Gareth Southgate says Chelsea forward Raheem Sterling has been left out of the England squad because he isn’t fit, while Ben White has been omitted because he is behind other defenders in the pecking order.
Sterling and White are among the most notable absentees from the England manager’s latest squad to play Italy and Ukraine in European Championship qualifiers, while there is also no place for Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Southgate says both White and Alexander-Arnold have been left out because of the competition at right-back, with Reece James, Kyle Walker and Kieran Tripper all included.
And asked whether he would have selected Sterling had he been fit, Southgate said: “Yes, absolutely.”
“It’s similar with Ben and Trent really, the three boys are in as right full-backs because we’ve got them just ahead of those two.
“We’re blessed in that position with a depth of talent and it’s the hardest position to pick albeit it’s never straight forward criteria and it’s always shifting around a little bit on form as well.
“Kyle and Trips were obviously the ones that played during the World Cup, started the games during the World Cup, have been consistent, and Reece coming back is another top player.
“We’d love to have that depth in every position really.”
Walker was named in the squad despite being the subject of a police investigation for an alleged incident of indecent exposure in a pub, as reported by The Sun.
Brentford striker Ivan Toney has also been called up to his second England squad even though he has been charged by the FA for alleged breaches of their betting regulations.
But Southgate says he did not have a valid reason at this point to leave either out, given their current form.
“The fact is he’s playing for his club and is available for his club,” Southgate said, when asked about why he has picked Toney despite the charges.
“There hasn’t been a trial as yet or judgement, so I don’t know on what basis we wouldn’t pick him really.
“Before the World Cup, Callum Wilson had a brilliant run of form and hit form just at the right time, and he’s obviously had a little bit of an injury which has inhibited his performances in the last few weeks.
“Ivan’s been consistent across the season. Of course after we named that squad (when he missed out) he had a brilliant game at Manchester City which was typical.
“He’s playing really well. I like his presence in games. I saw his game at Arsenal where I thought he was outstanding and he deserves his opportunity.”Embed from Getty Images
And on Walker, Southgate added: “It’s a complicated situation. We’ve spoken at length with him.
“The fact is that as we’re sat here at the moment, he’s back playing with his club. There’s no conclusive evidence to leave him out at this stage so I think I’ve got to be very careful on being the moral judge on things.
“We’ve had a couple of long conversations and we feel we want him with us. We feel that’s the right thing to do and we also know that when you’re an England international, there’s an even higher bar on how you conduct yourselves and what’s expected.
“I don’t think we’re taking those decisions lightly, but we are where we are with it.”