Gareth Southgate: Tough call to leave out Marcus Rashford and Jordan Henderson

Gareth Southgate says leaving Marcus Rashford and Jordan Henderson out of England’s provisional Euro 2024 squad were “difficult decisions” he had to make.

With their group opener against Serbia coming into focus, the national team boss named a 33-strong training group on Tuesday that will be cut to 26 players on June 7.

Rashford – who has been to the last four major tournaments – and vice-captain Henderson, who is a veteran of six tournaments, were the most high-profile omissions.

The former has struggled for form at Manchester United this season, with the latter joining Ajax in January having made a controversial move to Saudi side Al-Ettifaq last summer.

Rashford posted on his Instagram story, following the announcement: “Wishing Gareth and the boys all the best for the up and coming tournament.”

Put to Southgate it must have been difficult to leave out Rashford and Henderson, he told BBC Radio 5 Live: “Yeah, of course because the number of big games they’ve been involved with, the important performances they’ve put in.

“Your heart, of course, wants you to take all of those players that have been with you for so long.

“But ever since I took over, you have to make difficult decisions and you have to keep evolving the squad.

“And when players in those positions are playing well and have perhaps had better seasons than those guys, then they’re the decisions that you have to make.”

Marcus Rashford in action for Manchester United
Rashford has struggled for form at Manchester United this season (Martin Rickett/PA)

Southgate says he simply felt “other players in that area of the pitch have had better seasons” than Rashford, while Henderson had not returned to the requisite level of intensity.

“Hendo has given himself every chance,” said Southgate, who also overlooked left-back Ben Chilwell, having left out now-injured Kalvin Phillips in March.

“The determining factor is the injury he picked up around the last camp. He’s missed five weeks and just hasn’t been able to get to the intensity in the games since then.

“Look, he’s a fantastic professional and that was a really difficult call to make because he’s been so important, so supportive in my time here.

“I have to say all the boys when I’ve spoken to them – Ben, Marcus, Jordan, who were the three that were with us last time – were incredibly professional. Considering the disappointment, they dealt with it very well.”

Long-serving Raheem Sterling’s absence from the long list was less surprising given he has not played for England since the 2022 World Cup quarter-final exit to France.

Harry Kane, Harry Maguire, Anthony Gordon and Bukayo Saka were selected despite recent injury concerns, while the training group includes five uncapped players.

Liverpool youngsters Curtis Jones and Jarell Quansah have been included for the first time, as has Crystal Palace midfielder Adam Wharton.

Fellow uncapped players Jarrad Branthwaite and James Trafford have also been called up, having been part of the senior camp for the first time in March.

“Everybody has a chance,” Southgate said. “There were definitely some players that we wanted to see.

“The reason for the longer squad, we were in a similar situation before the last Euros and more time is going to help us make better decisions and might help us to give a better balanced squad.

“So, there are some injury issues that are very obvious and apparent and there are some that are a little bit more nuanced and that we don’t have all the information on.

“Sometimes you need to work with the players and see the players and see how they react physically to training.”

Southgate says this has been “as complicated a group as I can remember picking” but believes the coming weeks will help him make better, more-rounded decisions.

One player that he admits is a “bit of a wild card” is United left-back Luke Shaw.

The 28-year-old full-back has only managed 15 appearances in an injury-interrupted campaign, with his last coming three months ago in the narrow win at Luton.

Curtis Jones wears an England shirt
Liverpool youngster Curtis Jones has been included for the first time (Simon Marper/PA)

If Shaw fails to prove his fitness then England are set to go to Germany without an out-and-out left-back.

“I have to say he’s up against it – he’s missed a lot of football,” said Southgate of the full-back, whose United team-mate Kobbie Mainoo, 19, is the youngest player selected.

“The fact that he’s been our first choice in that position, we’re probably giving him a bit longer than we might have done.

“Again, I’m not sure what’s realistic at this moment in time.

“I’ve talked with him, medical team, liaising with Manchester United very closely but, yeah, I’d have to say he’s a long shot.”

England’s provisional Euro 2024 squad:
Goalkeepers: Dean Henderson, Jordan Pickford, Aaron Ramsdale, James Trafford.
Defenders: Jarrad Branthwaite, Lewis Dunk, Joe Gomez, Marc Guehi, Ezri Konsa, Harry Maguire, Jarell Quansah, Luke Shaw, John Stones, Kieran Trippier, Kyle Walker.
Midfielders: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Conor Gallagher, Curtis Jones, Kobbie Mainoo, Declan Rice, Adam Wharton.
Forwards: Jude Bellingham, Jarrod Bowen, Eberechi Eze, Phil Foden, Anthony Gordon, Jack Grealish, Harry Kane, James Maddison, Cole Palmer, Bukayo Saka, Ivan Toney, Ollie Watkins.