December 8, 2021

‘I am not oblivious to errors’ – Southgate opens battle for England No 1 between Pickford, Henderson and Pope

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The Three Lions have opted for the Everton goalkeeper in big games, but his form has dipped and the Burnley and Manchester United stoppers are in line

Gareth Southgate has declined to back Jordan Pickford as his No 1 for England, opening the door to Manchester United‘s Dean Henderson and Burnley‘s Nick Pope. 

England have a trio of fixtures in the next week, with a friendly against Wales on Thursday followed by two UEFA Nations League matches against Belgium and Denmark

With Pickford having struggled for form in the past year with Everton, Southgate has opened the door to competition and he will use the upcoming friendly to start Henderson or Pope. 

“We know that Jordan has made errors, Nick actually made errors at the weekend and Dean has only played the League Cup games in changed line ups for the opponents so it is a very close contest,” Southgate said ahead of Thursday’s game. “All three, we wouldn’t have any hesitation of putting in goal. 

“We will make a change tomorrow because it is a good opportunity to get other people on the field, and if you are taking goalkeepers away who are not getting the opportunity to play then that’s one of the hardest things. 

“We have had keepers over the years who have retired because they have found it a really difficult situation to handle, so I think for the harmony of the squad and group, we have to give people the opportunities to show what they can do, as well as to have the competition. It is a very tight call. 

“I always go back to the fact Jordan’s performances for us have been excellent. I am not oblivious to his performance at Everton but there can be lots of factors within individual performances at their clubs and we have got to try and help them be in their best form with us, regardless of their situation with their clubs.”

Meanwhile, a host of England hopefuls made late transfer moves to boost their hopes of making Euro 2020 in the summer of 2021.

One such player is Chelsea‘s Ruben Loftus-Cheek who found himself sidelined under Frank Lampard and opted for a loan move to Fulham. Southgate is keen to see the midfielder play regularly after bringing him to the World Cup in Russia

“Whenever I speak to players about these sorts of situations, first and foremost, they have got to do what’s right for their career,” he added. “England is a consequence of that further down the line. 

“I think when you make career decisions, you want to be playing football, so if there’s more likelihood of playing football regularly at Fulham, given the amount that Ruben has unfortunately missed through injuries. Then for his own development and the enjoyment of his career, then I think that’s key. 

“If he can play well, then getting back in the England team gets on the radar, but he has missed nearly 18 months. He was really unfortunate to get the injury because he was having a super spell going into the latter stages of the Europa League

“He misses nearly a year, then just as he is getting back to fitness, we have a pandemic. So he has missed a huge chunk and it is very unfortunate. We know the talent that he has, we know what he is capable of so hopefully he can play regularly for Fulham and go from there.”