LONDON • Gareth Southgate believes it is unfair to question Luke Shaw's competitive courage and vigorously defended the Manchester United left-back in light of Jose Mourinho's thinly veiled attack on his own player for pulling out of the game against Swansea City.
Southgate pointed out that Shaw was still suffering "physical and psychological aspects" from breaking his leg in two places 14 months ago.
The England caretaker manager also spoke in defence of Chris Smalling at a time when Mourinho is clearly aggrieved that the two defenders opted out of the 3-1 victory on Sunday.
Mourinho's anger was clear after the game when he confirmed Smalling and Shaw had ruled themselves out. The United manager talked at length about having to trust his players, noting that many sports people played through the pain barrier and the "difference between the brave, who want to be there at any cost, and the ones for whom a little pain can make a difference".
Those comments have hurt and surprised Shaw, given the seriousness of his injury and the fact that he played in discomfort during United's Europa League defeat by Fenerbahce last Thursday.
Mourinho is also understood to have given Smalling a particularly hard time when he returned to training.
OLD RIVALRY, MODERN CHALLENGE
We have to have emotional control going into the game. It is the oldest international fixture. We will make sure if the players don't know about it, that they are made aware of it.
GARETH SOUTHGATE, England caretaker coach, feeling the weight of emotion ahead of the Home Nations tie with Scotland.
Southgate, however, said that he trusted the word of the medical staff at Old Trafford and made it clear he did not understand Mourinho's comments when the club's doctors were backing the players' accounts.
"There is a medical issue," Southgate said.
"If Shaw wasn't fit to play - and he was with us in September under Sam (Allardyce) and was feeling problems with the leg back then - there's clearly something. After an injury as severe as that we have to handle that with care.
"Chris hasn't played for the last four games. Luke has had ongoing difficulties coming back from a very serious injury. If they haven't played, there's obviously something wrong."
Both players have been made unavailable for England's games against Scotland on Friday and Spain the following Tuesday.
Southgate added in his news conference that England must show "emotional control" when they face the Scots in a World Cup qualifier at Wembley.
The first competitive clash between the nations since 1999 is guaranteed to be highly charged and while England are firm favourites, Southgate said form goes out of the window when the old rivals meet.
"Whatever happened with their results, it does not reflect their performances," he said.
"Their mentality for a game like this is unquestionable and they have unquestionable spirit. We will have to better that and outplay them to win the game.
"We have to have emotional control going into the game. It is the oldest international fixture. We will make sure if the players don't know about it, that they are made aware of it in the early part of the week."
England are top of Group F with seven points from three games while Scotland are fourth with four points following a heavy defeat by Slovakia the last time out.
Southgate is halfway through his four-game stint in charge following the sacking of Sam Allardyce.
"I was asked to take four matches and I have got another two really exciting matches and I am looking forward to that," he said.
"I have enjoyed it all and what happens to me is not important, it is about the team. I want to leave the team and country on top of the group at the end of Friday night, that is my only focus."
England will be without midfielders Dele Alli and Danny Drinkwater plus goalkeeper Fraser Forster through injury, while Theo Walcott could drop out as his wife is expecting a baby.
Fit-again Tottenham Hotspur striker Harry Kane returned to the squad and there was also a recall for Arsenal's Jack Wilshere, who is currently on loan at Bournemouth.
THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS