Picking young squad not a gamble: Southgate

LONDON • Gareth Southgate yesterday refuted suggestions that he is planning for the future by picking England's third youngest-ever squad for a World Cup.

The England manager insisted at a press conference that his youthful 23-man group was not a "gamble" and picked purely on form, with veteran Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart and Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere among the big names to miss out.

"I don't see it as a gamble and I don't think being free of inhibition is gambling," Southgate said.

"We are not picking young players because we are trying to buy ourselves time, we are picking young players because we believe they are the best."

"Maybe it is brave to take players without the number of caps but we have to give these guys belief," he added, in reference to the inclusion of 19-year-old uncapped Liverpool fullback Trent Alexander-Arnold.

Former England striker Gary Lineker on Tuesday joined a host of pundits in calling on Southgate to "write off" any hopes of lifting the World Cup in Moscow on July 15.

However, Southgate revealed that he resisted the temptation to blood even more youth by ruling out the likes of Fulham left-back Ryan Sessegnon, 17, and Borussia Dortmund midfielder Jadon Sancho, 18 - and that they were not travelling to Russia just to make up the numbers.

"I don't think when you're involved with England, you can write any tournament off ," he said.

"We have great faith in them. They lack some big-match experience, but how are they going to get that?

"I don't want to limit what is possible. We need to enjoy the ride and embrace the tournament."

The 47-year-old, however, conceded that his job had been made harder by the lack of Englishmen playing regularly in the Premier League, and accepted that his team were not as seasoned as favourites Brazil, Germany and Spain.

"We know teams that win tournaments normally have more caps than we do, have more appearances in semi-finals and finals than we do.

"We know we have not got the number of caps of Germany, Spain or Brazil but that's where we are at. We pick from 33 per cent of the league which is quite a unique situation, but there is excitement with where we are going."

He also hinted that Hart's international career was not over, while Wilshere's "ineffective" displays in the business end of the term was a black mark beside his name.

He said: "Jack had a good spell in the lead-up until Christmas and just after. Not as effective towards the end of the season.

"Joe, of course it was a difficult call, he's played in most of our qualifying matches and has been a valuable member. The best thing for Joe is to get his future sorted out this summer."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 18, 2018, with the headline 'Picking young squad not a gamble: Southgate'. Print Edition | Subscribe