Euro 2024: Gareth Southgate outlines ruthless approach to England squad amid injury outbreak

Gareth Southgate has warned his England hopefuls he may not risk taking players with fitness concerns to Euro 2024, as he prepares to tackle a logistical nightmare in finalising his 23-man squad.

Southgate is due to name his provisional squad on May 21, just 48 hours after the end of the Premier League season. He has already confirmed that it will be a larger group, with a number of key players likely to be involved in the Champions League, Europa League and FA Cup finals that follow over the two subsequent weeks.

The situation is similar to the build-up to Euro 2020, when Southgate picked a 33-man training group, knowing that the Champions League final between Chelsea and Manchester City would rule a significant core of players out of the first part of the camp.

That summer, Southgate went on to include both Jordan Henderson and Harry Maguire in his final 26-man party, despite neither being fit to start the tournament, but says he may not have the same luxury this time around with squad sizes back down to 23.

“We've got to make the best decisions with what we know and some of those currently are going to be medical decisions,” he said.

“We've been able to get those right in the previous tournaments. We've been able to give people time, but with 23 that's definitely more difficult.”

Luke Shaw is in a race to be fit for the Euros (Manchester United via Getty Imag)
Luke Shaw is in a race to be fit for the Euros (Manchester United via Getty Imag)

While a number of senior players missed this month’s friendlies against Brazil and Belgium, only left-back Luke Shaw is currently seen as facing a genuine race to be fit by the end of the season.

However, having seen the damage done to his squad at short notice this month,  Southgate is aware of the need to be flexible until the last moment heading into the summer and admits he may not be able to give his players clarity on their Euros fate even heading into the final training camp.

“My preference is always that players have some clarity on exactly what the role is when they come in, [and feel] that the hard part is done,” he explained. “But it's not always possible. So I'm conscious of that.

“I'll probably try to at least manage expectations in that period. But it's going to be really hard to be really definitive on a 23.”

Asked how large his provisional squad will be, Southgate said: “That's really going to depend on where some of the injuries are at and also how many players are in the European finals.”

Managers technically have until June 7 to finalise their tournament squads, the same day as England play Iceland in their pre-Euros send-off at Wembley. Southgate, however, may want the situation resolved before facing Bosnia & Herzegovina in a friendly in Newcastle on June 3.

Both Euro 2020 and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar saw squads expanded to 26, a measure initially brought in to mitigate against the potential impact of any Covid-19 outbreak.

UEFA currently has no plans to offer a similar increase this time around but Southgate revealed a number of managers are concerned about the situation and are set to raise the issue at the teams’ final pre-tournament meeting in Dusseldorf early next month.

“There is one more Uefa meeting, where there's been a little bit of talk amongst some of the coaches about possibly increasing that,” he said.

Asked whether he would back an increase he added: “Well [yes], when you look at where we are now!”