Champions League final shows English players must be given a chance, says Southgate

By Joe Wright 6 June 2019 18
Champions League final shows English players must be given a chance, says Southgate

Gareth Southgate thinks the all-English Champions League final shows the strength of the Premier League - although he wants more young English talent to be given a chance.

Liverpool beat Tottenham 2-0 in Madrid on Saturday in the first final in the competition featuring two teams from England's top flight since Manchester United defeated Chelsea on penalties in 2008.

Seven English players started the match at the Wanda Metropolitano and a further three came off the bench, something Southgate believes is a huge positive for his England squad ahead of their Nations League showdown with Netherlands on Thursday.

However, he would still like to see more home-grown youngsters given the opportunity to impress.

"The brilliant thing from an English point of view is we had a lot of English players playing in a massive occasion," he said. "As a group of players and staff we wanted to congratulate both sets of players. To get to a Champions League final is an immense achievement and a wonderful memory for all those guys. 

"Both teams had brilliant seasons in that competition. We're very proud for the boys that won it as that's something that will live with them forever. We've addressed that and acknowledged their achievement in welcoming them into our camp.

"The standard of the Premier League is increasing every year. We've seen the quality of the top teams – Liverpool had an incredible season, lost one game and you lose the league.

"The financial power of the league means we've got some of the best players and coaches. It's a brilliant league for our players to play in – when they get the chance."

Southgate will check the fitness of those players involved in the Champions League final before naming his team to face Ronald Koeman's side and would not be drawn on reports Raheem Sterling will be captain if Harry Kane does not play.

"I've got to assess all the players who were involved in Madrid because it's a unique game, a unique set of circumstances," he said.

"I've got to check on Jordan Henderson but everyone else came through the game with no physical issues, which was pleasing for us.

"If I confirm anything about the team other than that Raheem is playing then I'm doing half of Ronald's job for him. So, I don't want to discuss the captaincy. Harry Kane is our captain; if Harry Kane doesn't play, I have a decision to make."

Regardless, Southgate thinks his England squad have shown they are far less dependent on individual talent than generations past.

"When I took over I remember talking about how everything had fallen on Wayne Rooney's shoulders," he said. "At Japan [in the 2002 World Cup], everything was around [David] Beckham.

"We had to build a team where we weren't reliant on one or a couple of players and we had competition for places and strength in depth. The collective strength of the team is that we've got huge trust in the players – there isn't one I'd hesitate to put in.

"They've all played in important matches for us. [Harry] Winks, [Ben] Chilwell - these youngsters come in and they never cease to surprise us. You never know what they've capable of until you try them."

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Joe Wright

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