For the second consecutive camp the England manager is having to deal with his players breaching Covid-19 protocols after Ben Chilwell, Jadon Sancho and Tammy Abraham flouted guidelines at a surprise birthday party for the Chelsea striker attended by significantly more than six people ahead of joining the Three Lions squad. The trio will now miss tomorrow’s game against Wales at Wembley, but are in contention for Nations League matches against Belgium and Denmark provided all test results returned are negative.
The incident, while rather less troublesome, follows on from Mason Greenwood and Phil Foden breaching England’s bio-secure bubble to meet with two Icelandic women in Reykjavik last month, for which they were sent home early and left out of this camp.
“There is a big thing for us that when these sort of incidents happen it takes a lot of focus, a lot of energy and time away from the team and we can’t afford that,” Southgate warned.
“We need the focus to be on the games. The players who have been in the camp are 100 per cent focused on the games, their attitude all week has been excellent and their approach to training has been top. If you’re going into major tournaments and you have those sorts of incidents then they can derail you. I’ve seen that in the past. That wasn’t the case ahead of Russia, we went in in a very calm state and that allowed us to focus on our football. I saw other teams not in that position and it had a real detrimental affect to the way they were able to go into the tournament.”
Southgate, along with England captain Harry Kane, held a meeting with the squad at St. George’s Park on Monday to offer a reminder of the pressure which is placed upon players once they become an international, and warned the younger members off the squad that these incidents will be remembered when it comes to selecting players further down the line.
“What we did at the beginning of this week, we had a very good meeting with all of the players where we talked about responsibility of being an England player, how the spotlight is different,” Southgate said. “When the story was in the papers earlier in the week there was no mention of the clubs the players play for, they were cast as England players, even though they weren’t with us. That is the landscape we work in and players have to realise that whether they have got one cap or 50 caps.
“I’ve also talked before about the connection with the fans that we’ve worked very hard over the last three or four years to bring back. Key to that has been the contribution of players that have been with us. We’ve got ten with us this time who were with us in Russia. They’ve done a lot of good work with us, with their clubs and in the communities and they’ve played well and got results.
“Some of the younger ones haven’t done that yet with England. They don’t have that credit in the bank. They’ve got to prove themselves and they have got to remember that it is an honour to play for England and all these things moving forward do play a part in your thinking.”