Saturday 16 February 2019

Southgate wants team of leaders

England boss steeled for Brazil test

England manager Gareth Southgate will pit his wits against Brazil at Wembley tomorrow night
England manager Gareth Southgate will pit his wits against Brazil at Wembley tomorrow night

England manager Gareth Southgate is attempting to build a squad of leaders ahead of the World Cup and that may lead to another new captain for tomorrow night’s friendly with Brazil.

Southgate initially kept faith with Wayne Rooney following the sudden departure of Sam Allardyce. However, Rooney quickly became a peripheral figure for the national team and Southgate opted to share the armband among his squad to cultivate leadership qualities.

Jordan Henderson, Joe Hart, Gary Cahill and Harry Kane have all skippered their country in that period, with Eric Dier becoming the sixth different player to lead the team out under Southgate in Friday’s encouraging 0-0 draw with Germany.

Dier, at 23, became the fifth-youngest post-war England captain and Southgate could change skipper again in the team’s final match of 2017.

“I will have a think about Tuesday,” the England manager said.

“The key was to build a group of people who are happy leading and can take more responsibility.

“Eric is another one who has great maturity and tactical understanding of the game and can show a bit more authority at times and have a bigger impact on others. Part of the reason was to say ‘come on, you can be a leader within this group’ and hopefully he will grow from the experience as well.”

There are some regulars who could wear the armband for the first time on Tuesday, along with those pushing to fulfil the role again.

Southgate has kept faith with the same captain for both fixtures in the past three international meet-ups, but these friendlies offer the chance to experiment - something Southgate did when handing five players their senior debuts on Friday.

There are now three even newer kids on the block after Dominic Solanke, Lewis Cook and Angus Gunn were brought up from the under-21 squad.

The trio trained with the senior team for the first time at Tottenham’s training ground on Sunday, gaining invaluable experience while bolstering Southgate’s injury-hit squad.

Manchester United’s Phil Jones became England’s eighth withdrawal on Saturday evening after limping off midway through the first half against Germany with a thigh complaint.

His replacement on Friday spoke volumes about Southgate’s thinking, with Cahill and Michael Keane overlooked in favour of uncapped Liverpool defender Joe Gomez.

“We felt athleticism at that stage of the game in the position he was in (was important) and also Michael has had some games and missed a few with Everton recently,” the England boss said.

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