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Southgate lets his young guns off the leash

UK Sport | Published: | Last Updated:

England boss cuts his players some slack

Gareth Southgate has given England’s players carte blanche when it comes to their downtime before World Cup preparations get under way – not that a repeat of the manager’s pre-Euro 96 trip to Magaluf seems likely.

A frantic week that started with medical assessments, big decisions and tough phone calls continued on Thursday as the Three Lions boss faced the media a day after naming his 23-man squad and five-strong stand-by list.

That bold selection was pawed over at Wembley and those entrusted with England’s success this summer – if not involved in the FA Cup or Champions League finals – are set to convene at St George’s Park on Monday.

England Press Conference – Wembley Stadium
Gareth Southgate is letting his players have some downtime before the World Cup (John Walton/PA).

“I’m not interested in what they do over the next few days,” he said when the subject of former players joking about their previous antics was brought up.

“It’s four weeks before we have a game.

“Before Euro 96 I had three days in Magaluf with Aston Villa, so it would be a bit hypocritical to discuss what the correct preparation was.

“But I went for a run on a couple of mornings. It might have been run back home rather than run!

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Soccer – FA Carling Premiership – Aston Villa v Arsenal
Gareth Southgate recalled a trip to Majorca in his Aston Villa days at Thursday’s press conference (Matthew Ashton/PA).

“A lot of them don’t drink but some do and some need to wind down in a different way and I have a drink at times when I need one.”

Southgate is aware how players can overstep the mark, yet is keen for the squad to feel relaxed, fresh and responsible.

The dynamic will obviously change when they meet up, but they will be given time out throughout a home-based training camp and then small breaks during the World Cup.

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“I don’t think they’ll feel that there’s been no freedom before we get to Russia,” Southgate said. “Environment then is a little bit different.

“Understandably we’re then not going to be travelling home. But they’ll have opportunity to see their family between games, we will give them some downtime when we’re there.”

Liverpool v Brighton and Hove Albion – Premier League – Anfield
Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold is part of a young England squad (Dave Thompson/PA).

“So, what do we do? Do we go with some – with respect – journeyman professionals who are a bit older who are playing in the Premier League or do we go with younger players who we believe actually can play at the level, have the ability to improve and take England forward? Perform now and get better.

“We feel we should be looking to the latter group. OK, that means we lack some experience, but I only had five caps before Euro 96 and it was the most successful team in 25 years, you know?

“It didn’t hinder me. In fact, I was just thinking about what’s possible, which is I think the mindset that we want the players to have.”

England Press Conference – Wembley Stadium
Gareth Southgate wants his players to enjoy the World Cup (John Walton/.PA).

Southgate is keen for his players to “escape the bubble” when they can, while the hotel will offer plenty of chances to socialise.

The manager confirmed there will be no phone ban imposed and social media will be allowed – “it’s good for the players to communicate with the fans,” he said – even if posting and reading messages is not always advisable.

Harry Kane, the subject of a tweet from an FA-run account poking fun at him after Tottenham’s FA Cup loss to Manchester United, is enjoying a break with his family before heading to St George’s Park, where unselected Nathaniel Chalobah will be involved as he continues his recovery from a knee injury.

England U21 v Poland U21 – UEFA European Under-21 Championship – Group A – Kolporter Arena
Nathaniel Chalobah is recovering from injury with England players (Nick Potts/PA).

Lewis Cook will head to the Toulon tournament and Adam Lallana joins up after Liverpool’s Champions League final against Real Madrid – a week before the first friendly against Nigeria.

Costa Rica are the final official opposition, but Southgate revealed a behind-closed-doors match will be squeezed in before jetting out on June 12.

“We thought two games on the timeline was good and a game internally when we are still working at things and a bit more of a physical assessment than a normal training session,” he added. “Just among the 23.”

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