Gareth Southgate picked four right backs in his 26 man Euros squad – and then claimed he would have happily picked SIX.
Southgate’s preparations turned into a farce when he also ruled Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson out of the Group opener with Croatia and will start Jesse Lingard against Austria in Wednesday’s friendly despite him not making the final cut.
England boss Southgate did eventually pick Liverpool ’s Trent Alexander-Arnold along with fellow right backs Kieran Trippier, Reece James and Kyle Walker and claimed they can all play in different positions.
Southgate said: “Basically they are in our best 26 footballers and that is why they are in the squad and if I could have picked a fifth or sixth right back I probably would have done.
“I think we went through this last week – yes, we have four players who sometimes play at right back with their clubs but Kieran is here and he has been playing at wing back as well as right back.
“Reece James has been playing right of a three or right wing back, Trent plays at right back and Kyle Walker has played at centre half for us in a three and also played at left back for us in a game against Denmark.”
Southgate lost Mason Greenwood to injury and also axed Aaron Ramsdale, James Ward-Prowse, Lingard, Ben White, Ben Godfrey and Ollie Watkins but the latter six will stay with the squad for Wednesday’s friendly with Austria and the final warm-up with Romania on Sunday.
Incredibly, Southgate confirmed that Lingard will definitely start against Austria. “He will play tomorrow, Sancho is ill and for the balance of the team then he will start and he deserves the opportunity to prove me wrong,” said the England boss.
However, Southgate admitted that Maguire – who has not trained fully since damaging ankle ligaments at the start of last month – is clearly a major doubt for the tournament after being ruled out of the opener on June 13 and Jordan Henderson is also struggling.
Southgate added: “Both of the players are not where you would want them to be in terms of being available for the game against Croatia. We are realistic about that.
“But they are outstanding players, but when you are talking about Maguire who hardly ever misses a game and Hendo, who has made a living out of making the impossible seem possible, then maybe they can get there.”
Rashford ready to go for England
Marcus Rashford has reassured Gareth Southgate he is ready for the Euros.
England boss Southgate admitted he was worried after reading and watching Rashford’s interviews after Manchester United lost the Europa League final.
Rashford was understandably downbeat but has also been struggling with a foot and shoulder injury which was a concern for the England medical team.
But after losing Mason Greenwood to injury, Southgate says Rashford has already told him he will be fine before reporting up for England duty later this week having been given a few extra days’ break with United’s other England stars after a gruelling season.
Southgate said: “I spoke with Marcus a couple of days ago because, obviously, I read his interviews after the game in the Europa League and what I don’t want is a situation where he’s giving a similar interview after our games.
“So he assured me he’s happy with where he’s at, he’s felt the last few days have been a help and we go from there.”
England not over-reliant on Kane
Gareth Southgate has insisted England are not over-reliant on “phenomenal” Harry Kane.
Tottenham striker Kane goes into the Euros on the back of arguably the best season of his career as he is in red hot form and England will be desperate for him to carry that into the Euros.
But Three Lions boss Southgate insists that Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Marcus Rashford can both provide good back up and England are not a one-man team.
Southgate said: “Well, we’ve been very pleased with Dominic when he’s come in. We know that Marcus Rashford can play nine and any country in this tournament that has two or three number nines, they’d be hanging their hat on their first choice, really.
“There’s very few countries in the world who would have two or three centre forwards that they’d be, that they’d not wanting their first choice to be available. We know Harry’s record is phenomenal, club and country, so of course he’s not a player you’d want to lose.
“But we’ve got to be adaptable to whatever happens. It’s pointless us sitting worrying about the possibility we might lose players. You have to find ways of winning with the hand you’ve got.”
Three Lion leaders
England have got a dressing room full of leaders, according to Gareth Southgate.
Three Lions boss Southgate revealed Wolves captain Conor Coady is now a strong member of the team’s “leadership group” and says the likes of Declan Rice, Jude Bellingham, Mason Mount and Bukayo Saka are all future captains.
The leadership group meet regularly and discuss issues around the squad and the team and Southgate says they have got big personalities in the set-up.
Southgate said: “I think they’re important every time we’re together, certainly Kane, Henderson, Sterling Maguire will be in that. Conor Coady has been in that in the last few camps so I haven’t finalised my thinking on that in actual fact but I’m sure those guys will be there.
“If we maybe bring one more into that group we’ll have to see but equally important is the fact that we’ve got other leaders, old and young, within this team and tough personalities.
“I’m looking at Jude this morning, Declan, Mason Mount, they are future captains for whatever teams they play in, frankly, so great for them to have the experience of working with people like Henderson and Kane but also in their own right they’ve got leadership qualities.
“Bukayo has shown that in a team that had a tough season. To play so well so consistently and in a difficult season is really impressive.”