Southgate confirms Gomez injury, hits out at schedule

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Martyn Herman
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By Martyn Herman

LONDON (Reuters) - England manager Gareth Southgate has hit out at the demands being placed on players after Liverpool central defender Joe Gomez suffered a knee injury in training on Wednesday ahead of Thursday's friendly against Ireland.

Gomez has been withdrawn from the England squad and sent back to the Premier League champions.

"I can't tell you how serious it is because he is yet to have scans," Southgate told reporters at his pre-match news conference.

"What was upsetting to see, he was in a fair bit of pain. There was nobody around him when the injury happened. I didn't like that element of it."

While Gomez's injury is disappointing for Southgate ahead of the Ireland game and Nations League matches against Belgium and Iceland, it is potentially a massive blow for Liverpool who were already without key central defender Virgil van Dijk because of a season-ending knee injury.

"We're all hopeful for him that it's not what it might be. But it's not a good situation," Southgate said. "We can't speculate but my immediate thoughts are with him.

"We're hoping and praying it is not going to be a long-term one."

Southgate took the opportunity to criticise the packed schedule that has put huge demands on the players, due in no small part to the COVID-19 pandemic that meant the domestic seasons started later than normal.

The 23-year-old Gomez has played 15 games for club and country in little over two months with the Premier League, Champions League and internationals coming thick and fast.

"There are lots of discussions about extra subs. But the bigger picture here is, everybody in the game needs to work together," Southgate said.

"With a winter World Cup (in 2022) there was an opportunity this year to think differently. The pandemic has thrown up all sorts of difficulties for people. But everybody has tried to cram the programme into a smaller period.

"We are going to see injuries. It's a desperately sad situation. When you see the impact on an individual, it hits home even more. These discussions should have happened in the summer. We could have adjusted the calendar in its entirety and all worked together. But people haven't done that."

(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond)