England manager Gareth Southgate is hoping his players can get away before next summer's tournament
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Gareth Southgate wants players to take an end-of-season holiday before the European Championship but faces less than two weeks’ preparation with those who may reach the Champions League final.
Under Uefa rules, England must play two warm-up matches before the tournament, which could complicate a crammed schedule at the end of a gruelling club campaign.
Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United have ambitions of being crowned European champions on May 29 at Istanbul’s Ataturk Olympic Stadium, with England’s opener against Croatia following just 15 days later.
England usually take three weeks to prepare for tournaments but the post-Covid calendar for the delayed finals will limit the time Southgate has with players, especially as he wants them to switch off from football when they finish club duty.
“Before the World Cup, we gave them a period of holiday and we think that is important psychologically as well as physically,” Southgate said. “Of course, we hope people will be able to travel to go away by that point, but that is a bit of an unknown.
“The scheduling will be complicated but we have very good people for planning and physical periodisation and we’ll just have to adapt and adjust. It is less time than normal for a tournament but our time on the training pitch we use well, we feel the team develops well on the field and pick up the messages well.”
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Southgate is pleased with the pool of players he has, given the number of injuries this season. He has blooded newcomers just as he did in the autumn internationals before the last World Cup when he handed debuts to Jordan Pickford, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and started making Harry Maguire a key player in his defence.
This time, Jack Grealish, Phil Foden and Bukayo Saka have made strong cases to be in his squad in the summer.
“We’ve got this strange split in the squad where half from Russia have drifted away, really,” Southgate said. “So, we’ve got a lot of guys who were the base of the team against Iceland, in Trippier, Walker, Dier, Maguire, Pickford. But then we have this younger group who are really innocent at international level in terms of the number of caps and experiences and a lot them are so young as well.
“Generally speaking, young people have less fear. They have more belief in what is possible. I think they are allowed more freedom than we were when we were younger and I think each generation increases that and loosens those strings a bit.
“When you see how comfortable the young players look, that is a great credit to the senior players. They allow them to express themselves, but in return they demand that respect. The young players have found a nice balance.”
The versatility of Southgate’s young players gives him options. Mason Mount can play as a midfielder or a forward, as can Grealish and Foden, while Saka is a wing-back who can operate anywhere on the left flank. That will allow Southgate to pick a “wild card” attacker, which could be Jamie Vardy unless another forward emerges.
Southgate believes his young players are impatient for success and provide an exciting blend in his squad. “The long term for England looks good, we’ve got to keep winning in the short term and make sure we maximise this group now and the experienced players amongst them,” Southgate said.
“They don’t want to hear us say ‘we can win in four years’ time’, that is not going to float their boat. They want to win now. Although some of the younger ones will be better prepared in that longer period, there is no reason why we cannot align the two and have some very exciting times.
“With injuries, I guess club managers have three 10-day periods of doing that and we have six months. It is a worry. We hope the small injuries don’t become too many like Joe Gomez’s that are significant.”