Gareth Southgate will not to risk Chelsea’s Reece James at the World Cup, but has been told to take Kyle Walker and Kalvin Phillips to Qatar.
Like almost every national boss, Southgate has had to deal with a multitude of injury worries with the winter tournament starting just a week after the club schedule is paused.
The Three Lions have already lost left-back Ben Chilwell to a ligament injury, and his club mate James will also not travel.
The right-back and his family have been left ‘devastated’ by the news, with Southgate deciding he couldn’t risk the slot in his squad with James unavailable until the latter rounds of the tournament.
“The minute I injured my knee, I knew the turnaround to make the World Cup would be tight,” he wrote on his social media channels.
“But I always felt it was possible.
“I’ve worked harder than I ever thought I could to give myself the best chance of going and truly believed I could help the team.
“I appreciate there was a risk on both sides, but it was one I was willing to take.
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“Good luck to the boys. I’ll be back soon. Stay safe and sending love.”
Two other injury concerns for the England boss are that of Manchester City duo Walker and Phillips, who have been key during his reign, particularly in their run to the Euro 2020 final.
But Phillips has played just 14 minutes of football since joining the Premier League champions from Leeds in a £45million summer deal.
However, he’s back in Pep Guardiola’s squad as he recovers from a shoulder injury, and could feature in City’s final two games before the World Cup, against Chelsea and Brentford.
Meanwhile, Walker, a stalwart under Southgate, had surgery on a groin injury in October, but Guardiola has similarly suggested he’s close to a return.
And for talkSPORT hosts Ally McCoist and Stuart Pearce, the City duo are worth the risk, even if James wasn’t.
“I would take both,” McCoist said. “It’s an absolute no-brainer Kyle Walker.
“The only question mark on Phillips is his complete lack of football, but if all things are on a level playing field the two of them would be in England’s 26, absolutely.”
Pearce agreed, saying: “Kalvin Phillips’ specialised position puts him in a place where you’d want to take him, but I can’t remember the last time he played 90 minutes, that’s the worry.
“If he proves himself and gets some form of football this evening, you’d be very tempted because that’s him and Declan [Rice] playing in that specialised position.”
England begin their campaign against Iran on 21 November.
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