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
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