Gareth Southgate's tribute to junior game as he lauds emergence of attacking talent

Tuesday 02 Mar 2021
Gareth Southgate was speaking on talkSPORT's Breakfast Show on Tuesday 2 March

Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate admits he’s been left excited by the emergence of more young English attacking talent this season.

It’s been almost three months since the England squad were together as a group last November and as he starts to look towards picking his next squad ahead of this month’s European Qualifiers, there’s been some eye-catching performances in the Premier League.

While the likes of Jack Grealish, Mason Mount and Phil Foden started to establish themselves in the senior set up last autumn, there’s now a growing queue of players who have started to put themselves in the frame.

And it’s left Southgate enthused about the future and also enamoured with how the grassroots game in England is starting to foster a different profile of player.

“There is a lot of talent in these attacking areas, it’s hugely exciting,” said Southgate, during an appearance on the talkSPORT Breakfast Show on Tuesday.

Southgate chats to Bukayo Saka in training last November, after the Arsenal player became one of the latest young players to join the squad

“But what’s really exciting is that for years we’ve talked about development in English football and asked where are the creative players and how do we develop those types of players?

“We’ve had root and branch reviews of everything from, you know, grassroots football to academy football to everything for decades.

“So I think huge credit goes to the clubs but also even to junior football. When I go and watch junior football played on the local parks, we’re able to see the style that kids now play, the skill level.

“You go into the cages in the inner cities and see the talent. There’s raw talent and there’s a different type of player, a different skill level coming through which is hugely exciting.”

What is also encouraging for Southgate is that the number of homegrown players in the Premier League has started to climb.

And with many of those players now involved regularly for their clubs having featured for England’s development teams over the last few years, they’re already well-versed in how the Three Lions are looking to play.

“Only 18 months or so ago every Saturday we were about 30 per cent of the league English qualified players,” he added.

“This year that’s up to 40 per cent and that doesn’t seem a lot, but we know those kids are there and we know the talent is there.

“Now, they’re getting their chance and they’re showing their ability.”

England start their road to the FIFA 2022 Qatar World Cup later this month with European Qualifiers against San Marino, Albania and Poland and Southgate will name his squad for those games on Thursday 18 March.

By FA Staff