Gareth Southgate is adamant he has ‘no concerns’ about taking James Maddison to the World Cup after handing the Leicester star a place in his squad for Qatar and says the playmaker’s inclusion is not a token gesture.
England boss Southgate hit out at ‘misconceptions’ over Maddison, who has not played for his country since winning his only cap against Montenegro in 2019 but will join up with the rest of the 26-man party to fly to the Middle East on Tuesday.
The 25-year-old was believed to be out of favour because he visited a casino after withdrawing from the England squad through illness in October 2019 and there was speculation he would be left out for the tournament.
But following six goals for the Foxes this season and a string of standout performances, Southgate says Maddison (pictured) has ‘earned the right’ to be part of the squad.
‘He is a bit of a football student. I think there are some misconceptions about him,’ said Southgate. ‘I’ve always said it was football reasons for not selecting him and in the main the capabilities of others in the group and that’s the case. I’ve got no concerns about how he will be with the group.
‘He knows most of the lads, he has been in the junior teams with a lot of them so that isn’t a concern at all.’
Southgate insisted Maddison’s was not picked to appease his supporters and insisted he has a chance of playing in England’s opener with Iran on November 21. He added: ‘Why not? Why would any of the 26 arrive next week thinking they haven’t got a chance of getting in?
‘Some will know they have more realistic than others because they will know the experience of players who may have been playing more regularly and they will know the form of the players. But we have to have an open mind.’
Southgate also picked Kyle Walker and Kalvin Phillips, who are returning from injury, and forwards Marcus Rashford and Callum Wilson ahead of Tammy Abraham and Ivan Toney, while also leaving out Fikayo Tomori and James Ward-Prowse.
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