What the papers say

The Sun reports that Gareth Southgate has his eye on three uncapped midfield players – Manchester United teen Kobbie Mainoo, Everton’s James Garner and Fulham’s Harrison Reed – as concern grows over the form of Kalvin Phillips.

Coach David Moyes’ future with West Ham looks fraught as the club is understood to be sounding out Julen Lopetegui, Steve Cooper and Graham Potter to lead the Hammers, writes the Daily Mail.

Steve Bruce is keen to move abroad, with the ex-Newcastle boss looking to become the next manager for South Korea, writes the Daily Mirror.

Social media round-upPlayers to watch

Kylian Mbappe: The  Paris Saint-Germain star put pen to paper with Real Madrid weeks ago, reports the Daily Mail.

Liel Abada: According to the Daily Record, Celtic will speak to the winger’s agent this week to sort out his future.

Yann M’Vila: West Bromwich Albion has signed the former France international, but only until the end of the season, says the BBC.

Unai Emery lauded Ollie Watkins’ “fantastic” performance after the Aston Villa forward scored twice during their 2-1 victory over Fulham at Craven Cottage.

Watkins’ brace took his Premier League tally to 12 and Rodrigo Muniz scored his fourth in three games as the spirited Cottagers failed to find a late equaliser.

Villa boss Emery lauded the striker’s commitment as he continues his bid to be a part of Gareth Southgate’s Euro 2024 squad with England.

“He was fantastic,” Emery told a press conference.

“The best action was in the first half where he created a chance for (Youri) Tielemans.

“When he’s scoring, it’s very important for him and for us. I’m very happy with him and I believe his commitment has improved a lot. Defensively in set-pieces he is also very important, I’m very proud of him.”

Fulham came back strong in the second half through the in-form Muniz but Emiliano Martinez and Villa put on a resilient display to protect the three points.

Adama Traore came off the bench late on but Martinez bailed the visitors out with an impressive one-on-one save in second half added-time.

Emery praised the way his side kept composure when reacting to Fulham’s goal.

When asked if he was happy with Villa’s defensive efforts, Unai added: “Yes of course.

“It’s part of the game when you try and stop their qualities and their tactical ideas.

“We were calm at 2-0 but we made some mistakes for their goal. We reacted very well because our mentality was to not complain, keep the game plan and be strong in our structure.

“Emiliano (Martinez) saved it at the end and I think we deserved to win the match.”

Marco Silva admitted his side’s “soft” performance cost them on the day.

The Cottagers boss was disappointed with the defensive mistakes which allowed Watkins to punish Issa Diop in the lead up to his second goal.

“We cannot concede the goals that we did this afternoon,” Silva said.

“We were punished by the second goal, we were really sloppy in the way we defended that and it was a big punch to ourselves.

“It’s disappointing for us. We need to be much more aggressive and not so soft, because wen were soft.”

Phil Foden feels he is in the form of his life as he eyes a second successive treble with Manchester City.

The England midfielder stepped up in the injury-enforced absence of Kevin De Bruyne to thrive in a central role in numerous games in the first half of the season.

De Bruyne’s return to action over the past month has seen Foden’s position vary since but his performance levels have rarely dipped.

Playing alongside De Bruyne, the 23-year-old again excelled in Tuesday’s Champions League victory at FC Copenhagen, capping a fine display with an eighth goal in 10 outings.

“I think it’s the most run of games that I’ve played in a City shirt consistently,” said Foden. “I’m in good form, scoring consistently and helping the team as much as I can and I’m delighted with that.

“I want to keep doing that, that’s the goal every game. I’d say I’m playing my best football in a City shirt.”

Foden has been touted for big things since he was in City’s junior ranks but it is now over six years since he made his senior debut.

When prolific striker Erling Haaland joined De Bruyne on the sidelines in December, Foden felt it was time he took responsibility.

“I think I had to,” said Foden, who scored a hat-trick in last week’s Premier League win at Brentford. “They are two massive players for us, so key last year for us winning the treble. It was time for me to step up.”

City’s 3-1 win in Copenhagen in the first leg of their last-16 tie was their 11th in succession in all competitions.

They are strongly fancied to defend all three of the major trophies they won last season and Foden has no doubt the team have the hunger to do so.

He said: “We’re showing that we’re still determined and playing the same football as last year and still wanting to win all the games. Hopefully that continues and we don’t drop our level or form.

“We’re focused. We stick by each other and it’s a pleasure to be a part of this team. I look around the dressing room and I still see the determination and hunger.”

Foden has made no secret of his preference to play in a central position, something which became a matter of national debate earlier this season when England manager Gareth Southgate selected him in a wide role.

Foden said: “I’ve said previously that I prefer to play in the middle but I’ll do a job wherever the manager puts me. Tuesday I was out wide, and I got a goal and an assist. I’m delighted.”

Gareth Southgate insists he is keeping an open mind about staying with England beyond Euro 2024 this summer.

The 53-year-old is under contract until December and accepts it is possible he may not even be in charge by the time England play Nations League matches against the Republic of Ireland, Greece and Finland in the autumn.

However, he insists his decision is not yet made either way and remains open to the possibility of staying on and working with England’s exciting crop of players, led by Real Madrid superstar Jude Bellingham.

“There’s a fair chance half the coaches won’t be here after the Euros. That’s international football,” he said at the draw in Paris.

“You’ve got to see how the summer goes. It’s as simple as that. In my view, I know what we’re capable of achieving in the summer, I know what my own benchmark of success would be, after that I’m not really thinking about anything else.

“Without a doubt it’s exciting to take the team, it’s always been exciting to take the team, whatever the strengths of the squad. In the end, we’ve got to deliver a performance and you’ve got to make the best decisions for everybody. I won’t be in a position to make that decision before the tournament.”

While Bellingham’s place in the squad appears certain barring injury, others seem to have a much bigger fight on their hands.

Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford has hit the headlines recently after an unsanctioned trip to Belfast and Southgate insists all his players are being monitored on and off the field.

“We’re five weeks away from picking a squad, although so much happens to players over the period between November and March that we’re always sitting and observing everything on and off the pitch.”

The last competitive encounter between England and the Republic was a Euro 92 qualifier at Wembley, where a Niall Quinn goal cancelled out Lee Dixon’s opener.

A friendly match in 1995 at Lansdowne Road had to be abandoned due to crowd trouble and the teams’ most recent meeting was a November 2020 friendly.

England midfielder Declan Rice played three senior matches for the Republic before switching allegiance to England, while Manchester City star Jack Grealish also played for the Republic at under-age level.

Southgate said: “I have to say that I don’t know where we would have been without them. If we hadn’t had Declan over the past four years then I don’t know what we would have done.”

Football Association of Ireland director of football Marc Canham said of the draw: “It’s tough, but exciting, some amazing games and obviously we’re playing England for the first time in a while.

“It’s a great opportunity for our players and team and our amazing fans, an experience they can really look forward to.”

Wales will be up against Iceland, Montenegro and Turkey in Group B4.

Wales boss Rob Page said: “We know what Turkey are about (having played them in the Euro qualifiers last year). There are no easy games in international football but, with regards to the opposition, if we could have handpicked them we probably would have picked them.

“That’s no disrespect to them, but we want to give ourselves the best opportunity.”

Steve Clarke’s Scotland are up against Croatia, Portugal and Poland in Group A1.

Michael O’Neill’s Northern Ireland were drawn in Group C3, where they will take on Luxembourg, Bulgaria and Belarus.

O’Neill said: “I think they will be good games for the young squad that we have at the minute. It will be a test for them as part of their development as international players.”

The league phase will be played between September and October before League A quarter-finals and promotion/relegation play-offs take place in March 2025.

Single-leg semis and a final will be played in June 2025.

Gareth Southgate admitted all England’s focus was on this summer’s European Championship as the Nations League draw pitted his team against the Republic of Ireland.

The two sides will meet competitively for the first time since March 1991 and are also up against Euro 2004 winners Greece plus Finland in Group B2.

The Nations League ties will be played in the autumn when Southgate could, depending on how the summer tournament in Germany goes, be out of the job, and he admitted it was difficult to see past the Euros at the moment.

“Our entire focus is on (the Euros),” he told Sky Sports.

“I know we’re here for a draw for a different competition but all we’re thinking about is our preparation for Germany and we’re really looking forward to the competition.

“We finished runners-up last time. We’ve been ranked in the top five in the world for four or five years so we know we have a good team.

“But we know in tournaments that on one day there are lots of good teams in Europe who can win matches against each other. There are also some other strong squads.”

The last competitive encounter between England and the Republic was a Euro 92 qualifier at Wembley, where a Niall Quinn goal cancelled out Lee Dixon’s opener.

A friendly match in 1995 at Lansdowne Road had to be abandoned due to crowd trouble and the teams’ most recent meeting was a November 2020 friendly.

Football Association of Ireland director of football Marc Canham said: “It’s tough, but exciting, some amazing games and obviously we’re playing England for the first time in a while.

“It’s a great opportunity for our players and team and our amazing fans, an experience they can really look forward to.”

Wales will be up against Iceland, Montenegro and Turkey in Group B4.

Wales boss Rob Page said: “We know what Turkey are about (having played them in the Euro qualifiers last year) – there are no easy games in international football but with regards to the opposition, if we could have handpicked them we probably would have picked them.

“That’s no disrespect to them, but we want to give ourselves the best opportunity.”

Steve Clarke’s Scotland are up against Croatia, Portugal and Poland in Group A1.

Michael O’Neill’s Northern Ireland were drawn in Group C3, where they will take on Luxembourg, Bulgaria and Belarus.

O’Neill said: “I think they will be good games for the young squad that we have at the minute. It will be a test for them as part of their development as international players.”

The league phase will be played between September and October before League A quarter-finals and promotion/relegation play-offs take place in March 2025.

Single-leg semis and a final will be played in June 2025.

Jack Butland’s performances for Rangers have caught the eye of the England set-up, with goalkeeping coach Martyn Margetson saying he is back “on the radar” ahead of the European Championship.

The 30-year-old goalkeeper moved to Ibrox at the start of the season after ending last season on loan at Manchester United from Crystal Palace.

Butland did not play a minute of competitive football for either club last term but has flourished since making a summer switch to the cinch Premiership giants.

