But­land among the changes as South­gate tries to find a bal­ance

The Sunday Post (Dundee) - - England Latest - By Rory Dol­lard sport@sundaypost.com

Gareth South­gate has promised changes as Eng­land wrap up their World Cup qual­i­fy­ing cam­paign in Lithua­nia, with Jack But­land among those with a chance to im­press.

With a place in Rus­sia al­ready as­sured, the Stoke goal­keeper will start in place of Joe Hart, who has played every minute of the pre­vi­ous nine qual­i­fiers.

More ex­per­i­men­ta­tion is likely, in terms of tac­tics and per­son­nel, as South­gate looks to coax an ex­cit­ing per­for­mance to sweep away mem­o­ries of Thurs­day’s tor­tur­ous 1-0 win over Slove­nia.

It is hard to re­call a less dy­namic Wem­b­ley dis­play and the man in charge of im­prov­ing mat­ters is ea­ger to find the right for­mula before next sum­mer.

“We’ll make changes, but want to get the bal­ance right,” he said.

“It is a re­sults busi­ness but the way I want to play is to en­ter­tain as well. This is a game where we want to give a strong per­for­mance and win.

“We were very clear in our mind how wanted to evolve and we’ve got an ex­tra game to do that now, which is a great op­por­tu­nity to look at a cou­ple of things.

“Every­one was dis­ap­pointed with the per­for­mance, none more so than me. We want to learn things from the game and don’t want to waste that op­por­tu­nity.”

The likes of Harry Maguire, Michael Keane, Harry Winks, Kieran Trip­pier and Jesse Lin­gard are among those des­per­ate for a chance to im­press, but South­gate would only guar­an­tee But­land a start­ing spot.

The 24-year-old has made only one ap­pear­ance for his coun­try since suf­fer­ing a stress frac­ture of the an­kle in his pre­vi­ous start in Ger­many nearly 18 months ago.

That was the be­gin­ning of a long spell on the side­lines, but he is now back at peak con­di­tion and press­ing Hart hard.

“I’ve said all along there’s great com­pe­ti­tion for places,” said South­gate.

“Joe’s per­for­mance the other night was ex­cel­lent, not only did he make im­por­tant saves but also his de­ci­sion-mak­ing and dis­tri­bu­tion and his man­age­ment of the game were ex­cel­lent.

“Clearly, we have also got other good goal­keep­ers and this is a great op­por­tu­nity for Jack to play.

“He’s been pa­tient for his op­por­tu­nity and his form is good.

“Jack was my cap­tain at Un­der21 level. He’s an out­stand­ing per­son­al­ity, a strong leader, so why don’t we use those qual­i­ties?”

But­land is un­apolo­getic about his de­signs on Hart’s No.1 jersey, but in­sists the bat­tle is well-in­ten­tioned.

“We’re af­ter the same shirt but we’re keen to push each other to a high stan­dard be­cause that means suc­cess for us as a nation,” he said.

“We have bril­liant ri­valry but a great friend­ship, too. It’s been a long process get­ting fit and I fi­nally feel like I’m back where I was, play­ing con­sis­tently and in the Eng­land set-up.”

Eng­land’s mid­field has drawn scru­tiny in the days since Slove­nia, with Eric Dier and Jor­dan Hen­der­son seem­ingly un­able to pro­vide the spark to break down a side with lim­ited at­tack­ing am­bi­tion.

Dele Alli’s re­turn from sus­pen­sion adds a touch of the un­pre­dictable to the mix but South­gate warned the di­min­ish­ing num­ber of home­grown play­ers in the Pre­mier League is hav­ing an im­pact on the qual­ity at his dis­posal.

“We have a league where every week 70 English play­ers play. When I was play­ing it was prob­a­bly about 150,” he said.

“We have a prob­lem in terms of op­por­tu­ni­ties for young play­ers.

“The play­ers we’re se­lect­ing we be­lieve are the best in the coun­try.

“The de­sire is for the coun­try to get be­hind them. They need sup­port and back­ing, but they’re not there yet.

“They’re not where ev­ery­body else wants them to be.”

Asked to pon­der where the heirs to Paul Gas­coigne, Paul Sc­holes, Steven Ger­rard and Frank Lam­pard were, he added: “Those names came in at 18 or 19 but were sur­rounded by se­nior play­ers who’d won lots of things.

“Our av­er­age age, around 25, is one of the youngest of the big teams around Europe.

“The guys are hav­ing to learn to­gether. It’s a steep learn­ing curve but we’ve got to get used to it and be strong enough, men­tally.”

Gareth South­gate at the LFF Sta­dium in Vil­nius last night

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