Southgate appeared at Wembley to discuss his fresh-faced 23-man squad for Russia and insisted he had selected the best available players, not just those with the most to learn.
Long-term number one Joe Hart was one of those who fell on the wrong side of Southgate’s judgement but the Three Lions boss was careful to stress it was not the end of the road for the 31-year-old.
His chosen goalkeeping unit of Jordan Pickford, Jack Butland and Nick Pope have a combined nine international caps to Hart’s 75, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Fabian Delph have 11 in total and Trent Alexander-Arnold has yet to feature, but Southgate countered Gary Lineker’s suggestion that the tournament should be seen as nothing more than a learning curve.
“I don’t think when you play or are involved with England you can ever write off any game or any tournament. That wouldn’t be acceptable,” he said.
“We know usually teams that win tournaments have a lot more caps than we do, a lot more experience of semi-finals and finals.
“This group, we really don’t know. We have great faith in them, we know they lack big match experience but how are they going to get that? The only way is to put them in.
“We think this is the best group of players available, we think they can be very exciting now and even more exciting in the future. I don’t want to limit what they think is possible because they’re young and hungry and they want to have a go at things.
“That’s what we’ve got to do at this tournament, really enjoy the ride.”
— England (@England) May 17, 2018
Southgate confirmed it was his decision to leave Hart off the standby list as well as the main squad – Burnley’s Tom Heaton takes that role – but suggested it would not be appropriate to ask the former first choice to act as back-up.
The door remains open to a future call-up, though, assuming Hart finds a new club in the summer and regains top form.
“Of course it was a difficult call. He played in most of our qualifying matches, he’s been a big part of the England team the last few years and he’s a valued member of the squad,” said Southgate.
“But in the end I’ve got to look at performances over the last 18 months with their clubs and the three lads we picked were the three best goalkeepers in the league this year.
“I pick players on form and if he (Hart) is playing well for his club, why wouldn’t we select him?
“There’s no reason for this to be the end. He has an important career decision this summer and I hope he can be back at his very best.”
Southgate expanded on the decision to omit midfielder Jack Wilshere, suggesting a dip in form over recent months was more important than his patchy fitness record.
Wilshere retains a cachet among sections of fans and media but has yet to win over a sceptical Southgate, and pulled out through injury after being called up for the March friendlies.
“He’s been in our thoughts but of course he hasn’t played a game for us,” the England boss said.
“Jack had a good spell in the lead-up to Christmas and after, but wasn’t as effective after that. I think other guys have played well and deserve their places in the squad.
Southgate did not reference Jonjo Shelvey specifically but appeared unconvinced by the Newcastle playmaker’s claims and hinted “character and personality” were more important than on-field disciplinary concerns.
As for the absence of Liverpool’s Adam Lallana, another one of the five players on reserve, Southgate expressed regret at the fitness issues which have dogged him this season.
“I’ve had continual dialogue with Adam this season, close and personal conversations,” he said.
“It’s been a really frustrating season for him. Under normal circumstances, given the amount of football he’s played, he wouldn’t be anywhere near the squad or the standby list, but he’s a player and a person we have a hell of a lot of time for.”
Southgate did not take the chance to announce his captain for the tournament but indicated his final decision could be revealed when the team come together at St George’s Park on Sunday.
Harry Kane, Jordan Henderson and Eric Dier are the likeliest contenders.
For many, France are in with a real chance of World Cup success in Russia this summer.
With stars like Antoine Griezmann, Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe being just a handful of stars available for coach Didier Deschamps, Les Bleu are heavily fancied to steam past Australia, Peru and Denmark in Group C.
Here, we take a closer look at France’s chances in more detail.
Ray Wilson, a World Cup winner with England in 1966, has died aged 83, his former clubs Huddersfield and Everton have announced.
Wilson had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2004.
“Huddersfield Town is devastated to learn of the passing of World Cup winner Ramon ‘Ray’ Wilson MBE at the age of 83,” read a club statement.
“Ray is arguably the most successful and best-known player ever to pull on a Huddersfield Town shirt, having been a key member of England’s World Cup-winning team in 1966.”
Wilson made his England debut in 1960 and went on to win 63 caps for his country, 30 of those as a Huddersfield player.
He joined Everton in 1964 and reached the pinnacle of his career in the summer of 1966 as part of Sir Alf Ramsey’s England team which beat West Germany in the World Cup final at Wembley.
“Until very recently, he was a regular supporter of the Terriers at home match days alongside his eldest son Russell despite battling Alzheimer’s disease, which he was diagnosed with in 2004,” Huddersfield’s statement said.
“The thoughts of everyone at Huddersfield Town are with Ray’s wife Pat, his sons Russ and Neil and the rest of his family and friends at this difficult time.”
Wilson, who remains Huddersfield’s most-capped England player, made 283 appearances for the club between 1952 and 1964 and a further 154 for Everton before he joined Oldham in 1969.
“Everton Football Club is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Ray Wilson,” read a statement on their official website.
“Unquestionably one of the finest footballers to wear the royal blue jersey, Ray passed away on Tuesday evening, aged 83, at The Bell House care home in Huddersfield.
“The thoughts of everybody at Everton Football Club are with Ray’s wife Pat, sons Russell and Neil, and all of his family and friends.
“Wilson’s status as a Goodison Park great was underlined when he was named Everton Giant for 2002.”
Wilson featured in a formidable back four for Ramsey’s England when they became world champions in 1966, lining up at left-back alongside fellow defenders Bobby Moore, Jack Charlton and George Cohen.
Captain Moore, who died of cancer in 1993, was a big admirer of his former team-mate.
“It was a comfort to play alongside him,” Moore once said. “He was a fiery little fellow, who would stand up to all the pressure. He always looked good.”
Former Everton team-mate Joe Royle described Wilson, who also won the FA Cup with the Merseyside club in 1966, as a “maestro” and the “best of his kind at the time”.
“He is a World Cup winner and played in the last England team that had four, maybe five, world class players – and he was certainly one of those,” Royle said. “And he was a top guy, always there with a smile or a helpful word.”
🔵 | Everton Football Club is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of former player, FA Cup winner and World Cup hero, Ray Wilson MBE.
— Everton (@Everton) May 16, 2018