LONDON — Gareth Southgate said he will not hesitate to start Jadon Sancho or Callum Hudson-Odoi in England’s upcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers after confirming that Marcus Rashford has withdrawn from the squad due to injury.
Rashford has been training alone at St George’s Park this week as he manages an ankle problem picked up in Manchester United’s goalless draw with Liverpool in the Premier League last month, and Southgate confirmed that the striker has now been sent back to Carrington to complete his recovery.
Borussia Dortmund sensation Sancho is expected to be the man to step in against Czech Republic at Wembley on Friday and Montenegro in Podgorica on Monday for a pair of European Championship qualifiers, but Southgate said he is just as prepared to hand Chelsea academy prospect Hudson-Odoi his senior international debut in a competitive setting.
“We knew from a couple of days ago that Marcus wouldn’t be ready for tomorrow,” Southgate said of Rashford. “It’s a great opportunity for the others. They’ve been exceptional in training. They look like they’ve been with us forever. We’re really excited. We’ve lost a lot of players but it’s an opportunity for others.
“Throughout the age groups [Sancho and Hudson-Odoi] have been very similar in their development. Jadon has obviously had more big-match experience at this point and he has been with us for a bit longer, but Callum has fitted in brilliantly. I won’t hesitate to start either of them in the game. They’re ready, they can play.”
Hudson-Odoi’s senior call-up raised eyebrows given that he is yet to start a Premier League match for Chelsea, but the 18-year-old winger has attracted glowing reviews for his performances in training at St George’s Park.
Asked what boxes Hudson-Odoi has ticked to convince him that he is ready to play for England, Southgate replied: “Ability and mentality.
“I know a lot has been said about what’s the selection policy. Is it on form? Is it on capability? In the end, players have got to have the quality to play in the shirt. Ideally you’d have them all playing regularly and ideally they’d have a certain number of games for their clubs, but I can’t wait for that.
“I can’t wait for clubs to pick players 50, 100 times — that’s not the landscape we’re operating in. But what we’ve seen in different positions are players we think are good enough, and we’ll play them.
“Callum’s fitted in, he looks every inch an England international in training, and I wouldn’t hesitate to start him in games.”
Southgate also played down the controversy surrounding West Ham midfielder Declan Rice, whose maiden England call-up after switching allegiance from Republic of Ireland has been overshadowed by the emergence of an old social media post with connotations to support for the IRA.
The Football Association will be writing to Rice — who issued a social media statement apologising on Tuesday — to remind him of his responsibilities, and Southgate added: “I don’t think he can say any more than he’s said.
“I think people understand. Most people who have children of those sorts of ages [understand] that children are still maturing at that age. You’re in conversations with friends, you can get giddy and say things that you don’t know enough about or you don’t understand the context.
“I think our fans and the public will recognise that.”