The prospects of Reece James and Aaron Ramsdale making England’s squad for next summer’s Euros appear to hinge on the Chelsea captain’s fitness and the Arsenal goalkeeper’s game time, with Southgate pointing out there is just one more camp after this one before the tournament in Germany
Gareth Southgate says Reece James has taken a risk by opting not to join up with England this month and suggested Aaron Ramsdale needs regular game time to make his Euros squad.
The Three Lions boss told the written media on Thursday he had been hoping to call up Chelsea captain James but the 23-year-old preferred to skip the European Championship qualifiers with Malta and North Macedonia to focus on his fitness.
The right-back – who missed the World Cup with a knee problem – has only just returned to club football after a long hamstring injury which disrupted his start to this season.
While Southgate said he “can understand” James’ decision and had a “really good, long conversation” with the defender, he pointed out that there is just one more international break before next summer’s tournament and agreed with the suggestion that competition for places at right-back is fierce at the moment.
“I was hoping to call up Reece James but he doesn’t feel he’s quite ready,” said Southgate.
“I understand that, he’s had a long path back from a number of injuries. He’s probably a bit cautious in that respect, but I can understand why.
“There is [competition for places] and that’s the risk. He’s only got one more squad before the Euros. So he knows that. We’ve got belief in what he can do. And equally we’re going to learn a lot about him in the next few months playing as a full-back rather than a wing-back [at Chelsea] because that’s also a different role that’s going to have different demands.
England’s November squad
Goalkeepers: Sam Johnstone (Crystal Palace), Jordan Pickford (Everton), Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal).
Defenders: Levi Colwill (Chelsea), Lewis Dunk (Brighton), Marc Guehi (Crystal Palace), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), Fikayi Tomori (AC Milan), Kieran Trippier (Newcastle), Kyle Walker (Manchester City).
Midfielders: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Jude Bellingham (Real Madrid), Conor Gallagher (Chelsea), Jordan Henderson (Al-Ettifaq), Kalvin Phillips (Manchester City), Declan Rice (Arsenal).
Forwards: Jarrod Bowen (West Ham), Phil Foden (Manchester City), Jack Grealish (Manchester City), Harry Kane (Bayern Munich), James Maddison (Tottenham), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Ollie Watkins (Aston Villa), Callum Wilson (Newcastle).
“He completely understands [the risk]. He has only really been able to be with us in March for the first part of the camp. But that’s been because he keeps having these moments where he breaks down.
“There is a reality around his training at the moment [which] is he’s playing, [then] there’s a couple of days recovery… So I understand, given where he’s been with injuries, there’s a little bit more angst, if you like, from his side.
“He was very keen to make clear, ‘Look I don’t want you to think I don’t want to be there’. We had a really good long conversation and exchange of messages after that as well. But I’m very understanding.
“His injury record, you can see the number of matches and the different phases [he has missed]. So we are all conscious that we want to have a fit Reece James that can play consecutive games, because we can only take 23 to a finals and that physical reliability is going to be really important.”
“Physical reliability is going to be really important. I think we will always manage a player as well as we can but there is a reality around his training at the moment. He plays and there’s a couple of days’ recovery.
“We would have loved to have him with us, don’t get me wrong. But I’m perfectly calm with the conversation.”
Southgate: No promises to Ramsdale if he is still on bench by March
While James’ Euros prospects appear to hinge on his fitness, the hopes of Aaron Ramsdale making it to Germany as part of the England squad may depend on whether he can reclaim the No 1 role at Arsenal – or make a move in the January transfer window.
Ramsdale has played just twice for Arsenal since David Raya replaced him as Mikel Arteta’s first choice at the start of September and while he again made it into the England squad for these upcoming internationals, Southgate said there would be no guarantees for the goalkeeper going forward.
“We’re just going to have to see how it is. I had that conversation with him in the last camp,” said Southgate. “He’s still battling to be the No 1 at Arsenal, and his profile and the way he can use the ball with his feet, we like and think is important.
“But there is a reality as a keeper, if we get to March and he’s six months without playing regularly, then I’m never going to promise things that I couldn’t guarantee delivering. So he knows that, he’s perfectly realistic about that.”
Analysis: Is Southgate ditching Mr Reliable for good?
A high-profile absentee from the latest England squad is Raheem Sterling, who hasn’t played for his country since the World Cup. Here, Sky Sports News senior reporter Rob Dorsett assesses that situation:
“Raheem Sterling has been Gareth Southgate’s go-to man. Mr Reliable. One of the first names on the team sheet, never mind the squad list.
“That certainly was the case up until the Qatar World Cup. Since then, Sterling has been left in the wilderness. He’s not featured in any of the four subsequent England squads.
“Southgate has shown his ruthless side in the past, expediting the international retirements of Wayne Rooney and Joe Hart. But it would be surprising if he has now decided to do the same with Sterling – a player who has been crucial to the manager’s mission since day one.
“Since Southgate became England boss in 2016 until last December, only Harry Kane has been used more often than Sterling. The Chelsea winger won 55 caps in those six years – eight fewer than Kane, but two more than each of Harry Maguire, Kyle Walker and John Stones.
“So, why the sudden change of heart? And is there a route back into the England fold for Sterling before next summer’s Euros in Germany?
“Having been left out of the last four, this is one of only two England camps before Southgate has to name his 23-man squad for the Euros. With Sterling left out again, you have to think his chances of making the Euros are slim.
“It was the Chelsea winger who opted out of the squad in June, because he did not feel fully fit. He’s been overlooked by England ever since.”