Gareth Southgate resists temptation to change things for England double-header

By Sports Desk November 09, 2023

England manager Gareth Southgate resisted the temptation to make changes to his latest squad ahead of the final Euro 2024 qualification double-header.

Southgate’s side are already assured of a spot in next summer’s finals in Germany but it was a 25-man squad of familiar names picked for the home game against Malta and a trip to North Macedonia later this month.

From the previous squad, Manchester City defender John Stones missed out through injury but was not replaced, while Eddie Nketiah has an ankle issue and Newcastle’s Callum Wilson came in to replace the Arsenal striker.

Southgate insisted the door remains open for Raheem Sterling, who has now missed the last five international camps since being part of the squad for the World Cup in Qatar last year.

He said: “Well, the door is 100 per cent open not only for Raheem but for other players not in the squad.

“We don’t need to know about his quality, his personality. He is a crucial part of why we’ve had the journey we’ve had over the last few years.

“I can only repeat what I have said in the meetings, we’re playing exceptionally well and who can I leave out?”

Southgate expressed his disappointment that Stones had sustained another injury and revealed Reece James asked not to be included in the squad after only recently returning to action after a hamstring issue.

“I am really disappointed for John,” Southgate admitted.

“The quality of his play is outstanding. He’s having a difficult time injury-wise at the moment, but it gives others an opportunity and we do need to know a little bit more about other players in that area of the pitch.”

On James, Southgate revealed: “I was hoping to call Reece James, but he doesn’t feel he is quite ready and I understand that.”

There are injury doubts over James Maddison (ankle), Jude Bellingham (shoulder), Bukayo Saka (ankle) and Wilson (hamstring).

Southgate acknowledged: “You would be amazed at how complicated it is picking a squad because all clubs are sensitive to information. I couldn’t be certain that everyone in that squad will be there on Sunday night and Callum Wilson is the biggest doubt, but equally I am pretty confident the others can get through.”

Southgate paid tribute to England World Cup-winner Sir Bobby Charlton, who died last month.

“So much has been said and it is difficult to add anything that carries further weight,” Southgate said at Wembley.

“Respected around the world and clearly our greatest ever player when you think of not only the World Cup, but winning the European Cup.

“Very sad. We were fortunate to have met him a few times and incredibly humble, so yes our condolences to all family and hopefully we get the chance to honour him in a celebration of life (against Malta) because he absolutely deserves that.”

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