Wolves defender Conor Coady and Arsenal star Ainsley-Maitland Niles handed first England call-ups with Gareth Southgate braced for coronavirus-related withdrawals ahead of Nations League clashes
Gareth Southgate has called up Wolves’ Conor Coady and Arsenal’s Ainsley Maitland-Niles to the England squad for the first time as he braces himself for a raft of coronavirus-related withdrawals when the squad meets up at St George’s Park on Monday with the FA establishing exactly which players are available.
Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham have both been isolating and away from Chelsea training this week but should be clear to play next weekend in the Nations League clash in Iceland followed by a midweek game in Denmark.
However, the FA fear others may have to pull out with a number of players testing positive or having been forced to go into quarantine after being on contact with infected friends after returning from holiday hotspots.
Gareth Southgate has called up Conor Coady and Ainsley Maitland-Niles to the England squad
Wolves defender Coady has been handed his maiden call up as Harry Maguire’s replacement
Maitland-Niles’ call up came after a man-of-the match display in Arsenal’s Community Shield win over Liverpool. Coady is a replacement for Manchester United centre half Harry Maguire, who was initially named in the squad and then withdrawn when a court in Greece found him guilty of assault, resisting arrest and bribery after an altercation on holiday in the Greek island of Mykonos.
However, Sportsmail understands that Maguire will be picked for the next England squad in October, as the court has granted him leave to appeal the verdict, which effectively wipes out Tuesday’s conviction and restarts the legal process.
As such, he remains innocent in the eyes of Greek law at present and it is understood that Southgate and the FA have reassured Maguire that there will be no bar from him representing England while his appeal is prepared.
Arsenal star Maitland-Niles was selected off the back of his superb Community Shield showing
Southgate has taken the decision to not bring Maguire back into his squad immediately
Given the events of the past week and the furore surrounding Maguire, Southgate has taken the decision not to bring him back into the squad immediately and Maguire is understood to be grateful for the support of the England manager.
And though the circumstances of next weekend’s game in Iceland likely to be far from ideal, Southgate insists that he will not be resting those players he is left with, even though the season starts next weekend and there are now no breaks for international players who will be playing twice a week until the end of the Euros next July in order to make up the time lost to lockdown.
The England manager points out that the pressure to ensure players don’t get over played always falls upon international manager.
Southgate said: ‘We face a hugely challenging season for every club manager and every international manager and it does always seem that when the call to rest the players comes – and I know they are the clubs’ players – it always lands internationally. And it seems to land strongly on England rather than all the other countries, who just play them all anyway.
The England boss has accepted that the pressure to not over-play stars falls on his shoulders
‘We are competing with the Portuguese, the French, the Spanish, the Italians, the Belgians, who just pick their strongest teams and have done this month. My job is to win games for my country and I have to pick the strongest squads. Within that I’ve got to be sensible, with weeks like this, where training schedules are so varied that we’ve got to individualise their physical training and make sure we’re getting the right level of work in and try to manage the minutes of the squad if people need managing.
‘But we have to work with the players as regularly as we can. We get to see them four times between now and the European Championship and when we get to that European Championship we’ll probably have a week where they need to rest and then a two week preparation, so it will be a shorter time than we’ve ever had’
And Southgate revealed that he has been in talks with Arsene Wenger, FIFA’s new head of global football development, about rationalising the calendar post coronavirus.
Southgate said: ‘Across the board there’s got to be a look at the football calendar, and that’s everyone’s responsibility: UEFA, FIFA, Premier League, the FAs, the leagues across Europe. Everybody is trying to put their competitions in and the calendar is growing and the spaces are getting smaller. And I’m not going to resolve that by resting one or two players in September.
‘The discussions have to be better at the highest level and I’m hopeful that somebody like Arsene Wenger, having the role that he has at FIFA, can start to do that – because I’ve been on a couple of calls with him where we’ve started to have the discussion. But it’s really got to happen at that level.
‘The leagues have a responsibility as well and to not have a winter break this year is a massive decision really. So again they are things that are outside my control but which should be on the table for collaborative discussion really.
‘Arsene has an excellent understanding of the reality that the best players play a huge percentage of the matches although teams have big squads there are different competitions across the board and the best players are the ones that take the vast per centage of games and he was very conscious of that.’