Southgate adamant youngsters can make it to Russia

Gareth Southgate has revealed that four or five of the young players he gave international debuts to over the last two friendly games are now options for the World Cup squad next year in Russia.

The England boss introduced Jordan Pickford, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Joe Gomez and Harry Maguire to the global stage and all of them impressed during the games against Germany and Brazil. There were also first caps for Tammy Abraham, Dominic Solanke and Jack Cork.

The fine displays were vindication for Southgate who had raised eyebrows when the names were first announced. There were a number of senior withdrawals from the squad but it was nevertheless a brave move from Southgate to blood all the youngsters.

In the first encounter against Germans it was Loftus-Cheek who caught the eye with a wonderfully composed and confident performance. He was one of the regulars in the under-21s under Southgate so he came into the squad knowing he had a manager who believed in him.

It was a real shame when he got injured against Brazil and he has certainly done enough not just to get in the squad but he may start in Russia.

On the same night, Pickford made two outstanding saves and was not far behind Loftus-Cheek in terms of performance. Maguire looked assured across the two games and Gomez was voted man-of-the-match in his run-out against Brazil with an almost faultless display.

“We’ve gained possibilities and options these last 10 days because we’ve four or five players who have become realistic options for us in terms of the starting eleven as well,” Southgate said after the game.

“Some of those guys are getting their opportunities. Ruben is now playing, Tammy is playing, Joe is playing but hopefully there’s a message to others as well. Hopefully we’re showing people what youth development in this country can produce.”