Gareth Southgate switches U21s focus to Toulon Tournament

Tuesday 29 Mar 2016
Gareth Southgate in the dugout in Thun
Gareth Southgate was quick to turn his attention to this summer’s Toulon Tournament after his players returned home from a 1-1 draw in Switzerland.

The point consolidates the Young Lions at the top of their European Championship qualifying group with three games remaining and, while disappointment at not winning on Saturday lingers, the mood in the camp is confident.

Switzerland v England

UEFA European Under-21 Championship Qualifying Group 9
Arena Thun, Switzerland
Saturday 27 March 2016

But after spending a week with his squad, including three days in Interlaken, breathtakingly surrounded by the snow-capped Alps, he has urged his young charges to reach for the sky and really fulfil their potential.

“With this group there is a lot more to come and I think there is great opportunity for them to develop as individuals and as a team,” he said shortly before boarding the plane to Birmingham. “That's exciting – we are top of the group, however we want to raise the bar and see where we can improve and what we can get better at. 

“We are hoping to develop some leadership within the group and more and more guys are stepping forward to do that. 

“As they become more confident with each other and more comfortable, players are more likely to stand up in front of the group." 

Watch Chuba Akpom score England's opener in Switzerland

He added: “That is one of the things we are looking forward to with Toulon. 

“That we get a longer period together, more matches and more opportunities to get together and I think that can be a real strength for us going forward.” 

Southgate was reluctant to allow a rare lapse on a Swiss counter-attack to define a week where new faces came into the squad.

He said: “Everyone externally will judge that on the result but internally we have to be about more than that. We have to be about the group coming together. 

“We want to win but the whole week can't be based on whether we win or not. We've had two lads make full debuts - Kortney Hause and Demarai Gray - and do particularly well. Matt Grimes has made his debut for the Under-21s coming on from the bench. 

“That gives you an idea of the changes we've had to make as a group.” 

Take a behind-the-scenes look at England U21s in training

He added: “We leave here still in control of our destiny on top of our group, and we look forward to the summer with Toulon coming up which gives a lot of game-time for players who haven't been able to play and some really good opposition to test ourselves.”

Southgate was impressed by the way Hause and his Wolverhampton Wanderers club-mate Dominic Iorfa took to international football. 

“It is a good moment for them with the football they are getting with their club,” he said. “Physically you're in a rhythm and that enables you to play at a good level when you come away with England. 

“Kortney is one who has had to be patient for his opportunity. He has been in a couple of squads and not been on the bench and has managed that disappointment really well. 

Paul Clement talks tactics with Gareth Southgate at St. George

Paul Clement talks tactics with Gareth Southgate at St. George's Park

“There will be a couple of lads going back from this camp who haven't played but we still want them to think that the experience has been worthwhile and they're taking something from it.”

According to Southgate the same applies to the staff. This week Southgate was joined again by Chelsea first-team coach Steve Holland, but also former Derby boss and ex-PSG, Chelsea and Real Madrid coach Paul Clement.

“Having Steve with us was a brilliant opportunity but having Paul as well was a real bonus,” he said. 

“I think we've all enjoyed having him here, he's enjoyed the experience and I'm always conscious of having the best possible people around the group – that's the best opportunity for us to learn and develop.”

The Toulon Tournament runs from 18 to 29 May.

By James Callow Content manager