'He's impressed us' - Gareth Southgate drops England squad hint ahead of Euro 2024 decision

Gareth Southgate, manager of England, looks on
-Credit: (Image: Photo by James Gill - Danehouse/Getty Images)

England manager Gareth Southgate has a lot on his plate as he gears up to announce his final Euro 2024 squad immediately after Friday's last warm-up friendly against Iceland.

The Three Lions' preparations for the summer tournament in Germany were boosted by Monday's 3-0 victory over Bosnia and Herzegovina at a packed St James' Park. The England team promptly headed for London, with their focus now shifting to their final friendly against Iceland before they kick off their Euros campaign against Serbia on June 16.

However, Friday is about more than just their Wembley farewell. Just over an hour after the final whistle, Southgate will have to trim his 33-man training group down to a tournament squad of 26 - but admits he's been left impressed with Crystal Palace midfielder Adam Wharton.

"We're still discussing that as a staff," Southgate admitted when asked about the plans around submitting his selection by UEFA's 11pm deadline. "In terms of Friday, obviously we have another three players (Kobbie Mainoo, Phil Foden and Kyle Walker) who report (on Tuesday) when we get down to London.

"We didn't think there was any point in them reporting earlier and then being able to do very little and then travelling again, so we gave them an extra day. They'll all come into the reckoning for the game on Friday and similar objectives, really.

"We want to build on the performance. Physically it's an important game for players, even players that have played a lot of football. They still need that rhythm of playing matches, so Friday becomes an important exercise for us."

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When asked about his plans for notifying the squad about Friday's lineup, Southgate responded: "I'll work that through with the staff over the next few days and we'll decide what we think is the best way of doing that."

Unsurprisingly, Southgate appeared evasive due to the tough choices ahead - aiming to strike a perfect balance within his squad is no easy task.

The verdict around longtime defensive stalwarts Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw looms large as they recuperate from their individual muscular injuries. Also hanging in the balance are various offensive positions.

Jack Grealish's status has been brought into questionable territory amidst a challenging season with Manchester City. However, his spirited performance as a substitute against Bosnia, having joined England earlier, could play in his favour.

"There's 33 who are desperate to be involved and we know the qualities that he has and absolutely what he's capable of doing," said Southgate, recognizing Grealish's value. "That's not in any question.

"As I said (before), he's a player that we love having with the group and, for us, he's a great character to work with."

In order to shape his final selection, Southgate has taken an active approach to manage the anticipations of younger, less-experienced players, particularly those from a training squad featuring five uncapped members.

Among these was Wharton, who, along with Jarrad Branthwaite, earned his senior England debut off the bench against Bosnia. Since moving to Crystal Palace from Blackburn in February, the talented 20-year-old midfielder has provided fans with high hopes, particularly following an impressive start in his first England camp.

"Well, there's no question he's impressed us," Southgate admitted. "Why did we bring him in? We saw things in his performances for his club.

"The biggest thing for us is that ability to see a picture and play forward early. That sounds really simple but that hasn't been so simple for us over seven, eight years, that type of player.

"There's a lot still ahead of him, there's a lot of adjustment but I think the other players have recognised his quality. You know, very quickly when you see the positions they take, the way they interact on the training pitch, you know when players see something.

"Whenever we call a new player in, they always doubt what we're doing because they think we haven't got a clue what we're doing.

"And then they work with these youngsters, and they go 'ah, OK, right now we see why' because we obviously watch them far more than everybody else."