Gareth Southgate has warned England’s young pretenders there will be no more easy caps.
The Three Lions boss has resisted any temptation to call up a raft of youngsters and has stuck with experience in his first squad following the World Cup.
Phil Foden, Jadon Sancho and Ryan Sessegnon had all been linked with a senior call-up but were not considered by Southgate for the Nations League game against Spain and friendly with Switzerland next month.
Sancho has impressed for Borussia Dortmund, Sessegnon has started three of Fulham’s four games since winning promotion while Foden is highly regarded at Manchester City but has played just eight minutes in the league this season.
It is considered too soon for the trio and Southgate insisted they will have to prove their worth to crack his squad.
He said: “It should be harder. It’s been too easy to get into the England squad for some of the youngsters over the over the last 12, 24, and 36 months.
“They’ve gone in and done brilliantly, but what you want is real competition that makes it really hard to get in. It’s very difficult to pick a 17-year-old who’s had 10 minutes of first-team football.
“What have they done to warrant an England senior call-up? We’re as excited by them as anyone else, but given the profile of some of those lads at the moment we’ve got to be really careful.
“I think those guys have got a good mentality and can cope with most things, but there are issues. How much are they going to play for their clubs? So if I’m going to elevate them internationally I have to ask is that realistic?
“The comparison is Spain. We’re going to be playing Spain who have to replace David Silva and (Andres) Iniesta, and the questions are: is it Koke, (Cesc) Fabregas, Saul or Thiago Alcantara?
“It depends how good we want to be and what level we want to challenge at, but that’s a clear indication of the task we’ve got.”
— England (@England) August 30, 2018
Luke Shaw and Joe Gomez have returned for the games at Wembley and Leicester’s King Power Stadium while Southampton goalkeeper Alex McCarthy has earned a first call-up.
From the World Cup squad, Ashley Young has been left out in favour of Shaw while Jamie Vardy and Gary Cahill have stepped aside and Phil Jones and Nick Pope are injured.
But Southgate remains concerned about the dwindling pool of eligible players in the top flight and knows youngsters like Foden need game time.
Just 27 English players have played every minute of the first three Premier League matches this season with the average English starters down to 31.2 per cent from last season’s 33.2 per cent.
Last season, the percentage of English starters at top-six clubs was 22.8. Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who impressed at the World Cup, has played just 22 minutes for Chelsea this season.
Southgate said: “They have got to play in games where there are consequences if they do not win.
“We saw in the summer what enjoyment the national team can bring and, if we do not try and affect that, we are on a graph that is heading heavily downwards, particularly with the top teams.
“We’re already on a downward path. If we don’t address it then we will just let it continue.
“To get into the first team at one of the big clubs is a harder challenge, so you have accept it is easier to break through at a smaller club.
“But if some of the big clubs have a stockpile of some of the most talented players, then there is a danger that there is a ceiling for those guys and is the opportunity there?
“I don’t blame the managers because the pressure to achieve is huge.
“So have they got time to wait for a young player? It means there has to be a real strategic club decision to allow a manager that time and maybe that is what is happening in Europe a bit more.”
Germany manager Joachim Low has revealed Mesut Ozil has refused to answer his calls or reply to messages since retiring from international football after the World Cup.
The Arsenal playmaker called it quits at international level following a row over a photo in which he was pictured with Turkey president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, before the tournament in Russia.
Low went onto reject Ozil’s accusations of racism within in the German Football Association (DFB).
Watch what the Die Mannschaft boss had to say in the video below:
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.
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.