Young England squad unburdened by expectations, insists Southgate
England manager Gareth Southgate feels his young squad have not allowed the shirt to hang heavily as they look to wrap up their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign in Kosovo.
The Three Lions sealed their place at next summer’s tournament with a 7-0 win over Montenegro at Wembley on Thursday night.
At a press conference in Pristina on Saturday evening, Southgate said: “Now we have qualified, we still have desire to win the game because seedings for the finals could be important.
“What has pleased me most looking back is we have qualified comfortably and played some incredible attacking football.
“People will obviously look at the quality of some of the opponents, but I think over the years we have had players where the shirt has hung heavy and the performances have reflected that.
“We put out a team the other day with an average age of 23, the youngest team for 60 years.
“There are young players coming in loving playing for England, really playing with freedom and expression, thinking about what is possible on the field rather than worrying about losing the game or what might happen in those sort of fixtures.
“For me, that is a massive shift from when I joined the FA to work with the under-21s and has been a real highlight for me over the past few days.”
Joe Gomez and Jordan Henderson are to miss England’s final Euro 2020 qualifier on Sunday due to illness and injury respectively.
The PA news agency understands Gomez was hurt when clashing knees in an accidental collision with Kieran Trippier.
His Liverpool team-mate Henderson missed the 7-0 home win over Montenegro after arriving in the England camp with a viral infection and has not fully recovered.
However, England’s 1,000th international was overshadowed by the boos that greeted Gomez when he came on as a second-half substitute.
Gomez was left with a scratch on his face following a confrontation with Raheem Sterling this week at St George’s Park. The Manchester City star was subsequently dropped from the squad to face Montenegro.
Southgate hopes Gomez will soon be back to form.
“You could not make it up if you tried – he is absolutely fine,” the England manager said.
“We scanned his knee and I think he will be fine in a couple of days, but he was not able to train today.
“Now was a good moment for him to go home for a couple of days and clear his head.
“The pleasing thing for me was we got him back on the pitch. The fact Raheem put out the tweet he did was the real closer on that whole incident, we will get Raheem back on the pitch tomorrow.
“We won the match on Thursday and we can now just look forward.”