Southgate: I've never experienced an injury crisis like this


Gareth Southgate says he has never experienced anything like the injury crisis England are in right now, with his plans for Tuesday’s friendly with Belgium hit by more players pulling out of his squad.

The double-header this month with Brazil and Belgium was meant to be a stiff test for England’s first-choice side in preparation for Euro 2024 but instead Southgate can now count as many as 15 regular players unavailable to him.

Harry Kane, Kyle Walker, Sam Johnstone and Harry Maguire have returned to their clubs with injury problems since the 1-0 loss to Brazil on Saturday, while Bukayo Saka pulled out of the group before the game. That adds to an absentee list which also includes Nick Pope, Kieran Trippier, Luke Shaw, Reece James, Marc Guehi, Levi Colwill, Tyrone Mings, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Jack Grealish and Callum Wilson.

“It’s an incredible number unavailable to us,” said Southgate in his pre-match press conference on Monday.

“I haven’t experienced that before. But it means there’s opportunities for other people. We saw against Brazil players step up and take those opportunities which is great for us as well.”

Speaking about how the absentees had impacted his plans for these friendlies, Southgate tried to see the positives: “I have to say, with everything that’s happened, the original idea or plan for the week is a little bit different. We’re probably finding out about more players, but that’s really helpful. To see all those players against high level opposition will help us make better decisions moving forward.”

Among those players will be Brentford striker Ivan Toney, who Southgate confirmed “will be involved” against Belgium after watching Aston Villa’s Ollie Watkins stake his claim for the role of understudy to captain Harry Kane against Brazil.

Kobbie Mainoo – called up from the U21s – is another who has benefited, making his debut on Saturday with Jordan Henderson injured. Southgate says Henderson would struggle to play 90 minutes on Tuesday given that problem.

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Sky Sports’ Rob Dorsett and Peter Smith analyse England’s 1-0 defeat to Brazil and the ‘question marks’ that remain over Gareth Southgate’s side

Newcastle’s Anthony Gordon, who impressed on debut against Brazil, may make way for Chelsea’s Cole Palmer, who Southgate confirmed is back in training, while Jarrad Branthwaite, who has been called up for the first time, will be among those players hoping to make their mark.

When will Southgate name his Euros squad?

This is the final England game before Southgate names his squad longlist for the Euros on Tuesday May 21 – two days after the Premier League season ends. England then play two more international friendlies against Bosnia and Herzegovina at St James’ Park on June 3 and Iceland at Wembley on June 7 before Southgate’s final 23-player squad has to be confirmed by Sunday June 8.

The tournament starts on Friday June 14 with England’s first game in Germany against Serbia on Saturday June 15.

Southgate also confirmed Jude Bellingham would be fit to play, with the star midfielder struggling with cramp against Brazil.

Rice “speechless” after being given chance to captain England

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Gareth Southgate says Declan Rice can step up and show his leadership qualities when he captains England against Belgium

Declan Rice will enjoy a “pinch me” moment when he captains England on his 50th appearance for his country against Belgium.

The 25-year-old is set to start in midfield at Wembley to reach the milestone for his country and Southgate confirmed – with Kane, Walker and Maguire forced to return to their clubs with injury – Rice will captain the Three Lions.

“He has great leadership experience already at a tender age and I think it’s a brilliant opportunity for some of our younger players to show leadership and experience it,” said Southgate.

“Some of our core group are not with us, so it’s a different dynamic, a great opportunity for others to step up, lead and grow. A lot of the players involved with the squad are the future and the more of those experiences they can have that’s helpful for everybody.”

On the honour, Rice said: “I think I have grown so much as a player and a person since I first came into the group at 19. I was probably a bit of a nervous player when I first came into the England squad, but as time has gone on I’ve played more big games, more games at major tournaments. I have enjoyed every moment.

“Fifty caps, it is a ‘pinch me’ moment, it will be an honour. On my 50th cap, to walk out at Wembley in front of my family and friends, it is a great honour, I’m a bit speechless.

What’s next for England?

England host Belgium in a friendly at Wembley on Tuesday in a 7.45pm kick-off.

Gareth Southgate is set to name a preliminary England squad for Euro 2024 on Tuesday May 21 – two days after the Premier League season ends.

England then play two more international friendlies against Bosnia and Herzegovina at St James’ Park on June 3 and Iceland at Wembley on June 7 before Southgate’s final 23-player squad has to be confirmed by Sunday June 8.

The tournament starts on Friday June 14 with England’s first game in Germany against Serbia on Saturday June 15.



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