Belfast Telegraph

Southgate will shun familiar faces to look towards rising stars

By Simon Peach

Gareth Southgate has effectively shut the door on the old guard as the England manager prepares to make his squad even younger.

Just eight weeks after their memorable World Cup campaign came to an end, the Three Lions will run out at Wembley on Saturday in their Uefa Nations League opener against Spain.

Southgate has plumped for a young squad, with 28-year-old Fabian Delph the oldest member following Adam Lallana's withdrawal.

Injury has also seen Raheem Sterling leave the initial 23-man squad, and the England manager's decision not to name attacking replacements has raised eyebrows.

"Well, we think we've got a strong squad," Southgate said "We're three games into a new season and we looked through a lot of different players over the last few years and decided that, because of the way we want to play and the type of players we want to work with, that there are some guys that didn't fit that model.

"And so now we're into a fresh cycle of probably not going back to players that have been in before and that we've had a good look at.

"So the next group that we start to look at are probably coming through our younger age groups.

"There's a couple of others that are still young, that still have room for growth - the (Nathaniel) Chalobahs, Will Hughes, Ross Barkleys - but I don't want to bring them in three days into the camp.

"I'd rather do that when we feel they're ready, we feel that we're looking at them on merit and also we like some of the age groups below, and I think they're quite likely to be the guys that push.

"But when you're promoting young players you've got to be really careful about how quickly you do that because you want to give them game time, you want to bring them in, have them train and adapt to training."

Jamie Vardy and Gary Cahill have stepped away, while Ashley Young - the oldest member of the squad in Russia - has been usurped by Luke Shaw.

Southgate's focus on youth does not appear to bode well for the likes of Ryan Bertrand, Joe Hart, Chris Smalling, Aaron Cresswell and Jake Livermore.

It sounds like in-form Bournemouth frontman Callum Wilson (26) has a chance to break through, but 30-year-old Troy Deeney's Watford performances are set to go without reward.

"Callum is another player we worked with in the Under-21s, so we know a lot about Callum," Southgate said. "He's certainly one we have to keep monitoring.

"I think Troy is a player who really suits the way that Watford play and I'm a big fan of his. But we play slightly differently, and I think that the next forward players that should be challenging are some of the younger ones."

Uncapped Fulham goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli is the only reinforcement to the squad since meeting up on Monday, but Southgate suggests a positive outcome for the Under-21s could change things.

Southgate said: "If the Under-21s do well on Thursday (against Holland) they're pretty much qualified (for the Euros) and we can think about (Tuesday's friendly against Switzerland)."

Belfast Telegraph

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