Those displays for Rangers have caught the eye of Gareth Southgate’s team, with a diminished pool of in-form options potentially aiding his bid to return to the national team as Euro 2024 comes into focus.

“Jack is definitely on the radar, there’s no doubt,” England goalkeeping coach Margetson told Record Sport.

“I’ve been watching all of his games and I’ve been really pleased with how he’s performed. He’s doing himself a power of good.

“I get videos of all his Rangers appearances sent to me by the FA, so that gives me a chance to study all of Jack’s games.

“I then report back to Gareth but I’ve really liked what I’ve seen from Jack, particularly of late.

“It looks like he’s thought a lot about his game. I see a lot of things in there where I feel he’s really making the most of his experience to improve himself.

“You see it tactically in the positions he’s taking up and he’s in a really good place, so he’s doing himself a power of good.

“Anybody who is playing first-team football at a good level automatically comes into the reckoning, so all credit to Jack.

“He’s playing for a huge club and I know, having looked at his stuff, he’s doing well.

 

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“I’m not guaranteeing him that he’ll be in the squad but what I’m saying is that myself and Gareth are fully aware he’s doing a great job at Rangers.

“Jack’s job now is to keep that going. If he does, that will benefit Jack and it will benefit Rangers too.”

Butland won the last of his nine England caps in a friendly against Switzerland in September 2018, just months after going to the World Cup as back-up to Jordan Pickford.

The Everton sstopper remains Southgate’s number one ahead of the Euros, but recent back-ups Sam Johnstone and Aaron Ramsdale have fallen down the pecking order at their clubs.

Experienced Nick Pope is also out through injury, but James Trafford and Dean Henderson are other options as Southgate weighs up his selection for March’s friendlies against Brazil and Belgium.

“We are blessed with a number of very good goalkeepers in the England set-up,” Margetson added. “It’s not an easy decision and only three can go to the tournament.

“But it’s all up for grabs, if you pardon the pun! Jack can rest assured Gareth is across everything he’s doing and that’s because of his performances.

“If that gets him back into the England squad, it will be an amazing story and it will be credit to Jack.”

England boss Gareth Southgate watched from the stands as Jordan Henderson made his “special” Ajax debut in a 1-1 draw against PSV Eindhoven.

Former Liverpool captain Henderson played the full 90 minutes at the Johan Cruyff Arena as Steven Berghuis’ opener for Ajax was cancelled out by Luuk de Jong.

Henderson joined Ajax in mid-January after spending less than six months at Saudi Arabian club Al-Ettifaq, but his first appearance was delayed while he waited for a work permit.

The England midfielder said of Southgate’s visit: “Hopefully he picked a good game and he enjoyed the game.”

He added: “The atmosphere was incredible. Obviously it was a special day for me and my family.

“To represent this football club for the first time. That was special. And to play in this stadium was really special.”

De Jong equalised for PSV before half-time after Berghuis had given Ajax a 19th-minute lead.

Ajax trail runaway leaders PSV by 21 points in the Eredivisie table, but Henderson was delighted to have made his first appearance.

“I think there’s still a lot to improve on, but it’s been a privilege and an honour to play for this club,” Henderson told a post-match press conference.

“Unfortunately we couldn’t finish it in the end. But we’ve got a point to move on from.

“PSV have an amazing team, they’ve been unbeaten all season. But I thought we had some good chances to win the game towards the end. But unfortunately we couldn’t find the back of the net.”

Gareth Southgate says England must have the “humility to start again” as the Euro 2020 runners-up look to go one glorious step further in Germany next summer.

Impressive progress during the former defender’s seven-year reign means the side ranked third in the world are among the favourites to lift the European Championship trophy in Berlin.

England found out their Euro 2024 group and potential pathways to the July 14 finale in Saturday evening’s draw at the stunning Elbphilharmonie concert hall in Hamburg.

Southgate’s top seeds avoided a so-called group of death after Slovenia and Serbia followed Euro 2020 semi-final opponents Denmark, but there is little chance of complacency seeping in.

“Well, certainly when Denmark came out, and you could still have Denmark, Croatia, Italy or something like that, then you’re wondering where it’s heading,” the England manager said.

“But then, of course, you have to be very careful not to underestimate the opponents you have.

“I’ve been fortunate as a coach and a player to have been to eight tournaments.

“I’ve seen a lot of teams that were fancied and well ranked going into tournaments not deliver and not get out of their group.

“So, we have to have the humility to start again, as well as we’ve been playing and as well as we’ve built over a long period of time.

“We’ve been ranked in the top five in the world for five years, so we’ve had consistency of performances and results.

“But a new tournament means a new challenge and the first objective is to get out of the group again.”

England have progressed from every group during Southgate’s tenure, going onto reach at least the quarter-finals at all three major tournaments.

There were signs of progress before they lost at that stage to eventual finalists France at the 2022 World Cup, having gone within penalties of becoming continental champions in the last edition of the Euros.

Put to Southgate that opposing teams and players have praised his work and the England team, he said with a smile: “Yeah, well, I take that with a pinch of salt. Managers are good at that… because I do it myself!

