Thursday, 29 March 2018

England’s World Cup squad to be named early by Gareth Southgate

England manager Gareth Southgate plans to name his World Cup squad before their final warmup matches to help strip unnecessary anxiety and pressure from preparations.

Tuesday’s promising 1-1 draw in Italy was England’s last match before Southgate must submit a provisional squad of up to 35 players, with June 4 the deadline for the final 23-man squad.

In a bid to have roles clearly defined in preparation for the finals, Southgate will make his decision before the penultimate warmup friendly against Nigeria on June 2.

“I’d like to [name the squad before the next friendly] because you end up being able to run a performance camp rather than a selection camp,” Southgate said. “I think there’s a difference in the feel for everybody.

“If you name 28 and they aren’t sure, but if you name 23 and five on standby — which Sven [Goran Eriksson] did well — then everyone knows where they sit. Those on standby have a chance but they come into the camp knowing that’s their role.

“If you have got 28 or 30 who think they might have a chance, then there’s a lot of uncertainty and anxiety within the games. For me, it’s much better to get the 23 secured and work from there.”

But as a veteran of major tournaments as a player — including seeing Paul Gascoigne’s heartbreaking omission up close at the 1998 World Cup — the England boss knows better than most the sensitivities surrounding selection.

“It’s very important,” he said. “But I think already across this week, guys would have a pretty good idea of where they sit. It’s about managing expectations, I suppose.

“There are some who obviously know that they have worked with us for quite a while and the reality is they are going to be part of the squad. There are others that know — after the conversations I’ve had with them — that they are just on the edge of it.

“But I think that’s important because then it doesn’t come as a huge surprise to anybody. I’ve got to keep those conversations going over the next few weeks to keep letting people know how I see it, so that in the end it doesn’t come as dramatically to people.

“But as a manager you have got to have difficult conversations all the time. It’s delivering that as respectfully as possible, but it’s never enjoyable for either person.”

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