England are set to play their first match of the latest international break tonight, as they face Andorra in their World Cup qualifying group. Gareth Southgate left out two of the hottest prospects in Mason Greenwood and Jude Bellingham from the squad for these fixtures.
You’d imagine that the manager would want to jump at the opportunity to further embed the Borussia Dortmund star into the squad, as well as to reintroduce Manchester United’s number eleven to the fold after over a year out of the squad.
However, it seems that the manager does not want to overwork two youngsters who have accumulated 7,587 minutes of club playing time between them since the start of last season.
Bellingham joined the squad in the summer as England reached the final of Euro 2020, and between being on the bench in the agonising defeat against Italy and his first start back in black and yellow, the 18-year-old had just 27 days to recover — after one of the busiest campaigns in recent history.
Greenwood was in the provisional squad for the tournament, but pulled out due to an injury. This meant that the United man could be afforded some well-earned rest through the summer after a brilliant end to the 2020/21 season. However, after his previous experience with the national side, it has recently been reported by Mail Online that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has asked Southgate to delay the youngsters return to the England squad, and wants the situation to be handled with care.
Speaking on the omission of the two talented stars, Southgate wanted to ensure their importance, but also highlight the need to take things slowly, with the development of their pair being the most crucial aspect.
“They don’t come as a pair but they are both similar situations in that they are young players with a heavy load at the moment,” Southgate explained last week in a press conference.
“I’ve spoken with both of the players. Jude at the moment has a high level of matches. He’s playing Champions League games, he’s playing league games. As an 18-year-old he had a full season last season then into a European Championship so no break.
“We have to remember these lads are physically growing. When we are talking about young player development, we have to be careful how we handle them and make sure that they are two players we feel can be really exciting players for England for the future. We don’t want to overload them and we’ve got to be making sure we make the right decisions.
“It’s not a case that we don’t think the players deserve to be in the squad. We’d be picking them if we didn’t have those longer-term aims and ambitions in mind, I think.”
When you consider the fact that a single appearance would’ve been the likely outcome for either of the youngsters in the two fixtures across the week, it’s easy to understand why remaining at their clubs is the decision that was ultimately made.
These are top players, who could become some of the world’s best for years on end if developed correctly. Two games missed against Andorra and Hungary won’t be influential in the long and healthy careers that these two talented youngsters will have for both club and country.