Gareth Southgate's Iceland omissions open the door to new talent

Gareth Southgate’s Iceland omissions open the door to new wave of talent as Harvey Barnes, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Bukayo Saka receive a call up

  • Gareth Southgate sent important message by leaving out Foden and Greenwood
  • Instead he has called up Harvey Barnes, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Bukayo Sako
  • The extended squad could mean more pitch time for Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish
  • Southgate also responded to Jose Mourinho’s plea for his players to be rested 

The beauty of life for Gareth Southgate at the moment is that his talent pool continues to run deep.

As such he was able to deliver an important message to the errant duo of Phil Foden and Mason Greenwood by leaving them out of his latest squad while at the same time offering opportunities to another wave of young talent.

So although the door will not remain closed for long for Foden and Greenwood after their foolish behaviour in Iceland last month, it has now opened to Harvey Barnes, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Bukayo Saka.

Gareth Southgate sent important message by leaving out Phil Foden and Mason Greenwood 

This is a bloated England squad, designed to cope with three games in quick succession and also the raft of withdrawals that are expected to come in the wake of this weekend’s Premier League calendar. Equally, it is an important one to be in. 

Southgate outlined some of the restrictions placed on players in the England bubble these days. Masks on at all time. No social interaction for longer than 15 minutes. No leaving the hotel for a cup of coffee.

It will doubtless be wearisome at times and Southgate will be watching. If he learned something of the immaturity of Foden and Greenwood last month, he will hope to see some altogether more encouraging signs from his squad this time. For players old and new, there are valuable points to be scored.

‘We will learn who is resilient and who is adaptable,’ Southgate said. ‘We’ll learn who might bail out when the going gets too tough, who might be a good squad member, who might not be and they will all be useful things for us.

The young pair have been dropped after they broke Covid-bubble rules in Iceland hotel

Instead he has called up Harvey Barnes, Dominic Calvert-Lewin (above) and Bukayo Sako

‘And as a group of staff we will be ready. I don’t think we could get more curveballs than we got in September but there will be different ones and that will serve us in good stead when we go to tournaments where you’ve got to be resilient.’

Southgate’s decision to omit Foden and Greenwood this time feels like the right one. He revealed that he made that call the day after they smuggled two women into the team hotel in Iceland and communicated it to them immediately.

His message to them and others is clear but it is also the case that his concern will be largely pastoral from this point on. ‘They have suffered enough,’ he said, and he is probably right.

Both are rare talents and will be back soon, doubtless to stay. But players such as Barnes and Calvert-Lewin deserve their opportunities also. Their progress at Leicester and Everton has been steady but sure whereas Saka has burst through a little more quickly at Arsenal.

The extended squad could also mean more pitch time for the likes of Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish

Southgate also responded to Jose Mourinho’s plea for his players such as Kane to be rested

With three games to be played against Wales, Belgium and Denmark in the space of seven days, each of the newcomers will get minutes. So too, hopefully, will Wolves defender Conor Coady and Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish.

For Southgate the balancing act is difficult. Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Jose Mourinho of Tottenham have in recent days urged him to look after their players, albeit in different ways. Southgate dealt with all that nimbly but equally conceded no ground.

‘I agree with Jose but also know exactly what he was doing,’ smiled Southgate. ‘We know we have to be responsible, we are conscious of the welfare of the players. The season as a whole is a huge challenge.

‘All Jose needs to do is make sure in April and May that he is looking after Harry Kane for us because there are 55 million people relying on that. That obviously works both ways.’

Southgate is employed largely for his abilities as a football coach and a manager of people but it undoubtedly helps to have a diplomat at the helm during these strange times, as well as a man able to see the bigger pictures of life quite naturally.

This is a strange time to be an England footballer but also a good one. Between now and next summer’s European Championship opportunities will not be in short supply for those smart enough to take them. 

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