Gareth Southgate will continue blooding a new generation of England players in Friday’s friendly against Germany, but Danny Drinkwater’s international career is in the balance after his decision to stay away from Wembley.
The England manager has already handed out eight debuts in little more than a year in charge, with Crystal Palace midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek guaranteed to be the ninth, and starts are also expected for the uncapped pair of Jordan Pickford and Tammy Abraham.
Everton goalkeeper Pickford is likely to benefit from the injured Jack Butland – a cruel echo of the broken ankle he suffered against the Germans in 2016 – while Swansea striker Abraham could join fellow Chelsea loanee Loftus-Cheek in the XI.
Rookie defender Joe Gomez will be on the bench and the side will be captained for the first time by Tottenham’s Eric Dier, who at 23 becomes the Three Lions’ fifth-youngest post-war captain.
Amid all the new blood at St George’s Park on Thursday, Drinkwater’s non-appearance caused a stir with Southgate having reached out to the £35m Chelsea midfielder with the hope of bringing him back into the fold, only to be told by the 27-year-old he did not feel fit enough.
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That is little surprise given he last completed 90 minutes while still with Leicester in April and has started just once since arriving at Stamford Bridge. A calf strain is understood to be the primary factor in his unavailability but Southgate was in reflective mood regarding future selection.
Asked whether he would be going back to Drinkwater in the next break, Southgate said: “I’ve no idea. I can’t hypothesise over who I might be calling in March. I have no idea of how he feels or where he’s at physically.
“I would have thought so, but we might have other players back by then.”
With Jordan Henderson, Harry Winks, Dele Alli and Adam Lallana all ahead of him when fit, Drinkwater’s time may be close to the end after just three caps.
For Dier, though, things are only looking up. He will be the sixth man to lead the side out under Southgate and earned a
glowing endorsement to go with it.
“Eric is an established player in the side now. He plays with maturity and intelligence,” Southgate told the FA’s website.
“He is also a great role model. His approach to everything is very professional. He hardly ever misses a game and plays in an unselfish manner. I think he can be even more of a leader than he currently is and I am hoping giving him this reward and responsibility will also bring even more out of him as well.”
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England’s World Cup-winning under-17 side will be on hand at Wembley to parade their trophy and take in the prestige friendly, though Southgate admitted rising stars such as Phil Foden, Jadon Sancho and Rhian Brewster were already in his mind as his youthful reboot of the national side continues apace.
“I don’t think we should rule anything out with young players,” he said. The rate at which they can improve is huge. As with all the young ones, it’s a case of assessing when is the right time to blood them and bring them in.”