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LONDON, March 2 — Gareth Southgate has admitted he is facing “big decisions” over which players to include in England’s attack for the European Championships.
The coronavirus-delayed tournament will now kick off a year later than planned in June.
That delay has given the likes of Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish, an attacking midfielder or winger, a chance to press his claim, with England looking to win their first major trophy in 55 years.
“Well, I can remember being at Middlesbrough playing Tottenham and we were 2-1 up in the game and Harry Redknapp put Robbie Keane and Dimitar Berbatov on,” former Middlesbrough boss Southgate told talkSPORT.
“And I looked at my bench and I had five kids from the academy. Now, that’s a headache because you’re thinking ‘well, I’m not quite sure how we turn this game around and improve what we’ve got on the field’.
“When you’ve got a choice of some outstanding talent, now of course there’s big decisions you have to make. But in the end, you know, some of these decisions are sadly taken out of your hands.
“I mean, if I look at the squad for March we’re already without Joe Gomez, Jordan Henderson, Harvey Barnes. James Justin, who we think has been doing exceptionally well at Leicester, is going to be out.
“So, you know, how many of these guys (are available)? There’s others who aren’t playing at the moment.
“And then actually it’s just a case of ‘right, who’s playing the best’. Who do we think has the pedigree, who’s performed at the high level before coupled with who’s in the form, who fits into the way we want to play with and without the ball?
“But what’s really exciting is that for years we’ve talked about development in English football and where are the creative players, how do we develop those types of players.
“We’ve had root and branch reviews of everything from, you know, grassroots football to academy football to everything for decades and we’ve now (got them).”
Meanwhile there has been an increase in the number of England-qualified players appearing in the Premier League.
“Only 18 months or so ago every Saturday we were about 30 per cent of the league English qualified players,” Southgate said.
“This year that’s up to 40 per cent and that doesn’t seem a lot, but when you think that the likes of perhaps an Emile Smith Rowe, for example, getting his opportunity at Arsenal. We know those kids are there, we know the talent is there.”
This month also sees England in World Cup qualifying action against San Marino, Albania and Poland.
“We’ve got three big World Cup qualifiers, of course, in March because we’re only less than 18 months away from a World Cup as well so it’s an amazing period for international football,” said Southgate. — AFP