­tur­ous fourth. South­gate must also con­sider the claims of Maw­son, Cahill and Smalling for one place as ex­tra de­fen­sive cover, though Michael Keane has prob­a­bly slipped off the radar af­ter an unim­pres­sive first sea­son at Ever­ton.

England are pretty well off for full­backs even with­out Gomez, so much so that they can af­ford to ig­nore the fact that Danny Rose has fallen from favour at Tot­ten­ham. Rose may still get the call but few would ar­gue if Kyle Walker, Kieran Trip­pier, Ryan Ber­trand and Trent Alexan­der-Arnold were the quar­tet board­ing the plane.

In mid­field the big ques­tion is whether to take Jack Wil­shere, now that Oxlade-Cham­ber­lain has pulled out. While there are doubts over the Ar­se­nal player’s fit­ness record, South­gate seems un­con­vinced by the claims of Jonjo Shelvey. There is also the de­bate over whether Ra­heem Ster­ling and Dele Alli should be re­garded as mid­field­ers or strik­ers, though lit­tle doubt that both will be go­ing. So should Jesse Lin­gard, and one has the feel­ing that South­gate will al­low as much time as pos­si­ble for Adam Lal­lana to prove his fit­ness. Pos­si­ble England squad: But­land, Pick­ford, Pope; Walker, Trip­pier, Ber­trand, Alexan­der-Arnold; Stones, Maguire, Jones, Smalling, Tarkowski; Hen­der­son, Dier, Lal­lana, Lin­gard, Wil­shere, Lof­tus-Cheek; Kane, Alli, Vardy, Rash­ford, Ster­ling.

England man­ager Gareth South­gate is primed to an­nounce his World Cup squad in the com­ing days

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