“It’s clear the team are heading in a good direction. The rankings came out this week and we were third in the world, so I think our performances across the calendar year have been good.

“Eight wins, two draws, we won the toughest qualifying group and we won it comfortably, but that’s history and you have to go again in the next calendar year.

“It’s nice when we travel around Europe I have to say do get well received and we do get a lot of credit, which is lovely.

“But of course we know there’s still a step we want to take and that’s what drives us.”

This is shaping up to be Southgate’s final tournament in charge, with his contract at the Football Association expiring after next year’s finals.

The 53-year-old had considered quitting after Qatar this time last year but decided to give it another go at winning a trophy he and the nation craves.

“Probably the biggest pressure is what you put on yourself because of what you want to achieve and what you what you want to bring for your country, really,” Southgate said.

“But it’s no more or less than when I started in the job seven years ago.

“We now have a lot more experience, a lot more experience of big matches, a lot more experience of navigating tournaments, so we’re looking forward to it.

“We’re hoping that we can give our fans, our public some more great nights like I think we have in the last three tournaments.”

This summer will go down in history if England flourish in Germany, where fans will make the journey to a tournament en masse for the first time during his time in charge.

“The most recent tournaments have been a little bit different,” Southgate added.

“It wasn’t so easy to get to Russia or Qatar, and in the Euros we were coming out of Covid and was very different as well.

“This will be a little bit more like the tournaments when I was playing and when I was growing up and, yeah, we’re looking forward to that.

“We’re pleased that our fans are excited because that’s what it’s all about.”

Gareth Southgate insists England will head into Euro 2024 ready to handle the expectation that comes with being ranked one of the tournament favourites.

The England boss and his players were pitted against Denmark, Serbia and Slovenia in Group C for next summer’s finals in Germany in Saturday night’s draw in Hamburg.

Southgate has overseen a transformation of England’s fortunes since he took over in 2016, steering them to a first World Cup semi-final since 1990 at the 2018 tournament in Russia and a first-ever Euro final appearance in 2021.

There were further signs of progress in December’s run to the World Cup quarter-finals and the side are firm favourites to take the final step and claim silverware, thanks in no small part to Real Madrid star Jude Bellingham and Bayern Munich sharpshooter Harry Kane.

“They are used to playing in big matches and have produced regularly,” Southgate said.

“They are used to playing in big matches together and individually, so we are excited and all looking forward to the summer.

“We feel the squad has been building for a period of time and England are going to be competitive for the foreseeable future as you look at the young players coming through. When we started at St George’s Park it is what we wanted to happen.

“If you are continually in those latter stages, most teams that win go close and then get there.”

Denmark were England’s opponents in a tense semi-final at Euro 2020, when Kane scored from a penalty rebound after a spot-kick was controversially awarded for a foul on Raheem Sterling in extra time.

But Southgate also well remembers a past encounter with Slovenia.

England faced them in his second match in charge as interim manager in October 2016, a qualifier for the 2018 World Cup. England clung on for a point that day in a 0-0 draw, and Southgate saw it as a turning point in his England tenure.

“Slovenia takes me back to one of my first games as manager where but for Joe Hart plucking out one of the best saves I’ve ever seen, I wouldn’t be standing here and I would probably still be a caretaker, but at something else,” he said.

Serbia are the opponents in the Arena AufSchalke opener on June 16, before England take on Denmark at the Frankfurt Arena on June 20.

England round off Group C against Slovenia at Cologne Stadium on June 25 at a tournament they intend to spend based in central Germany.

UEFA provided a team base camp catalogue to teams, but the PA news agency understands the Football Association plans to stay at an unlisted venue.

Weimarer Land in Blankenhain has been lined up – a remote spa and golf resort that has a 45-hole course and, most importantly, two training pitches.

Final Football Association visits are planned at the venue that is around 90 minutes from host venue Leipzig and a 30-minute drive from the city of Erfurt.

Asked about England finalising their team base and pre-tournament friendlies, Southgate told PA after the draw: “Today allows us to take those plans to the next stage.

“Definitely the friendlies we’ve got an idea on dates, but we can now look at the opponents with more detail.

“Similar with the base camp. We know now where our matches will be played, so we can start to cement those plans in the next few days.”

England, Scotland and Wales could be paired together in Saturday’s Euro 2024 finals draw.

The Elbphilharmonie concert hall in Hamburg will host the draw ceremony, which gets under way at 5pm UK time.

Gareth Southgate’s England, runners-up at Euro 2020, will be one of the favourites to win the tournament, with in-form Real Madrid star Jude Bellingham set to be the shining light in a strong line-up.

Their performances in qualifying, where they topped Group C ahead of reigning European champions Italy, have earned them a place among the top seeds for the draw in what could be Southgate’s final bow as England boss.

His contract will be up next December and his future beyond that is uncertain.

Scotland are in Pot Three, while Wales are one of the 12 play-off hopefuls occupying three spots in Pot Four.

Rob Page’s side still have two big hurdles to overcome in order to join England and Scotland at the finals. They must first beat Finland on March 21 then also see off Poland or Estonia on March 26 to book their passage to Germany.

Page said at the time of the play-off draw on November 23: “The form we’re in at the minute and with the ‘Red Wall’ at home, we’ll take anyone on in Cardiff.

