'He's earned the right' – England boss Southgate says Maddison deserved World Cup call-up

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Gareth Southgate says James Maddison "earned the right" to be called up to England's squad for the World Cup in Qatar.

Maddison's 22 Premier League goal involvements in 2022 are the second most among England players behind Harry Kane's 32.

But despite his impressive form this year, Maddison was not called up for England's Nations League games in September and, having not featured for the national team since 2019, there was a debate over whether he should be included in the squad for Qatar.

Thursday's announcement confirmed his seat on the plane, and Southgate says the Leicester City man deserves it.

"He's playing really well. He's a good player, we've always said he's a good player. He's earned the right," the England boss said.

"We think he can give us something slightly different to the other attacking players that we've got.

"We like the fact he finds those pockets of space. He plays forward, not enough players play forward in this day and age.

"His set-play delivery is outstanding. He can score goals from distance, which against low-block defences is another attribute which is a little different from our other players."

Maddison has only collected one cap, and his three-year absence for the Three Lions came after he was spotted in a casino the same evening he said he was too unwell to play for England.

But Southgate says this was not the reason for his exile, explaining: "That was unfortunate from his perspective because it became a bigger issue than it was for me.

"You end up in the papers, nobody likes that. But for me, that wasn't the drama that it seemed to be for everyone else. He's always been up against some really good players in that area of the pitch."

One of those to miss out on the squad was Roma's Tammy Abraham, who has only managed three Serie A goals this term after scoring 17 last season.

Southgate cited that poor form as the reason for his exclusion, saying: "Tammy's had a poor run of scoring form at the wrong time, really.

"It's not a case where we are three or four weeks away from the finals and the first match, we're now 10 days. Form could be more important.

"We don't really know with any of the players. We're watching their club form, but we don't know where they are until we see them face-to-face on the training pitch."

When asked which players he had spoken to in order to deliver the good or bad news, Southgate added: "I did speak to James [Maddison] because I think this morning there was a lot of speculation that James wouldn't be with us.

"We'd decided a couple of weeks ago that we would, but we weren't obviously going to go and tell him then.

"My priority always on these days is the difficult conversations and sad news, and that is really tough. There's not many situations in football harder than that.

"But the nature of those conversations, good and bad, reminds you of how much it means to a player to go to a World Cup. So it is a great day, but for some of those, I've had to disappoint them."