Southgate keeps mum on no. 1 'keeper

Jordan Pickford of Everton is one of the three internationally inexperienced goalkeepers aiming to be England's No. 1 at the World Cup.
Jordan Pickford of Everton is one of the three internationally inexperienced goalkeepers aiming to be England's No. 1 at the World Cup.PHOTO: REUTERS

England boss says he has good idea of who he will pick among Pickford, Butland and Pope

LONDON • The number one question facing Gareth Southgate is who will be England's No. 1, but the Three Lions coach remained tight-lipped on who he is leaning towards.

He begins the process of fine-tuning his World Cup starting line-up today, when England host Nigeria at Wembley, with one more opportunity - against Costa Rica next Thursday - to see his team in action before they jet off to Russia.

He has three inexperienced goalkeepers at the international level in Stoke City's Jack Butland, Everton's Jordan Pickford and Burnley's Nick Pope. The trio have only nine caps between them.

Pope had a good season for Burnley and kept more clean sheets than any other English 'keeper. But he has yet to feature for England, making Butland - who has seven caps - the slight favourite at this stage.

Not that Southgate was giving anything away.

"We know what we want to see in that area and we're clear on what we think. There's no need for me to say too much on that publicly," he told a press conference yesterday.

"I've told the players what we're looking for in these two matches and haven't told them the team yet."

NOT NECESSARY TO MAKE PUBLIC

We know what we want to see in that area and we're clear on what we think. There's no need for me to say too much on that publicly.

GARETH SOUTHGATE , England coach, on what he is looking for in his team's first-choice goalkeeper.

Both of England's opponents have qualified for the World Cup and their differing styles will offer Southgate a glimpse at how his players will cope with the varied approaches they will face in Russia.

He is expected to play a three-man defence today, having used the system in recent matches.

Manchester United defender Phil Jones is expected to be the only player unavailable against Nigeria, after he left the team camp to attend the birth of his child.

Kyle Walker is set to start on the right of the back three, with his Manchester City team-mate John Stones in the middle. That leaves Chelsea captain Gary Cahill and Leicester's Harry Maguire likely to fight for the other spot.

If Maguire starts, it would complete a remarkable rise for the 25-year-old who travelled with his brothers to watch England as a fan at Euro 2016.

"It was a great occasion for myself to go over there and see them play live and the atmosphere," he said. "The fans out there - the incredible atmosphere, the passion.

"It is something if you look back and you think you'd be there, you'd probably think you were dreaming. But it's a dream come true for myself to represent England, so it's a really proud moment."

If Southgate plays Walker in central defence, he still has plenty of options at wing-back. Kieran Trippier and Trent Alexander-Arnold are the contenders on the right and Danny Rose and Ashley Young on the left.

With Tottenham striker Harry Kane certain to start after being named England captain, Southgate will choose between Jesse Lingard, Raheem Sterling and Dele Alli for the two attacking midfield roles.

England open their World Cup campaign against Tunisia on June 18 and also face Panama and Belgium in Group G.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 02, 2018, with the headline 'Southgate keeps mum on no. 1 'keeper'. Print Edition | Subscribe