RASHFORD RETURNS: Southgate names England squad
PA - John Walton
Marcus Rashford returned to the England squad for the first time since Euro 2020 but Manchester United team-mates Jadon Sancho and Jesse Lingard missed out.
Gareth Southgate named a 25-man squad for the final World Cup qualifiers at home to Albania and away to minnows San Marino.
Rashford returned after undergoing shoulder surgery following the Euro 2020 final, but Lingard and Sancho were absent.
Harry Maguire, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Reece James returned from injury for this month’s fixtures, although Kieran Trippier and Fikayo Tomori dropped out.
Jude Bellingham and Kalvin Phillips came into the midfield, while Ollie Watkins was out and Mason Greenwood was again absent.
Southgate said: “Always difficult (to pick a squad) because we’ve got so much competition for places and we had quite a few players missing last time, which means you bring others in. Then you’ve got more decisions to make.
“Also, some young players who are playing well that haven’t quite made the squad.
“So, we’ve kept a reasonable amount of consistency, really, with the groups that they were with in the summer. They did so well, we’re only five international games on from that.
“But also there are players pushing that group really strongly.
“Emile (Smith-Rowe), Conor Gallagher, Marc Guehi, in particular are all playing well with their clubs and to put them in we’d have to leave some of these on the sheet out.”
While forthcoming about his selection decisions, Southgate clammed up about contract negotiations with his deal due to expire after Qatar 2022.
“Well, with the greatest respect, what I discuss with the FA about my contract is nobody’s business but me and the FA,” he said.
“So, as I said, the only thing that I will absolutely share is I think we’ve got to nail qualification before we sit down and have those conversations in real depth because I think focus has got to be to get the points we need to qualify, to get the team to the World Cup finals. And then there’s plenty of time to talk those things through.”
Southgate was speaking for the first time since UEFA ordered the Football Association to play their next competition home match behind closed doors as punishment for the disorder around the Euro 2020 final at Wembley.
“I’m aware of lots of people who were at the game who have explained to me what was happening outside and inside,” he said.
“We understand the decision and we’re totally respectful of the decision.
“It is for us as a team of course a blow that we have to play with no fans in the stadium for a game because that’s the advantage of being at home, that’s why home advantage is so important.
“But we’ve got to get on with that. That’s the decision that has been made and we’re totally respectful of it.”
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