“It’s a great opportunity for us: we’re two wins at home away from another qualification to a major tournament. We’re hoping now for two big efforts.”

The placing of England, Scotland and Wales in different pots keeps open the possibility of them all being drawn together.

England faced Scotland in the group stage of Euro 2020 and Wales at the same stage at last year’s World Cup in Qatar. England and Wales also met at the group stage in Euro 2016.

From an England perspective, a ‘Group of Death’ would arguably include Denmark, the highest-ranked side in Pot Two, and the Netherlands or Croatia from Pot Three.

A rematch with Italy would round out a tough-looking pool for Southgate’s men, with the Azzurri alongside Wales in Pot Four.

Southgate, speaking after England’s final qualifier away to North Macedonia, said: “There looks like being really strong teams in Pot Two and Pot Three looks like it could be very strong.

“In the Euros we had Croatia in with us, who proved to be one of the best teams in the world over the last few years, and we managed to navigate that, so we’ve just got to be ready for whatever comes our way.”

Scotland were extremely impressive in qualification, finishing runners-up to Spain in Group A and booking their place in Germany with two matches to spare.

“It’s always nice to qualify for a major tournament,” Clarke said after last month’s final qualifier at home to Norway.

“Obviously the last one was Covid-restricted so we missed that connection and that feel with the fans.

“It’s great for everyone in the country that we have something to look forward to next summer.”

Pot One also contains last year’s World Cup finalists France, a Portugal team who won all 10 of their qualifying matches and a vulnerable-looking host nation Germany, who sacked their coach Hansi Flick in September following a 4-1 friendly defeat to Japan.

Kyle Walker believes England have enough players with big-match experience to challenge for Euro 2024 glory – if they can perfect their mentality.

England rounded off 2023 with a forgettable 1-1 draw in North Macedonia on Monday night having already assured their spot at next summer’s finals by beating Italy last month.

Gareth Southgate’s side ended the calendar year unbeaten and topped Group C of Euro 2024 qualifying in the process.

The Euro 2020 runners-up will now be top seeds for December’s group-stage draw in Hamburg as England target their first major silverware since 1966.

Walker insists they ended the year well despite having already secured qualification amid criticism of the performances in North Macedonia and in the 2-0 Wembley win over Malta.

“I don’t think there’s really been a drop off,” he told Radio 5Live.

“There’s been a good win against Malta. Okay, if you go and score eight everyone says you should have gone and scored eight- if we don’t score eight it’s a problem.

“So it’s three points. Never mind if it’s an eight or 1-0, it is still three points on the board. We know coming here, we should win. We should win but the campaign and the group is wrapped up and it was always going to be a difficult one.

“But I said at the start of the team talk that it’s about mentality now, we’ve got the group of players that we’ve had for a number of years now. We’re all mature, we’ve all been in big situations, whether it’s Champions League finals, fighting for the Premier League, semi-finals of a World Cup, finals of the Euros.

“Now it’s about our mentality. Now it’s about mentality on the field and off the field to make sure that we take this country to where it deserves and that is to hopefully pick up that European trophy.”

Walker, 33, has been installed as Manchester City captain this season but sported the armband for his country for the first time in Monday’s draw.

“It was a really proud moment when the manager pulled me aside this afternoon and told me that I would be leading the team out,” he added.

“Obviously I’m doing that for Manchester City now but to do it for my country is a real big step in the right direction and another thing I’ve ticked off my list.

“We had to be patient and try and break them down. They had a back five and it’s always going to be tough but that’s no excuse.

“We know that we should be coming here, taking three points and getting on the plane back home and celebrating qualifying with a good end to the campaign.

“But listen, we’ve qualified and let’s not underestimate that. We’ve qualified for a major tournament once again and that’s what we needed to really do.”

Gareth Southgate has been pleased by England’s progress during an unbeaten 2023 but knows there is work to do as the team tries to win the European Championship.

The Euro 2020 runners-up are among the favourites to win in Germany next summer but seemed to lose their edge after sealing qualification with two matches to spare.

Friday’s uninspiring 2-0 Wembley win against minnows Malta was followed three days later by an underwhelming 1-1 draw in North Macedonia as the curtain came down on an undefeated year.

November’s double-header will not live long in the memory but Southgate has “learned a lot” from the fixtures, with attention now intensifying on his fourth – and possibly final – major tournament in the dugout.

“We wanted to look at a few different things as well, so we’ve managed to learn from the game as well as the result,” the England boss said in Skopje.

“I have to be pleased with the progress of the team. You know, if you’d said at the start of the campaign that we would be eight wins, two draws at the end of the year, it’s a pretty good record given the fixtures that we’ve had.

“(North Macedonia) was always a game where we knew if you’d needed to come here for that point to qualify would be a very difficult place to come. They took the draw from Italy as well, so credit to North Macedonia for that.

“We can now start to look forward. We’ve got these two exciting games in March to look forward to and prepare for.

“So, yeah, I think we’ve done a lot of things well, but there’s always room for improvement.”

March’s home friendlies against Brazil and Belgium will provide much-needed challenges in the final meet-up before Southgate selects his 23-man squad for Germany.

