Gareth Southgate offered his unwavering support to Jordan Pickford and revealed he held heart-to-heart talks with his England No1.
Pickford was dropped by Carlo Ancelotti last weekend, appears to be no longer Everton’s undisputed first choice keeper and yet Southgate insisted none of his other keepers are serious contenders.
England boss Southgate’s remarks are unlikely to go down well with Dean Henderson or Nick Pope but Pickford was given a morale-boosting show of loyalty and faith by his national manager.
Confirming he spoke to Pickford, Southgate said: “It was after the Liverpool game. I was just checking in.
“I recognised that it had been a very high-profile situation and there had been a lot of collateral fallout in a very public way so I just felt it would be an appropriate call to make to see how he was and if I could help him in any way really.
“When people say I’ve been loyal to him I mean he’s deserved that. His performances have been excellent for us, so that’s not been a difficult decision for me.
“We have some competition for places but I’d have to say that there’s nobody that I think is challenging seriously at the moment to push him out of that position.
“Of course this has been a very difficult period for him in terms of the spotlight on that particular challenge and because of the profile of the player involved in it as well but it is disappointing to see a player like that miss football.
“But we all know whenever we step over the line as a player, injuries can happen and it is an unfortunate situation but there is nothing Jordan can do about that now. He has to get on with playing.”
Southgate did not spring any major surprises in his squad – other than pick Chelsea’s Reece James who is suspended for two of the three England games – but his faith in his loyal players was there for all to see.
The Three Lions boss was equally supportive of Tottenham striker Harry Kane who is coming in for criticism after winning a penalty against Brighton last week when he was accused of potentially injuring former England team mate Adam Lallana.
But Southgate insisted that it is actually Kane who comes in for rough treatment from opponents on a regular basis.
Southgate added: “All I’ve seen in our matches with Harry is Harry get kicked from pillar to post and not really protected on the field, so I can only speak about the games with us through the World Cup and beyond the World Cup.
“Every time we play he seems to be a target for opposition defenders and opposition players seem to get away with a hell of a lot against him, so I would welcome a bit more protection for Harry in terms of how that looks like during the games, frankly.”
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