Loyal Liver­more de­serves his call-up, says South­gate

Eng­land man­ager de­fends the West Brom mid­fielder Barkley’s hopes of place at World Cup ap­pear over

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Sam Wallace - By John Percy

Gareth South­gate has de­fended the in­clu­sion of Jake Liver­more in his Eng­land squad af­ter re­veal­ing the ex­tent of the mid­fielder’s com­mit­ment to his coun­try.

Liver­more’s se­lec­tion for the friendlies against Hol­land and Italy has led to wide­spread surprise, with the mid­fielder suf­fer­ing a trou­bled sea­son at the Pre­mier League’s bot­tom club West Bromwich Al­bion.

The £10 mil­lion sign­ing was fined last month for al­legedly hi­jack­ing a taxi dur­ing the club’s doomed train­ing camp in Barcelona, while he has started only four league games for Alan Pardew’s strug­glers this year.

For­mer Eng­land striker Alan Shearer ad­mit­ted he was “very sur­prised” that New­cas­tle’s Jonjo Shelvey was not handed a call-up, and even West Brom sup­port­ers were left stunned at Liver­more’s in­clu­sion.

But South­gate said the 28-year-old fully de­served his place in the squad and dis­closed the dras­tic mea­sures Liver­more had al­ready taken to play for the na­tional team.

“I know that when I pick Jake it is go­ing to get a cer­tain sort of re­ac­tion, but there is a spe­cific rea­son for why we have done it,” said the Eng­land man­ager.

“In Novem­ber, we left him out and he was just about to board a plane. He left the fam­ily at the air­port, he came in, he did re­ally well for us against Brazil and Ger­many, and I think that has to carry some weight when you are build­ing the spirit and cul­ture around your team.

“That doesn’t mean he is guar­an­teed to go in the sum­mer [to the World Cup], but I think it jus­ti­fies him stay­ing in our squad, be­cause he has been an im­por­tant mem­ber of our squad in build­ing what we want to build in terms of to­geth­er­ness and spirit.

“That is the sort of ex­am­ple of sac­ri­fic­ing what you are do­ing for the team that I think is im­por­tant.

“We have played Jake in sev­eral Eng­land matches and he has done a job for the team.”

Liver­more’s loyalty to the na­tional side ap­pears to be in stark con­trast to Chelsea’s Danny Drinkwa­ter, who told the Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion in Novem­ber he “wasn’t ready” to play and is now fac­ing a bleak in­ter­na­tional fu­ture.

But Liver­more’s in­clu­sion comes at a time when South­gate’s mid­field op­tions ap­pear strong ahead of the World Cup, with Bournemouth’s Lewis Cook earn­ing his first call-up while Jack Wil­shere re­turns to the squad af­ter win­ning back his place at Arse­nal.

But the slim hopes of Ross Barkley gate­crash­ing the board­ing party to Rus­sia ap­pear to be over af­ter South­gate ef­fec­tively ruled him out of his short-term plans.

Barkley was signed by Chelsea for £15 mil­lion in Jan­uary and has not played since dead­line day af­ter suf­fer­ing a re­cur­rence of a ham­string in­jury.

“I think it’s go­ing to be dif­fi­cult for Ross to get the num­ber of games he needs now,” said South­gate. “I think he’s just not been fit.

“He went [to Chelsea] on the back of a long-term in­jury, quite a se­ri­ous one, and only had a cou­ple of matches re­ally. So I don’t think he’s avail­able for se­lec­tion now any­way, so he’s un­for­tu­nate in the way that has played out in this year in par­tic­u­lar. But he is a tal­ented player.”

Eng­land play the first of their friendly matches on Fri­day against Hol­land and South­gate is de­ter­mined to fo­cus on prepa­ra­tions for the World Cup, de­spite height­ened po­lit­i­cal ten­sions be­tween the United King­dom and Rus­sia.

The FA has in­sisted they have no plans to with­draw from the tour­na­ment but the is­sue is clearly a huge con­cern for both South­gate and the govern­ing body. How­ever, South­gate has in­sisted his fam­ily will be join­ing him in Rus­sia de­spite the warn­ings from the For­eign Of­fice over se­cu­rity.

“At the mo­ment they’re plan­ning to come out and sup­port the team, but we’re like ev­ery­one else – we have to see what the ad­vice is and if things change, but that’s their in­ten­tion.

“They have got to bal­ance that with be­ing at school and univer­sity at the right times, so they won’t be there for too long, but it’s an ex­pe­ri­ence I want them to have.

“Rus­sia is cul­tur­ally an in­cred­i­ble coun­try to visit, so I want them to have that to ex­pe­ri­ence it, and for them to go to a World Cup as well.”

Ever ready: Jake Liver­more has been re­warded for his com­mit­ment to the cause

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