Two further preparation games will follow before the Euros get under way, with the December 2 draw in Hamburg providing clarity on next summer’s opposition, base camp and potential route to the final.

England’s draw against Macedonia rubber-stamped their place among the top seeds for the Euro 2024 draw and Southgate said: “In the calendar year we’re eight wins and two draws from a particularly tough qualifying group and certainly a friendly in Scotland that was always going to be challenging.

“Of course, you’d like 10 wins out of 10 but not many teams do that.

“I’m really pleased with what the players have given – not just the players that are here tonight, but the players that have represented us through this year because they’ve been excellent.”

Harry Kane has, unsurprisingly, been among the standout performers this year but questions about the Bayern Munich sharpshooter’s back-up remain.

Callum Wilson, Ivan Toney, Eddie Nketiah and Dominic Calvert-Lewin have all been selected in recent times, but Ollie Watkins is the current frontrunner for the job.

The Aston Villa striker had the chance to underline that status against Macedonia but was replaced by Kane just 58 minutes into a frustrating night in Skopje, where the skipper made an immediate impact as he forced Jani Atanasov into an own goal equaliser.

“Look, it was a difficult game,” Southgate said when asked about Watkins. “Very little space, back five, so we’re dealing with three centre-backs, really, and we weren’t quite able to create the clear chance for him.

“But he did fine. It’s not easy when you’re coming in in those circumstances but that’s international football.

“Of course, he’s had games where there’s been more opportunities to score and he’s done that well with us.

“(This) was a different sort of test and, yeah, as a team, it was hard to find the spaces and find the gaps even though moments Phil (Foden) found lovely little passes and Trent (Alexander-Arnold) did.

“It was so crowded around the edge of that box to find those clear chances for our forwards.”

England have had their ups and relative downs as Gareth Southgate’s men qualified for next summer’s Euros and went through 2023 unbeaten.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at some of the highs and lows from England’s eight wins and two draws across the year.

HIGHS

Opening qualification win in Italy

Southgate’s men put their 2022 World Cup frustration behind them by kicking off European qualification with victory at reigning champions Italy in March.

Harry Kane became England’s all-time record goalscorer by striking home a penalty after Declan Rice opened the scoring in Naples, before Mateo Retegui pulled one back.

Luke Shaw’s sending-off for two bookings in quick succession made for a nervy final 10 minutes but England held out for a 2-1 win – their first away to Italy since 1961.

Inspired Saka marmalises Macedonia

Bukayo Saka scored a jaw-dropping first career hat-trick in June as rampant England roared to a 7-0 victory against North Macedonia in a surprise end to the 2022-23 campaign.

Kane struck twice in an Old Trafford annihilation that also saw Marcus Rashford and Kalvin Phillips get in on the act, but ever-improving talent Saka was the star of the show.

Stirring success in Scotland

Phil Foden, Jude Bellingham and Kane fired England to a 3-1 victory as Scotland were given the runaround by the Auld Enemy at Hampden Park in September.

Southgate was delighted with his players’ commitment, togetherness and mentality in the so-called friendly as they followed up a 1-1 draw against Ukraine in Poland by beating Steve Clarke’s side on a night when Harry Maguire recovered from an own goal and an evening of abuse from the home crowd.

LOWS

Meek Malta win

England were poor in patches in away to Ukraine and struggled to break down Macedonia as their final group game also ended 1-1, but it was Friday’s win against Malta that most disappointed.

An expectant Wembley crowd resorted to paper planes and Mexican waves to entertain themselves in a 2-0 victory that lacked excitement.

Southgate admitted afterwards that he suspected players had subconsciously let their foot off the gas against the side 171st in the world.

Boo boys

During his seven years in charge, Southgate can be rightly proud of the way the fan-base and squad have reconnected.

A few supporters were heard booing Southgate and Jordan Henderson after Monday’s draw in Skopje, with the latter also jeered by England fans in both Wembley appearances since his controversial summer switch to Saudi Arabia.

Travelling fans at Hampden threw their support behind Maguire, who has been booed by pockets of his own fan-base in previous years, but the Manchester United defender was hounded by Scotland fans – treatment labelled by Southgate as “ridiculous”, “a joke” and “beyond anything I’ve ever seen”.

Left-back limitations

England are blessed with options at right-back but they lack alternatives on the other side. Luke Shaw is first choice but has only started twice since being sent off against Italy.

Injury has kept the Manchester United left-back out of the last three squads, with an issue keeping Ben Chilwell out of the previous two camps.

The Chelsea man played in both matches against Ukraine but right-back Kieran Trippier has started as many matches on the left this year.

Levi Colwill, Fikayo Tomori and Rico Lewis have also begun matches there, but Southgate will be praying Shaw and Chilwell get back fit and firing.

England’s calendar year ended with a mundane 1-1 draw in North Macedonia on Monday night.

It was a lacklustre close to 2023 for Gareth Southgate’s side but during the past 12 months they won in Italy for the first time in 62 years and secured Euro 2024 qualification with two games to spare.

Here, the PA news agency goes back over the 10 games played to give collated ratings for players who appeared in at least three fixtures.

