Gareth Southgate admits Jadon Sancho is lucky to be in England squad
Gareth Southgate has admitted that Jadon Sancho does not deserve his England call-up on the basis of his form for Manchester United but the manager is convinced the winger will benefit from the show of faith.
Southgate has recalled Fikayo Tomori and Ollie Watkins for the World Cup qualifiers away to Andorra and at home against Hungary, plus the goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale, who is in at the expense of Nick Pope. The headline omission from his 23-man squad is that of Jude Bellingham, while there remains no place for Mason Greenwood.
Southgate was most interesting when he discussed Sancho, who has endured a difficult start to his United career since joining for £73m from Borussia Dortmund on 23 July. He has started five of the club’s nine games and is yet to register a goal or an assist.
“With Jadon, I’m not surprised, really,” Southgate said, when asked whether he was concerned about the 21-year-old’s start to life at Old Trafford.
“Dortmund is a big club but Manchester United is one of the biggest in the world. There’s some adaptation to that and there’s a definite adaptation to the league.
“Does he deserve to be in on these performances over the last few weeks? Well, probably not. But we feel we have invested in Jadon over a period of time. We believe he can get to a high level.
“I would like some time to chat with him and help that process that’s going on at Manchester United, as well. For him to feel that we have belief in him at this point is a good message.
“Sometimes the right message is to leave a player out and maybe they respond and that’s the right thing. But we feel with Jadon at this time it is important for us to keep him with us.”
Southgate went into detail on the omission of Bellingham and why he continues to overlook Greenwood, adding in the case of the latter that it was maybe a “bit early” to have called him up for the first time in August of last year for the Nations League ties against Iceland and Denmark.
The United striker, who turns 20 on Friday, made his debut in Iceland before he and the Manchester City midfielder Phil Foden were sent home for breaking Covid bubble rules by inviting two women to the team hotel. Greenwood has not been called up since.
“We didn’t know as much about him [Greenwood] at that point and you’re drawn by the quality of the performances and the maturity that you see on the field,” Southgate said. “So you’d have to say that maybe that was a bit early because he’s feeling at the moment that to establish himself at Manchester United is a big challenge and I can totally understand that.”
Southgate suggested that, in an ideal world, he would have picked both of them.
Bellingham, 18, has started all 10 Dortmund games this season and he had been in every England squad since November of last year.
“It is difficult sometimes because these boys are playing so well for their clubs and clearly we would like to pick them,” Southgate said. “There is no doubt we would like to have them with us in terms of: ‘Do we think they deserve to be in on their performances?’ Absolutely.”
Southgate added that they were “boys who want to play football, they want to play for England”. But at the same time there was a broader picture, he said, which took in the danger of overloading them physically, particularly while they may still be growing, and also the need to manage their exposure. Southgate suggested that Bellingham and Greenwood, together with their families, had voiced concerns to him.
“It’s important that we listen to everybody because it would be easy for a club to say: ‘We’d like to pull a player out,’ and they could have their own vested interest,” Southgate said. “So we’re always mindful of those dynamics.
“But if a young boy and his family are talking, then we’ve also got to pay heed of that and make sure we’re making the right calls.”
On Bellingham, specifically, Southgate said: “He has been with us enough that, just to be in the camp, I don’t think he needs that.
“To progress with us now he needs to be in the training sessions and he needs to be in the matches.”
Tomori’s return is reward for his excellent performances for Milan and also because of Harry Maguire’s absence through injury. Tomori won his only cap against Kosovo in November 2019 and has been preferred to Ben White.
Watkins has been included for the first time since he was cut from the provisional Euro 2020 squad. The Aston Villa striker is in ahead of Danny Ings and Tammy Abraham, with Patrick Bamford, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Marcus Rashford unavailable.
Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold is also injured while Chelsea’s Ben Chilwell misses out again.