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’

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Total Football - By Matt Law

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

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