Gareth Southgate happy with options ahead of September qualifiers

Thursday 29 Aug 2019
Gareth Southgate has taken in a number of Premier League games this month

Gareth Southgate says he’s pleased with the level of current competition for a place in his England squad.

The Three Lions boss has named a 25-man group for September’s UEFA EURO 2020 qualifiers against Bulgaria and Kosovo.

Among that selection are a number of new faces, such as the uncapped quartet of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Tyrone Mings, James Maddison and Mason Mount.

There are also returns after long-term injuries for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Nick Pope, plus a recall for Kieran Trippier.

Eric Dier, Dele and Fabian Delph, however, miss out due to a lack of match-time following injuries while there are no places for Kyle Walker and Jack Butland.

And Southgate says the changing face of his squad is indicative of the growing number of options available to him.

If we're going to be successful, then we've got to keep raising our standards
- Gareth Southgate, England manager

“The competition is really impressive now,” he said, ahead of announcing the squad at Wembley Stadium on Thursday afternoon.

“I think we've attacked a problem of resources in a different way and gone with some younger players, and that's opened up a bigger pool of players.

“It means that we're a little bit short, in September, on leadership experience but that's an opportunity for others to step up.

“September is always a difficult squad to pick in that there are so few opportunities for the players to play,” continued Southgate.

“Clearly we have left some players out of the squad that just haven't featured yet for their clubs, either through injury or just lack of opportunity. For the likes of Eric [Dier], Dele and Fabian [Delph], who haven't had game time, it was going to be very difficult for them to come in and succeed at international level at this stage of the season.

“We're conscious of what they've given us already but there are players that are playing well and have match minutes under their belts so we feel, for September, that's a better route for us to go.”

September's games mark the start of a six-match run of qualifiers across a three-month period, with England aiming to secure a place at next summer's pan-European tournament.

And Southgate is looking forward to the opportunity to get back to work following this summer's third-place finish at the UEFA Nations League.

"We had a lot of reflection [on the Nations League] – while we were still in Portugal, both with the team and with the staff, and a long period since," said the manager.

"There's a balance because we never look for excuses and are always looking at how we improve but, equally, there was such a unique set of circumstances leading into that game. To get seven of the squad on the back of a Champions League final three days before the game was something we'll never face again.

"We were also half a foot on a VAR decision away from going into the final, but recognised that we probably made too many mistakes on the night to win a big match.

"We feel that, as a team, we're now rightly in the top ten [of the FIFA rankings] and firmly embedded in that top ten but, as we head into the Euros, we could beat any of those teams on any given day - and, as has been shown, they're capable of beating us.

"So there's an elite group of teams that we're in but, if we're going to be successful not only next summer but over the next few years, then we've got to keep raising our standards and improving the detail on how we work."

A small number of tickets are still available for England's game against Bulgaria on Saturday 7 September (5pm kick-off) – head to to secure yours.

By Jim Lucas