Gareth Southgate to name first England squad since World Cup with emphasis on young talent

Mark Bryans 29/08/2018
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England manager Gareth Southgate will name his first squad since the World Cup on Thursday with his commitment to developing young talent expected to continue.

The Three Lions reached the semi-finals in Russia despite heading into the tournament with a squad that had the fewest total caps of the 32 competing nations.

With a Wembley date with Spain in the inaugural UEFA Nations League and a friendly against Switzerland at the King Power Stadium, Southgate has plenty to ponder.

Two of the elder statesmen from those ranks effectively ended their international careers earlier in the week.

Both Chelsea defender Gary Cahill and Leicester’s Jamie Vardy announced that – barring an injury crisis – they would step back from playing for England as Southgate continues to build for the future.

That future will include the likes of Manchester City’s 18-year-old midfielder Phil Foden and Jadon Sancho of Borussia Dortmund, but Southgate may yet decide it is too early for the pair.

The same goes for Ryan Sessegnon but James Maddison – a player Southgate has openly admired – is pushing hard for a call-up after the midfielder’s fine start to life at Leicester.

Meanwhile, West Ham’s Declan Rice appears to be at the centre of a tussle for his services.

Rice, 19, has three non-competitive senior caps for the Republic of Ireland but was omitted from their latest squad as manager Martin O’Neill revealed the London-born defender was deliberating his international future – claiming England had been in touch with the player.

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Manchester United’s early season struggles have been plain for all to see but left-back Luke Shaw has been impressive and could receive his first call-up since March 2017, while Liverpool defender Joe Gomez is likely to return after recovering from injury.

While there are a number of younger players on the cusp of making Southgate’s cut, some of the more experienced campaigners will be worried about their spots.

Ashley Young started five of England’s seven World Cup games but the 33-year-old may be overlooked this time around, especially if team-mate Shaw is given the nod.

Another United player, Phil Jones, started his first game of the season in Monday’s 3-0 defeat to Tottenham but limped off and is all-but certain to miss out, while Danny Welbeck has played just 19 minutes for Arsenal this campaign.

Jordan Pickford was the first-choice goalkeeper in Russia and the Everton man will keep his spot – but it remains to be seen which other stoppers will join him.

Jack Butland is now playing in the Championship with Stoke and Burnley’s Nick Pope is sidelined with a dislocated shoulder.

With Pope missing, Burnley boss Sean Dyche has Tom Heaton and Joe Hart to call on, both of whom will be pushing for an international recall, while Southampton’s Alex McCarthy is another option.

One thing that is for certain is that Southgate, who will want to extend the feel-good factor created by an unlikely run to the last-four in Russia, has more decisions to make than he would have initially expected after equalling England’s best performance in a World Cup on foreign soil.

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Jamie Vardy calls time on international career with England

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Jamie Vardy has told England manager Gareth Southgate he does not wish to be selected unless there is an injury crisis.

The 32-year-old has won 26 caps for his country but does not look like adding to that tally after telling the Guardian of his decision.

“To be honest with you, this has been on my mind for a while,” the Leicester man said to the newspaper.

“I’m not getting any younger and you can see, to be fair to the gaffer, he wants to make it more youthful, which obviously had its benefits during the World Cup – we got to the semi-finals and finished fourth, which is equal to the furthest we have ever been on foreign soil.

“So I just said to Gareth that I think it’s probably best from now on, especially with the way he wants to go, to bring youngsters in who he thinks have got the ability and start nurturing them into international football.”

Vardy added that while he is not making himself available for when Southgate names his first post-World Cup squad on Thursday, “we’ve not shut the door completely”, saying he would come back if “everyone was injured”.

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Find out why Wayne Rooney is nicknamed 'Little Fatty' in China

David Cooper 22/08/2018
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Wayne Rooney is known as "Little Fatty" by Chinese football fans.

Football is often accused of having become boring in recent years, what with all the greed, incessant transfer rumours and playacting more talked about than the action on the field.

But Chinese fans have helped stem the boredom by making following the sport more fun, conjuring up their own creative and bizarre nicknames for some of football’s most popular and colourful characters.

Chinese is expressed using idiomatic characters rather than an alphabet, making it difficult to use the language to transliterate some foreign names.

That means that while someone like England striker Harry Kane or Lionel Messi keep their names in China because they are fairly simple to pronounce, many others have not been so lucky.

It is often an indication of how popular a player is in China.

Manchester United’s star midfielder Paul Pogba and manager Jose Mourinho, for example, are known as “Busty” (Pogba) and “Magic Bird” (Mourinho).

Pogba is “Busty” because his surname sounds like the word for that in Chinese, while Mourinho is similar to the Chinese phrase for “Magic Bird”.

Flying high: Jose Mourinho is known as "Magic Bird".

Flying high: Jose Mourinho is known as “Magic Bird”.

China’s popular Italian coach Marcello Lippi is “Silver Fox” on account of his grey hair and Guangzhou Evergrande’s former Barcelona midfielder Paulinho was given the moniker “Violent Bird” in an approving nod to his all-action style.

Other players thought of highly are Brazilian former AC Milan protege Alexandre Pato, who has rebuilt his career in China at Tianjin Quanjian.

The 28-year-old posts often on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, and is seen as integrating into life in the country much better than many of the well-paid foreign players who are often chasing a big and often final payday.

That has earned him the respectful title “Pa Jianguo” – a patriotic nickname which partly translates as “build the country”, recognising his fondness for his adopted homeland.

Kylian Mbappe, meanwhile, is lovingly referred to as “Little Puppy” because of his tender teenage years.

Other stars, however, have not been treated so kindly.

Arsenal schemer Mesut Ozil is called “Little Wife” while “Very Homesick Boy” refers to nomadic Argentine striker Carlos Tevez who had a forgettable 12-month stint in the Chinese Super League at Shanghai Shenhua last season.

Carlos Tevez's short China stint has earned him the nickname "Very Homesick Boy".

Carlos Tevez’s short China stint has earned him the nickname “Very Homesick Boy”.

His inability to settle anywhere out of Argentina earned him the unflattering nickname.

Ozil is mockingly known as “Little Wife” because of the perception in China that the German – who recently quit international football, citing “racism and disrespect” – is timid.

Wayne Rooney similarly may not wish to read on further because the former England forward, who was once close to a move to China but now plays in the United States, is dubbed “Xiaopang” – “Little Fatty” – although that is more affectionate than offensive.

It is not just footballers who get the name treatment.

Tennis great Roger Federer is fondly called “Cow” in China, partly because of his laid-back demeanour, while Jennifer Lopez’s well-known posterior has earned her the designation “Luo Ba” (“Lord of Butt”).

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