Harry Maguire has been on the road to recovery after suffering an ankle sprain for Man Utd
Credit: REUTERS/Carl Recine
Harry Maguire has declared himself “fit and fresh” and ready to face Scotland, leaving Gareth Southgate with a big decision to make on the influential defender.
Despite the boost it appears the England manager favours retaining the back-four that played in the impressive 1-0 victory over Croatia in the opening group game as he seeks to confirm a place in the last-16.
That would mean holding Maguire – along with midfielder Jordan Henderson – back for the final Group D encounter against the Czech Republic even though the 28 year-old disclosed that he had been given the all-clear to play by England’s medical team after a series of tests.
Maguire suffered a high ankle sprain playing for Manchester United against Aston Villa at the beginning of May that ruled him out for the end of the season, missing the Europa League final and raising fears over his place in the England squad. However he has recovered ahead of schedule and said: “I feel good. I’ve been training now [for a week].”
Asked whether he could start against Scotland, Maguire said: “I’m available to the manager for selection. Like I said, I’ve trained a few times… Obviously it’s a big game. I’ve done a few sessions now and feel like my fitness is there so I’m available.”
Although Maguire admitted the nature of the injury and the ligament damaged sustained meant there was a danger that it will “niggle me for a few weeks and months” he insisted he was not risking making it worse.
“No, I don’t feel like there is any risk,” Maguire said. “Obviously, with any injury you are coming back from … you haven’t played for so long, recurrences don’t very often happen but they can happen – that’s part and parcel of football…In terms of the ankle, I feel like it’s stable and I feel like I’m ready to go. I feel fit and fresh.” He added: “We firmly believe that it is in a good place stable wise and when it is a good place stable wise that is the priority.”
Tyrone Mings and John Stones shut out Croatia's attack on Sunday
Credit: Pool via REUTERS/Andy Rain
However Maguire also accepted that following their strong display against Croatia he will not automatically dislodge either his replacement Tyrone Mings or John Stones. “Listen, I’m here as a player, but also as a fan, so I fully understand my position in the camp. Whatever happens I want England to win – that’s my main focus,” he said.
Maguire added that although he was unfortunate to get hurt – “I was devastated when I got injured and then the worry comes in of what you are going to miss [out],” he said – he also benefitted from the enlarged squads for the Euros due to the Covid crisis.
“The squad of 26 did help,” Maguire said. “He [Southgate] has got three [extra] players there…I’m pretty sure if you spoke to Gareth, he must have been willing to make the selection.
“But I always told him I felt I would have a part to play in the camp, whether it’s on the pitch or off the pitch. For sure, I always felt within myself that I would be fit at some part of the group stage. I didn’t know when. We are going well, we are on the right path. Every day I get more confidence and it gets stronger.”
Having a larger squad, however, does pose difficulties and Southgate has warned his England players that he intends to rotate the three men who cannot be part of his 23-strong matchday selection.
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Indeed, Southgate believes leaving three players out for each game will represent one of his biggest challenges during the tournament and it is one of the most serious potential threats to the harmony he has built.
Ben Chilwell, Jadon Sancho and Maguire were left out against Croatia, but Southgate realises he risks alienating players if he sticks with the same list for the entire tournament and has told his squad to expect changes. That offers hope to Chilwell and Sancho that they will also be part of the squad for the Scotland game.
Luke Shaw and Bukayo Saka, who were on the bench against Croatia, are among the players under threat of being left out completely as Southgate could favour having Chilwell’s height available to him on Friday night.
It is also understood there was a late change to the three players omitted against Croatia which could have caused some upset and underlined why Southgate is so aware of the perils involved.
Southgate’s matchday squad decisions are further complicated by the fact he is not allowed to omit any of his three goalkeepers under Uefa’s tournament regulations.
It means that Aaron Ramsdale, who had to replace the injured Dean Henderson this week, is assured of a place on the bench while three outfield players have to miss out for each game. If England beat Scotland then Maguire can expect to start against the Czechs with either Shaw or Chilwell given a chance at left-back next to him.
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