JORDAN PICKFORD: 7 (out of 10)
Appearances: 8, Clean sheets: 4

Undoubtedly remains Southgate’s first-choice goalkeeper and started all of the Euro 2024 qualifiers – has an interesting end to the Premier League season after Everton were deducted 10 points.

MARC GUEHI: 7
Appearances: 7, Clean sheets: 3, Goals: 0
The Crystal Palace man is now seemingly the first cab off the rank if either Harry Maguire or John Stones are unavailable for selection and looks comfortable playing at international level.

HARRY MAGUIRE: 7
Appearances: 9, Clean sheets: 4, Goals: 0
A torrid start to the year for Maguire saw him booed by England fans while poor form meant he was stripped of the Manchester United captaincy, but he has bounced back brilliantly to prove he is still integral to Southgate’s plans.

LUKE SHAW: 6
Appearances: 3, Clean sheets: 2, Goals: 0
Not the sort of year the Manchester United left-back would have hoped for. He was sent off in the opening England game of the year against Italy and the June double-header against Malta and North Macedonia were his last international outings of 2023 before injury struck.

JOHN STONES: 7
Appearances: 5, Clean sheets: 3, Goals: 0
Injury restricted Stones to just half of the England games played this year but the Manchester City treble-winner oozes a class others do not possess and if he is fit, he plays, as simple as that.

KIERAN TRIPPIER: 6
Appearances: 6, Clean sheets: 3, Goals: 0

Once again showed his versatility as a viable option at either left-back or right-back, with the Newcastle man closing in on a half-century of caps. He is one of Southgate’s most trusted players and did not put a foot wrong throughout the year.

KYLE WALKER: 7
Appearances: 8, Clean sheets: 3, Goals: 1
The Manchester City defender has to be considered in the conversation for England’s finest right-back of all-time and is seemingly still improving at the age of 33. He scored his first England goal and captained the national team for the first time in a memorable year for club and country.

TRENT ALEXANDER-ARNOLD: 7
Appearances: 5, Goals: 1
Having struggled to get into Southgate’s side at right-back, Alexander-Arnold is now predominantly being picked as a midfielder and flourished there in the away trip to Malta. Still seemingly struggles in the role against bigger nations but is a great option for Southgate.

JUDE BELLINGHAM: 8
Appearances: 5, Goals: 1
A coming-of-age 2023 for the 20-year-old who commands games as if he has been playing at the highest level for years. His move to Real Madrid has showcased his ability and could be in line for a role further forward than he has been playing for England, especially with his goal output in Spain.

CONOR GALLAGHER: 6
Appearances: 4, Goals: 0
The first half of the year was an uncertain one for Gallagher who was in and out of the Chelsea side and looked set to be sold in the summer. Instead, he has become a firm favourite of new Blues head coach Mauricio Pochettino and has been in and around the England squad all year.

JORDAN HENDERSON: 6
Appearances: 7, Goals: 0

While Southgate has kept faith in Henderson, the former Liverpool skipper was jeered by England fans on a number of occasions as they protested against his controversial move to the Saudi Pro League. Is likely to go to the Euros despite the new level he is playing at, such is Southgate’s belief in his ability.

KALVIN PHILLIPS: 6
Appearances: 6, Goals: 1
Another who has retained his place in the squad despite his club situation, with Phillips finding game-time at Manchester City severely limited. May yet have to seek a January move away from the Etihad Stadium to ensure himself of a place at Euro 2024.

DECLAN RICE: 7
Appearances: 9, Goals: 1
A near-ever present across the year for England and his £105million summer move to Arsenal has seen his game go up another notch as he provides the perfect foil for Bellingham to work his magic further forward.

PHIL FODEN: 7
Appearances: 9, Goals: 1
The Manchester City forward was another who was heavily involved throughout 2023 and he will likely battle it out with Bukayo Saka for the right-wing role in Southgate’s side. Could do with adding more goals to his game but was the pick of the players in the November games.

JACK GREALISH: 6
Appearances: 5, Goals: 0
Another who won the treble with City last season but Grealish still often flatters to deceive in an England shirt and has never really looked like an automatic starter since Southgate first brought him into the fold. Only two senior goals also show he needs to up his output.

JAMES MADDISON: 6
Appearances: 4, Goals: 0

Having gone to the World Cup but not played due to a niggling injury, Maddison’s move to Tottenham has seemingly opened the door to him taking on a more sizeable role for England, although he rarely shone when given the chance this year.

MARCUS RASHFORD: 6
Appearances: 8, Goals: 2
His form at Manchester United tailed off massively since the start of the current campaign but Southgate is a huge fan and the 26-year-old still provided the odd moment of brilliance that shows why he remains a key member of the England set-up.

BUKAYO SAKA: 8
Appearances: 7, Goals: 4
Named England’s player of the year for the past two seasons, Saka enjoyed a standout 2023 for club and country. His international highlight came with a hat-trick in the 7-0 thrashing of North Macedonia at Old Trafford but he has proven he can be a thorn in the side of a much higher calibre of opponent, too.

HARRY KANE: 8
Appearances: 9, Goals: 9
The England skipper continues to be a talisman for his team and became the first player to pass 60 international goals for the nation. Is scoring for fun since joining Bayern Munich in the summer and will be determined to carry on finding the back of the net in Germany throughout Euro 2024.

