Gareth Southgate ready to give ‘reputation’ to Harry Maguire’s England pick

Gareth Southgate says he’s ready to stake his ‘reputation’ on Harry Maguire and offers his full support for the struggling Manchester United centre-back as he described him as one of England’s ‘best’ and ‘most important’ players of things the team can do that others cannot. The international manager went so far as to describe Maguire and John Stones as “as good as anyone else in world football” as they climb the pitch with the ball.

Such is the 29-year-old’s standing in the England squad that Southgate said he had no need for further talks with him despite being dropped from the United team. The feeling in the English camp was that Maguire would start Friday night’s game against Italy at the San Siro and he clearly remains one of Southgate’s first-choice centre-halfs. That was made quite clear by his pre-match comments, when the England manager stressed he was willing to use his ‘reputation’ for such decisions.

“Whatever reputation I have, I put it there,” Southgate said. “I think, look, you always have to use your judgment and we think he’s an important player.”

“It’s clearly not an ideal situation,” Southgate added. “You want your best players to play regularly so they are in a good place physically and mentally. But he is an important player for us. I think it’s important to support our best players.

“I didn’t feel the need to speak to him any differently than I did to the other players. I’m trying to start with all of them individually, it was a bit more complicated this time because we have 28, so I’ll get there! Look, he understands that he’s at a big club, he’s a big transfer fee and he’s captain of the club, so I think that’s why he gets more of the spotlight. But he has to and is focused on training well every day and getting back into the team.”

There was a hint of a broader problem in Southgate’s replies when he acknowledged that England currently don’t have middle halves of sufficient quality to intervene head-on.

“If we thought there were experienced players willing to come in and play at a level above him there would be a different consideration and in some positions there would be a different level of competition that way.

“He is our most dominant mid-air defender. He and John are really incredible with the ball – how much pressure they’ve taken for the team in tournaments we’ve been in because we don’t always have that central midfielder who can move the game forward. That means our centre-backs have a lot more pressure to use the ball well and these two are as good as anyone in world football.”

Southgate also conceded that the situation could change if a number of players continue to be given limited Premier League minutes in the time remaining before the World Cup.

“The squad that we picked, there’s a whole bunch of players that you could argue we could have left out at that point, but I think we wanted to keep that group together and involve them so that they could feel as Feeling part of it, but also you know some of them need to play more regularly because now we’re only a few weeks away from preparation so physically it’s fine if they’ve had a few 90 minutes. Another seven to eight weeks, it gets more complicated.”

Southgate, meanwhile, revealed that he had influenced reading of Eddie Jones’ book, Leadership: Lessons from my Life in Rugby. The England rugby coach wrote about how he continued to choose Saracens players despite their relegation as they were important to the team.

“I’ve just read Eddie Jones’ book and he had a similar situation with the Saracen players and even thinking about it he felt they were his best players and although undercooked they would still be better than players who weren’t not on the level.

“They didn’t play at the level. Because physically, when you talk to them, rugby is different than football because the physical level in the league is lower than international and then when you’re relegated to the league it’s not really that .” a test for your better players. So our players will actually work physically with top players every day and they’ve also played some European football.” Gareth Southgate ready to give ‘reputation’ to Harry Maguire’s England pick

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