While Southgate admitted his medical staff “don’t think” the injury to the West Ham forward is serious, they felt it sensible to leave the 26-year-old at home. He was expected to play some role in the match in Skopje on Monday night but has instead returned to his club, as has Kieran Trippier for “personal reasons.”
“Unfortunately, Jarrod picked up an injury”, Southgate confirmed. “I think he felt it a little bit yesterday and then again at the end of training today. So we didn’t really have enough time to assess it fully and make a really accurate decision before the game.
“We felt better to leave him in England so that he can get it properly assessed. I don’t think it’s going to be anything serious, but we just didn’t have enough time, and we wouldn’t take a risk in that player.”
Trippier — normally a right-back — had been expected to line up at left-back, due to injuries for Luke Shaw and Ben Chilwell, and the failed experiment of playing centre-back Fikayo Tomori in that position during Friday’s 2-0 win over Malta.
Southgate said of the left-back berth: “We’ve got a couple of options. We can find a couple of different solutions to the issue. But we’ve adapted to a lot of situations over the last few years, and we’re comfortable doing that again tomorrow. Fik did it the other day, Rico Lewis, Marc Guehi can play there.”
England’s meeting with North Macedonia is their final qualifier for Euro 2024, which they reached last month by beating Italy 3-1. England will be one of the top seeds at next summer’s finals in Germany if they avoid an unlikely 9-0 defeat tomorrow.
“We play a team who, although they can’t qualify, have tremendous pride. They will be wounded by what happened in Manchester”, Southgate said, referring to the 7-0 win over North Macedonia at Old Trafford in June which marked the Balkan nation’s heaviest-ever defeat.
“The performance is the priority”, Southgate insisted. “We’ve set a standard; we didn’t reach that standard on Friday. We have to get back to what we’re good at. There’s always a chance within that to have a look at a couple of things we’d like to see as well. But the biggest thing is making sure we hit the level of performance that we’ve set ourselves.”