London (AFP) – Gareth Southgate insists England’s established stars deserve his loyalty because they would “die for each other” on the pitch.
Southgate’s side have gone two games without a win in the Nations League after rescuing a 1-1 draw in Germany in their Nations League group clash on Tuesday.
Harry Kane’s late penalty cancelled out Jonas Hofmann’s opener, but England boss Southgate has been criticised for being too loyal to his long-serving players after a pair of inconsistent displays.
Of the 14 players who featured in Munich, West Ham forward Jarrod Bowen was the only one who was not part of the England squad beaten by Italy in the European Championship final last year.
Seven of the starters against Germany were also in the line-up that lost to Croatia in the last four of the 2018 World Cup.
Asked if he can be too loyal to those players, Southgate replied: “No. We’re totally open-minded. Bukayo (Saka) came out of the pack and we didn’t hesitate putting Jude (Bellingham) into the fray, which was an incredible experience for him.
“But to win big matches there’s a huge amount of qualities that are needed. It’s not just about talent. You’ve got to have knowhow and awareness.
“They tested us tactically without the ball to such a high level, with the movement and runs they made, the techniques, so the reading of the game and communication on the pitch is vital. That group of players have played together a lot and on those nights it’s vital.
“Of course we want to try to develop others and bring that competition and to give them the similar sorts of experiences, which indirectly Jude ended up getting. But that’s a process.”
Southgate has long been a champion of the spirit and character among his squad, a belief backed up by his core members who regularly get the call-up.
He believes that determination was once again on show in Munich as he praised the effort of the players at the end of a long season.
“So many of them, when picking the team, you look at it and they’ve been to a World Cup semi-final and Euros final,” said Southgate confirmed he will make changes for Saturday’s rematch with Italy in the Nations League at Molineux.
“So it’s not only the quality and experience of playing in an environment like that, but the spirit they’ve got and the fact they’re going to die for each other on the pitch.
“They could barely walk in the dressing room. It’s a phenomenal effort they’ve given, particularly after some of them having to play longer than we’d hoped on Saturday, at this stage of the season.”
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