Gareth Southgate says England hopefuls face ‘big competition for places’

By Sports Desk March 16, 2024

Gareth Southgate has warned that Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish face a battle from England’s up-and-coming talent to make his European Championship squad.

Among the favourites to lift the trophy in Germany, the Euro 2020 runners-up continue preparations with March friendlies against Brazil and Belgium.

This summer’s tournament sees squads go from 26 back to 23-strong selections, meaning some high-profile players are in danger of missing the cut in well-stocked areas.

Grealish faces a fight to feature while Rashford, who has gone to England’s last four tournaments, is the same having under-performed for Manchester United in a season when his Belfast escapades in January made headlines.

Southgate said: “Well, (Rashford) has a battle on his hands with (Anthony) Gordon, with (Cole) Palmer, with (Phil) Foden, so we’ve got big competition for places in that area of the field,” Southgate said.

“What happens while players are with their clubs is club matters because they know the full story, they know exactly what’s gone on. Obviously we observe everything, we don’t miss anything.

“I don’t say behaviours off the field are irrelevant because clearly they’re not. But the key thing is we are mainly focusing on the performances on the field.

“He’s got big competition and so has Jack.

“These guys are playing well – Gordon, (Jarrod) Bowen. They’re scoring regularly, they perform well for the team, they defend well, they work hard, they compete and we’ve got really good options in that area of the pitch.”

Asked if there is a chance Rashford might not make the Euros considering the competition facing him, Southgate said: “I can’t guarantee anybody.

“We have to have an environment where…we know in certain positions who our best players might be.

“Kalvin Phillips I think is still in that position but, at this minute, I can’t go with that, so I’m hoping he can hit that form.

“We know what Marcus can bring to us but equally everybody has got to perform well between now and the end of the season. That’s the environment we’re in.”

Phillips was left out of March’s double-header due to his struggles for form and minutes since joining West Ham on loan in January but Southgate believes he could turn it around in time for the Euros.

There appears less chance of fellow Euro 2020 regular Mason Mount being involved after an injury-impacted end to life at Chelsea was followed by a stop-start time with United.

“The first step for him is to get back playing regularly for Manchester United,” Southgate said as the midfielder prepares to return from a four month lay-off.

“He’s had the best part of 15 months (sidelined), really, because the end of Chelsea he didn’t play with the injury.

“So, he’s got to get back playing, he’s got to find the rhythm, find the fitness, the sharpness.

“But, again, we know what he’s capable of, so he’s somebody that we’ve kept contact with through that period.

“But at the moment you’d have to say he’s an outside bet. I think he would accept that.

“But it’s possible, he’s just got to, like they all have, play well for his club.”

One player playing regularly in a top European league that definitely will not be in England’s Euros squad is Mason Greenwood.

The 22-year-old was suspended by United in January 2022 over allegations relating to a young woman after images and videos were posted online.

Greenwood faced charges including attempted rape and assault but the Crown Prosecution Service announced in February 2023 that the case had been discontinued.

The one-cap England forward has recommenced his career on loan at LaLiga outfit Getafe on loan and Jamaica are interested in him switching to their national set-up.

“Well, for me, I don’t think it’s something for pre-Euros,” Southgate said.

“I think allowing him to get his career going again abroad appears to have been a good move but I have to say I have not tracked it closely.

“I think at this moment in time that would be a big distraction for the team and let’s see where that leads next season.

“I would need to know more details about the whole thing before it was an option.”

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