South­gate ad­mits play­ing num­bers game

Man­ager hopes pol­icy will re­duce with­drawals More debu­tants ex­pected in friendly against Brazil

The Guardian - Sport - - Front Page - Do­minic Fi­field

Gareth South­gate be­lieves the in­creased com­pe­ti­tion for places gen­er­ated within the Eng­land squad, born of his de­ter­mi­na­tion to pro­mote youth, will en­sure play­ers think twice about with­draw­ing from squads.

The na­tional man­ager will re­call Joe Hart, Kyle Walker and Gary Cahill to his start­ing lineup for the friendly against Brazil tonight, but Ruben Lof­tus-Cheek is ex­pected to re­tain a place in mid­field af­ter his hugely en­cour­ag­ing de­but against Ger­many. Lewis Cook and Do­minic Solanke, key per­form­ers in the under-20s’ World Cup suc­cess over the sum­mer but in­ex­pe­ri­enced at Premier League level, will hope for in­volve­ment from the bench, while Marcus Rash­ford should start and Joe Gomez will gain a sec­ond cap at some stage af­ter his sub­sti­tute ap­pear­ance last Fri­day.

Lof­tus-Cheek, a player who has made only 12 top-flight starts and is on loan at Crys­tal Palace, would have been picked for the last two World Cup qual­i­fiers in Oc­to­ber had he been fit but the young­sters called up to the cur­rent squad are ef­fec­tively mak­ing the most of the with­drawal of eight se­niors. The FA’s med­i­cal staff were sat­is­fied by the va­lid­ity of those in­juries, for all that the play­ers would ex­pect to fea­ture for their clubs this week­end. Chelsea’s Danny Drinkwa­ter turned down the chance to join up af­ter a re­lapse of a calf prob­lem.

South­gate has al­ready handed out 13 de­buts in as many matches in charge. Asked if the praise heaped on new faces such as Lof­tus-Cheek and Jor­dan Pick­ford since Fri­day’s draw with the World Cup hold­ers might mean play­ers con­sider the wider pic­ture be­fore drop­ping out, he said: “Yes, that’s what you want to get to as a team, that the com­pe­ti­tion for places is so in­tense. [Philippe] Coutinho hasn’t played for a few weeks for Liverpool but he is there for Brazil. I imag­ine part of that is be­cause he is think­ing: ‘If I’m not there and I’m not play­ing and some­one else goes in, do I get the shirt back?’ Maybe we haven’t had that but I think, mov­ing for­ward, we will have, and I think that will ef­fect peo­ple’s ap­proach def­i­nitely.

“Some­one said to me, ‘[the emer­gence of young tal­ent] is caus­ing you se­lec­tion headaches’. No, be­cause you want com­pe­ti­tion for places. The best way to get the max­i­mum out of a player is com­pe­ti­tion for your place and no op­por­tu­nity to take [your foot] off the gas. And then you have to per­form. You sup­port peo­ple in dif­fi­cult mo­ments but, equally, when you have got that com­pe­ti­tion it drives the level of train­ing. The energy in train­ing has been high.”

Eng­land have beaten Brazil only once since 1990. While the hope is the home side build on the prom­ise dis­played against Ger­many, there is a re­al­ism among the staff – and within the FA – that short­term re­sults may be risked in favour of long-term de­vel­op­ment. “The more you beat those top teams then, of course, you take that con­fi­dence with you, but I have to bal­ance our de­sire to win games with some ex­per­i­men­ta­tion,” South­gate said. “We could set up to play a cer­tain way to give our­selves a bet­ter chance of win­ning any in­di­vid­ual game, with more ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers.

“We could take the short-term view re­gard­ing who might be more ex­pe­ri­enced go­ing into a tour­na­ment and have more big-match ex­pe­ri­ence, or we have a look at a few play­ers we want to find out more about and see how they cope.

“We’d love to have a team full of play­ers who have won the Cham­pi­ons League but we haven’t got that. But I want play­ers who will be fear­less, pre­pared to have the ball and show what they are ca­pa­ble of on the big­gest stage.”

Rad­i­cal youth pol­icy, page 4

Gareth South­gate says he would pre­fer to use play­ers with big-match ex­pe­ri­ence but in their ab­sence he is pre­pared to ex­per­i­ment

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