GARETH SOUTHGATE BELIEVES England face a more complicated build-up to the European Championship than any other nation as he juggled fixtures and fitness by naming a 33-man provisional squad.
With the Three Lions dealing with issues such as injuries and European final absentees, the Football Association confirmed a larger provisional group would be announced on Tuesday rather than the definitive squad.
Southgate has named a 33-man party that will be trimmed down to 26 players on 1 June, allowing him to include injury doubts such as Harry Maguire, Jordan Henderson and Kalvin Phillips.
Ben White, Ben Godfrey and Aaron Ramsdale received their first senior call-ups as Southgate selected Trent Alexander-Arnold among four right-backs in his larger pool of players.
As well as those players looking to prove their fitness, Southgate has 12 members of his squad still tied down to club commitments with the Europa League and Champions League finals.
“Really, I think our situation is more complicated than any other country at the moment,” Southgate said when asked why he had opted to name a larger initial squad.
“We have known for a little while that, of this 33, we’ve got 12 players still to play in the European finals this week so we were always going to need some additional players for the first part of our camp.
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“Add to that, we’ve got some injuries that are at various stages – a couple that we have very little information about at the moment and a couple that are back into training or back into matches in Jordan and Jack Grealish but still not in training consistently, not training with the team in Jordan’s case.
“So we felt that more time is going to help us make better decisions. I’ve always said my preference was to name the squad as a clean 26. We were able to do that ahead of Russia (for 2018 World Cup).
“We had standby players that knew their role and that is always a preferable situation but we have not got an ideal hand of cards this time.
“There are a lot of unknowns. Information and evidence is really important when you are making decisions and we’ll have a lot more in the next seven days and we’ll be able to make the best possible decisions that we can.”
Southgate confirmed the Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City players in his squad are likely to get “five or six” days’ break before linking up with the group following their European finals.
One player who can link up is Liverpool full-back Alexander-Arnold, who was a surprise omission for March’s World Cup qualification triple-header. He returns alongside Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier and Reece James as one of four options at right-back.
“I could be drawn into talking about any individual and then get myself into a mess,” Southgate said when asked about Alexander-Arnold’s recall.
“I know people think I have an obsession with right-backs. I just see four good footballers. We go into a tournament with all sorts of flexible players that can fill different roles.”
Alexander-Arnold’s club-mate Henderson is also included despite not having played since February following groin surgery.
Southgate also said he does not expect any possible transfer of Tottenham striker Harry Kane to happen during the European Championship.
Kane is reported to have told Spurs he wants to leave this summer and was keen for his future to be sorted before the tournament begins in a couple of weeks.
That always looked unlikely, not least because Tottenham will not let their star man, who is under contract for another three years, go without a fight, but also because of the short timeframe.