Other players used: Sam Johnstone, Aaron Ramsdale, Ben Chilwell, Levi Colwill, Lewis Dunk, Rico Lewis, Tyrone Mings, Fikayo Tomori, Eberechi Eze, Cole Palmer, Jarrod Bowen, Eddie Nketiah, Ivan Toney, Ollie Watkins, Callum Wilson.

Gareth Southgate’s England squad selection will be a huge discussion point as next summer’s Euros come into focus.

An unbeaten 2023 is now in the history books and the PA news agency has analysed how Southgate likely sees his options right now.

Goalkeepers

On the plane: Jordan Pickford (Everton).

In the departure lounge: Sam Johnstone (Crystal Palace) and Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal).

Hoping for a late ticket: Nick Pope (Newcastle).

Pickford established himself as England’s number one ahead of the 2018 World Cup and is all but certain to go into his fourth major tournament as the main man between the sticks. Ramsdale had looked his closest contender but David Raya’s arrival at Arsenal has impacted his playing time and could well damage his international ambitions. Johnstone has supplanted Pope as third choice for the time being.

Defenders

On the plane: Marc Guehi (Crystal Palace), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), John Stones (Manchester City), Kieran Trippier (Newcastle) and Kyle Walker (Manchester City).

In the departure lounge: Ben Chilwell (Chelsea), Levi Colwill (Chelsea), Lewis Dunk (Brighton), Reece James (Chelsea) and Fikayo Tomori (AC Milan).

Hoping for a late ticket: Ezri Konsa (Aston Villa), Rico Lewis (Manchester City), Tino Livramento (Newcastle) and Ben White (Arsenal).

Trippier, Stones, Walker and Maguire have been to every previous major tournament under Southgate and will do so again if fit and playing.

James undoubtedly has the quality to be on the plane but needs to prove his fitness – not ideal given his issues staying available and the competition at right-back.

Injured Chelsea team-mate Chilwell is in a similar position but may benefit from a dearth of options at left-back. That said, he looks behind Shaw and further behind than the Euro 2020 final goalscorer in terms of his rehabilitation.

Colwill can fill in there as he did on his England debut against Australia, which will boost the central defender’s hopes. He missed November’s camp through injury, meaning Tomori and versatile teenager Lewis starting there instead. The latter impressed on his debut against North Macedonia.

Guehi has established himself as third-choice centre-back and Dunk pushed his case before having to withdraw from November’s squad. Konsa was brought in but did not feature. Livramento was name-checked by Southgate and White has not been involved since Qatar 2022.

Midfielders

On the plane: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Jude Bellingham (Real Madrid), Jordan Henderson (Al-Ettifaq) and Declan Rice (Arsenal).

In the departure lounge: Conor Gallagher (Chelsea), Cole Palmer (Chelsea) and Kalvin Phillips (Manchester City).

Hoping for a late ticket: Mason Mount (Manchester United) and James Ward-Prowse (West Ham).

Bellingham would be in any squad in the world, as would Rice. There are questions over Henderson and Phillips given their club situations, but Southgate has so far seen enough to stick with two players he trusts implicitly. The latter’s place is the bigger doubt given his limited playing time at Manchester City.

The Football Association now lists Alexander-Arnold as a midfielder, with his versatility and qualities surely enough to see him involved in a midfield that Gallagher is now a regular part of.

Palmer got the nod this time and the adaptable attacking midfielder featured in both November fixtures after a fine start at new club Chelsea.

By contrast, Mount’s difficult end to last season and injury-impacted beginning to life at Old Trafford has seen him miss out on recent squads, but Southgate is a long-term admirer of the Euro 2020 final starter. Ward-Prowse has not been called up despite his impressive form at West Ham.

Forwards

On the plane: Phil Foden (Manchester City), Jack Grealish (Manchester City), Harry Kane (Bayern Munich), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United) and Bukayo Saka (Arsenal).

In the departure lounge: Jarrod Bowen (West Ham), James Maddison (Tottenham), Ollie Watkins (Aston Villa) and Callum Wilson (Newcastle).

Hoping for a late ticket: Dominic Calvert-Lewin (Everton), Eberechi Eze (Crystal Palace), Anthony Gordon (Newcastle), Eddie Nketiah (Arsenal), Raheem Sterling (Chelsea) and Ivan Toney (Brentford).

England are blessed with an abundance of attacking options. Skipper Kane is a certainty, as is fleet-footed Saka. Foden, Grealish and Rashford are established performers under Southgate, while Maddison is now a regular squad member.

There are decisions to make beyond them. Sterling has won 82 caps for his country but has not featured since December’s World Cup quarter-final loss to France.

Bowen is another fighting for a sport after his October recall and was denied a chance to take his West Ham form onto the international scene by an issue sustained on the eve of the Macedonia game.

As for Kane’s back-up, Watkins scored on his return to the set-up in October but failed to further his chances with a poor performance from the start in Skopje.

Nketiah was omitted having made his debut last month, while injury hampered Wilson’s chances to prove he should go to another tournament in that role. Calvert-Lewin did at Euro 2020 and is fit again and Toney is the most interesting alternative, although his betting ban does not end until January.

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