'No issue' with faith in youth

Southgate believes it's the way forward for England but will learn from Fergie's practice

LONDON • Raheem Sterling might have hogged the limelight with his hat-trick in England's 5-0 thrashing of the Czech Republic in their Euro 2020 qualifying opener on Friday, but much of the hype also revolved around the emergence of talented youngsters.

Borussia Dortmund winger Jadon Sancho provided the opener and dazzled with some of his footwork at Wembley, where fellow Under-17 World Cup winner Callum Hudson-Odoi and newly eligible Declan Rice came on for their debuts.

Hudson-Odoi, who came off the bench to break Duncan Edwards' 64-year-old record by becoming the youngest Three Lion at 18 years and 135 days, made a sparkling 20-minute cameo that hinted at a dazzling future.

England manager Gareth Southgate sees nothing wrong in his emphasis on youthful dash and dare.

"We have a smaller pool to pick from, so you've got to think a bit more creatively. You can't wait for 40, 50 league matches, but that doesn't mean that the players aren't of the quality to go in and do well," he said ahead of England's second Group A qualifier in Montenegro today.

"Absolutely we've got competition for places and I think with attacking players, they mature very young and they can go in very young. So it's not an issue to play them."

Southgate has shown time and again that he has no qualms about giving youngsters a chance, yet there is a balance to be struck in terms of getting the best out of them.

Part of his challenge now is making sure these players keep their feet on the ground while their careers soar, and getting the balance right between playing and commercial opportunities while with England.

Citing former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson's handling of Ryan Giggs, the 48-year-old added: "Although they're not our players on a day-to-day basis, I think we've got a responsibility to make sure we get the balance right for the club, but most importantly for the player.

"I always think of Sir Alex with Ryan and how he did that so well. They had sustained success because of that."

TOUGH OPPOSITION

We know we have been there (in Montenegro) twice before and not managed to beat them, so it will be an intense environment, completely different to the challenge (against the Czechs).

GARETH SOUTHGATE, England manage, on the trip to Montenegro for their second Euro 2020 qualifier today.

Southgate will make changes against Montenegro in order to balance "freshness and continuity" as the match in Podgorica comes just 70 hours after the Wembley win over the Czechs.

"I need to have a look at their game (a 1-1 draw away to Bulgaria) to finalise what we expect (from Montenegro)," he said.

"But we know we have been there twice before and not managed to beat them, so it will be an intense environment, completely different to the challenge (against the Czechs).

"It's a good one for us because we have to be able to adapt to these different situations and make sure that we can show our quality in different environments."

Montenegro do not have any sympathy for England despite Eric Dier becoming the seventh member of Southgate's original squad to withdraw through injury after Friday's game, although the home side have problems of their own.

Former Manchester City winger Stevan Jovetic has returned to his club Monaco because of injury and Stefan Savic, another ex-City player, missed the 1-1 draw in Bulgaria with a hamstring problem and faces a race against time to face England, reported the Daily Mail.

Said Lazio defender Adam Marusic: "Maybe it gives us some hope but, honestly, I don't think it's a problem for them.

"No, we don't feel sorry for England."

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 25, 2019, with the headline ''No issue' with faith in youth'. Print Edition | Subscribe