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Selection headaches for Gareth Southgate as he prepares to name England squad

Denmark v England – UEFA Nations League – Group 2 – League A – Parken Stadium
(Image credit: Nick Potts)

England manager Gareth Southgate has plenty of off-field factors to ponder as he prepares to name his next squad on Thursday afternoon.

The Three Lions face a Wembley triple-header, starting with a friendly against Wales on October 8 before Nations League ties with Group Two rivals Belgium and Denmark.

Southgate described September’s international break as “going through the whole book” of incidents as issues away from the pitch detracted from a 1-0 win in Iceland and a goalless draw against Denmark in Copenhagen.

Mason Greenwood and Phil Foden were given their senior debuts in Reykjavik before being fined by the Icelandic police and sent home for breaching Covid-19 regulations.

Mason Greenwood and Phil Foden were sent home from Iceland for breaching coronavirus rules

Mason Greenwood and Phil Foden were sent home from Iceland for breaching coronavirus rules (Mike Egerton/PA).

Southgate said that “trust needs to be rebuilt” with the pair, with reports suggesting both are likely to be left out of the latest squad, which is expected to include Greenwood’s Manchester United team-mate Harry Maguire.

The Red Devils skipper was initially called up for the Nations League games last month, despite an ongoing court hearing on the Greek island of Syros.

Southgate backed Maguire when announcing his squad in August but was forced to drop the 27-year-old later the same day after he was found guilty of assaulting a police officer, swearing, resisting arrest and bribery following an alleged incident in Mykonos.

Maguire, who strenuously denies the offences, has appealed against the verdict and subsequent 21-month suspended prison sentence and has since played in United’s two opening Premier League games, as well as the Carabao Cup win at Luton.

Harry Maguire is expected to return to the squad

Harry Maguire is expected to return to the squad (Martin Rickett/PA).

That has paved the way for him to be included in Southgate’s squad – which will again have to adhere to strict coronavirus protocols upon gathering at St George’s Park next week.

Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish, Ainsley Maitland-Niles of Arsenal and Wolves skipper Conor Coady will be keen to retain their places, having all made their debuts against Denmark after being drafted into the squad.

A fine start to the Premier League season means Southampton striker Danny Ings should again be included, while Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin may be in line for a first senior call-up, having hit five goals in the Toffees’ opening three league games.

Southgate kept faith with goalkeeper Jordan Pickford last month amid ongoing criticism of his performances for Everton, with Nick Pope of Burnley and Manchester United’s Dean Henderson pushing to replace the 26-year-old.

Jordan Pickford's position as England's first-choice goalkeeper has come into question

Jordan Pickford’s position as England’s first-choice goalkeeper has come into question (Bradley Collyer/PA).

Former England goalkeeper David James, however, believes Southgate is right to stick by Pickford given how good he has been since being installed as first choice for his country.

Asked if Pickford should be worried about his place, James told the PA news agency: “If I was Jordan Pickford, no, I wouldn’t be.

“I know Gareth, we occasionally exchange texts, the issue with England has always been, ‘Do you get picked for your club form or your England form?’

“Jordan has performed exceptionally well for England, Everton aren’t England.

“When Jordan turns up for that training session, as long as he doesn’t give Gareth a reason not to pick him, he shouldn’t be worried about not being England’s number one.

Dele Alli has barely featured for Tottenham this season

Dele Alli has barely featured for Tottenham this season (Warren Little/PA).

“He has done nothing to pose that question with his international performances.”

Dele Alli was missing from the last squad and is unlikely to return given he has played very little football for Tottenham of late – and the same applies to team-mate Danny Rose.

Southgate admitted he had a dearth of options at left-back last time out, so Ben Chilwell’s return to fitness at new club Chelsea should land him a recall.

The other player to make his England bow last month was Leeds midfielder Kalvin Phillips, whose display against Denmark was met with mixed reviews.

But he has played in the first three games of the Premier League season, with Leeds winning two of their opening fixtures back in the top flight, and should expect to retain his place in Southgate’s squad.