Gareth Southgate offers honest verdict on uncapped England hopefuls' Euro 2024 chances

Gareth Southgate offers honest verdict on uncapped England hopefuls' Euro 2024 chances

Gareth Southgate says he has been realistic with his England rookies over their chances of making his final Euro 2024 squad, but warned they must be ready to deliver if called upon in Germany this summer.

Last month, Southgate named a 33-man provisional squad for the tournament that included five uncapped players: goalkeeper James Trafford, defenders Jarrad Branthwaite and Jarell Quansah, and midfield pair Curtis Jones and Adam Wharton.

That group must be trimmed to 26 by the time England leave for Germany and while there are big decisions to be made over the form of more senior players like Jack Grealish and Ivan Toney, as well as the fitness of key men Luke Shaw and Harry Maguire, it is likely that a significant share of those culled will come from that inexperienced crop.

“We’ve got some young players who I spoke to at the start,” Southgate said, although he did not specify their identities. “[I] said: ‘Look, we don’t know how this is going to play out but let the start point be that this should be a great experience for you, coming to train with us. The chances are you might not be coming all the way with us’.

“Equally, things can happen and they can force their way in. I think they understand that.

“I said to the rest of the group on day one that the elephant in the room is there’s 33 here but if you want to come and speak to me I’m happy to sit and explain as much as I can. No one’s taken that offer up yet!

“But they know they can approach me and I’ll always be as transparent as I can be. I’m not trying to pull the wool over anybody’s eyes or give people unrealistic expectations or dampen down expectations.”

None of the uncapped players are in line to start Monday night’s friendly against Bosnia-Herzegovina in Newcastle, though Southgate did hint at a full debut for at least one player whose only previous appearances have come off the bench. Dean Henderson, Eberechi Eze and Cole Palmer fit that criteria.

Southgate must settle on his final squad by midnight on Friday. England play Iceland at Wembley in their second warm-up friendly that evening, though changes can be made to the squad in the event of injury right up until the tournament begins.

“I think we know where we’re likely to be,” Southgate added. “It’s hard to be quite so specific because we keep sitting down and saying: ‘Okay, if it’s this or this’. But then somebody else in the room says: ‘Yeah, but what about if lose that player there, or that one doesn’t come through with his injury? Do we need another one in this area?’.

“Time is our friend this week. It’s worth using the time. Tomorrow’s game could throw up another physical issue and then we’ve got something else in the mix.”

Key to the makeup of Southgate’s final squad will be the fitness of Maguire and Shaw. He must decide how big a risk he is willing to take on two members of his first-choice back-four, as well as how much defensive cover is needed and whether sacrificing a player further forward may be necessary to balance the group.

There were positive injury updates on both of the Manchester United pair on Sunday, but Southgate will rely on reports from his medical team before making a final call.

Asked how much he would consult with the players themselves over their fitness, Southgate said: “As little as possible. They're lying buggers really!

“If you're in a relegation battle, the treatment room is absolutely full. If you're in a cup final it's empty. I've learned that, from being in a relegation battle here [at Middlesbrough], and playing in cup finals here as well.

“They have great intentions and are super positive, but equally they want to be on the plane, so have got to have a more in depth view than that.”