Southgate to stick by Wembley side for ‘toughest’ test
Manager will resist mass changes against Kosovo Mount’s England debut with Rice ‘a bit special’
Gareth Southgate is expected to resist the temptation to rotate his England side heavily for the visit of Kosovo tomorrow night.
Trent Alexander-arnold is pushing for a chance at right-back ahead of Kieran Trippier, who started against Bulgaria, but Southgate is minded not to make big changes to a team that won 4-0.
Southgate believes Kosovo represent the toughest test of the Euro 2020 qualifying group and does not want to risk any upsets.
Left-back Ben Chilwell and winger Jadon Sancho are two more he is considering starting at St Mary’s, but the team will be much the same as the one who won comfortably at Wembley on Saturday.
Mason Mount has described how his England debut was made extraspecial by the fact he shared it with childhood friend Declan Rice.
Mount has also revealed the part he played in convincing Rice to switch international allegiances from the Republic of Ireland to England. Midfielders Mount and Rice were team-mates and best friends at Chelsea until Rice was released at the age of 14 and joined West Ham United.
Mount and Rice, and their families, remained close and the pair went on holiday together this summer. On Saturday, they shared the pitch in an England shirt for the first time, after Mount was introduced as a second-half substitute.
“I think it was a bit special for me and him,” said Mount. “Back on the pitch together playing, it is something we have waited for, for a long time. The last time must have been at Chelsea in the Under-14s or Under-13s. So, yes, it’s a very long time ago since we played together. It’s such a special moment for my family and his. They were watching together in the stands.
“Me and Dec, and our families, were so close throughout the years. We have just kept that going and it is that friendship, that bond, we have always had, so it was special.
“The first thing he said to me on the pitch was to mark someone and after that we carried on and I looked at him and he looked at me, and we were just smiling at each other. Just that recognition that we were on the same pitch together again.
“We are very, very close, we are like brothers. It is such a special feeling to play with him again.”
Mount’s chance to play with Rice may never have come if his childhood friend had chosen to continue playing for Republic of Ireland. On Rice’s decision to switch, Mount said: “I had a couple of conversations with him, putting my opinion in, but it was down to him.”
Old pals: Mason Mount and Declan Rice as Chelsea juniors and at Wembley