Gareth Southgate has urged Premier League managers to be brave enough to give the next generation of England internationals a chance to prove their worth.
Southgate’s side reached the last four at the World Cup finals with a young squad, and with England having been crowned world champions at under-17 and under-20s levels, he is confident there is more to come.
After the squad’s flight back from St Petersburg landed in Birmingham on Sunday afternoon, Southgate told Press Association Sport: “We now have players who I think can stand on their on two feet in the Premier League against other players from around Europe and the world, and they have proved that on a world stage at different age groups.
“But of course, managers need time. I was given an opportunity here to blood younger players in this tournament and they have proved that they could perform at a really good level.
“Managers at clubs need that time as well – and also, you have got to be brave enough to take those decisions if you think that it’s the right thing for the long term.”
Many of England’s players have returned with their reputations enhanced with Southgate highlighting the contributions of Everton keeper Jordan Pickford, Leicester defender Harry Maguire and Tottenham full-back Kieran Trippier, who had little senior international experience before heading for Russia.
He said: “There’s no doubt that some players we took who only had a handful of caps before the tournament – I’m thinking particularly of Pickford, Maguire, Trippier as the examples – they come back better players, better, more rounded individuals full of confidence for their clubs.
“The development in the main happens at clubs, but if it works both ways, that then means the clubs then view it as a positive experience for their players as well.
“I think we’ve got good competition for places and the basis of a really good team, and we’ve got some young players coming through over the next couple of years that we think can start to push.
“It’s got to become more difficult to get into the senior squad.”
Southgate has admitted he is yet to fully appreciate the excitement his team generated back at home, but while he admits it is probably ahead of schedule in its development, he knows there is still significant work to be done.
He said: “I don’t think we thought we would necessarily go to a World Cup and play in the manner that we did and the control that we did.
“But of course, we are greedy, we want more, we want to be in those latter stages of tournaments all of the time – and of course when you are 20 minutes away from a World Cup final, that’s something that you can’t help think back as to what a brilliant opportunity.
“Equally, the game against Belgium was a reminder to us that, although the second half was probably one of our best performances in the tournament, they had some outstanding players that made a difference on the day, and that’s the level that we’ve got to get to.”
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