The impact England’s youngsters have had on the Three Lions’ squad has thrilled Gareth Southgate, who insists they will be given chances.
Gareth Southgate is delighted with the progress of England’s youngsters and adamant they are not serving as “wallpaper” within the squad.
Mason Mount became the latest young player to be handed an international debut by Southgate as the Chelsea midfielder came on in Saturday’s 4-0 Euro 2020 qualifying win over Bulgaria.
He was later joined by 19-year-old Jadon Sancho, who made his debut last October, while West Ham youngster Declan Rice played the full game at the heart of midfield on his fourth cap.
But Southgate insists he is not blooding young talent for the sake of it and believes England’s next generation are already offering serious competition to a first-team that had an average age of just over 25 on Saturday.
“I think the most important thing to say is we’re not doing it for wallpaper, they’re in because they deserve to be in,” Southgate told a news conference after his side extended their perfect Group A record.
“Mason’s performances already this season for his club, then in training this week and then when he went into the game – he’s a threat to the starting team.
“That is hugely encouraging for us, we know that with a lot of these lads their best years are probably three, four or five seasons away.
“We’ve got to get the balance right, keep on winning matches and blood those players at the right times.
“But English fans should be hugely excited when they see the likes of him and Sancho coming on and the impact they can have already, and we love working with them.
“It’s not just the mentality that’s good, they’ve got talent, they want to get better and it’s up to them how far they go.”
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Walker’s fellow City defender John Stones is also absent and Southgate knows he will have a selection headache heading into Euro 2020 should England secure a spot in the tournament.
“In terms of the team for the Euros, it’s difficult to say. A lot of our players still only have a handful of caps, some are improving rapidly,” Southgate said.
“The great thing is we’ve got genuine competition for places. We’ve got four or five guys who you would expect to see on the team sheet but outside of that it’s very difficult to call in a number of positions.
“Ahead of the World Cup, in the September-October period, [Kieran] Trippier had one cap, [Jordan] Pickford had one perhaps, [Harry] Maguire hadn’t played.
“So that was three who got to a World Cup semi-final, and they all had outstanding tournaments for us, so we’ve always got to have that open mind.”