London (AFP) – England manager Gareth Southgate plans to name his 23-man World Cup squad early to help avoid unnecessary anxiety among his players.
Tuesday’s promising 1-1 draw in Italy was England’s last match before Southgate names the travelling party for the June 14-July 15 finals in Russia.
Southgate has until May 14 to register a 35-man provisional squad with FIFA and needs to whittle it down to 23 by June 4 — two days after England’s next friendly, against Nigeria.
But the England boss will name his squad before the penultimate warm-up friendly, with the announcement expected shortly after the Premier League season ends on May 13.
“I’d like to (name the squad before the next friendly) because you end up being able to run a performance camp rather than a selection camp,” the England manager said. “I think there’s a difference in the feel for everybody.
“If you name 28 and they aren’t sure, but if you name 23 and five on standby — which Sven (Goran Eriksson) did well, then everyone knows where they sit.
“If you have got 28 or 30 who think they might have a chance, then there’s a lot of uncertainty and anxiety within the games,” he added. “For me, it’s much better to get the 23 secured and work from there.”
Southgate already has a “pretty clear” idea about how he will fill 20 of the slots, and over the identity of his first-choice goalkeeper and skipper.
Everton ‘keeper Jordan Pickford has perhaps edged ahead of Jack Butland while Harry Kane and Jordan Henderson are frontrunners for the captaincy.
Meanwhile, Adam Lallana is confident his fitness problems will not cost him a place in England’s World Cup plans after an injury-blighted season.
The Liverpool midfielder, who made a second-half appearance against Italy, suffered a serious thigh injury in early August, reducing him to a bit-part role for his club this season.
But the 29-year-old is bullish about his prospects of making the 23-man squad, insisting he has sufficient credit in the bank despite his lack of match time.
“I’m confident enough in my own ability and what I bring to the squad,” he said. “He (Southgate) recognises what I bring to the team, my team-mates recognise that and I recognise it also.”