Gareth Southgate says he kept his distance during Declan Rice's international switch

Friday 08 Mar 2019
Gareth Southgate is preparing to name his first squad of 2019 in March

Gareth Southgate admits he had to “back away” from the becoming involved in the debate over the international future of Declan Rice.

The West Ham United midfielder has impressed with his performances this season and had previously been capped by the Republic of Ireland in three non-competitive games.

But Surrey-born Rice revealed in February that he wanted to switch his international allegiance to England and began the procedure with FIFA to make himself eligible for Three Lions duty.

Southgate admits it’s a complex issue for many young international players who have the option to switch nations, with international transfers open until a player has made a competitive senior appearance for a particular country.

“We ask players to make big decisions very young in their life and Declan is still 19-years-old,” he said, during an exclusive appearance on talkSPORT.

“Lots of kids in our junior system can play for one or two countries at U15 and U16 level and they then become attached to a country.

“So some players we have lost at a young age, but some have come over to us at a young age such as Michael Keane who also played for Ireland.

West Ham's Declan Rice has been in impressive form this season

“It is quite fluid in youth football and Declan is the same age as some of those kids, but is playing first-team football.

“So you’re asking them to make big decisions, which is why I backed away from his decision.

“He knew what we thought of him as a player, but it was important that he had the space to make that decision and while the rules are as they are, that will happen.

“Families are moving countries and the world is a lot more fluid in terms of eligibility. The only guide we can take at the moment is to go by the rules.”

Southgate names his squad for this month’s EURO 2020 qualifiers with Czech Republic and Montenegro next Wednesday.

There are still limited tickets on sale for the game with Czech Republic at Wembley on Friday 22 March.

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By Nicholas Veevers