UEFA squad rule gives Gareth Southgate an extra selection headache

UEFA rule gives Gareth Southgate an EXTRA selection headache with Jadon Sancho, Ben Chilwell and Harry Maguire first unlucky trio to be axed from 23-man matchday squads… the England boss is treading a line to keep the peace

  • Gareth Southgate has been handed another selection headache by UEFA rules
  • Having to select 23 for matchdays means leaving three men out each match
  • Ben Chilwell, Jadon Sancho and Harry Maguire were the first disappointed three
  • Southgate lobbied against having 26-man squads as he knew of harmony issues 

UEFA’s decision to increase squad allocation from 23 to 26 players was always a headache in the making and Gareth Southgate saw it coming.

There was a reason the England boss lobbied against the extension as he knew it meant having to cut three players from his match squad for every game and was wary of the implications of that dynamic.

He wasn’t the only one — Spain boss Luis Enrique ignored the organisers’ rule change by selecting just 24 players in his squad.

Ben Chilwell (left) and Jadon Sancho (right) were among first three victims of UEFA squad rule

Harry Maguire was third member of the 26-man England squad to be left out on matchday

Both coaches understood how devastating it would be for the unlucky trio. They knew how it could threaten squad harmony — or worse, create disharmony.

On Sunday, Jadon Sancho, Ben Chilwell and Harry Maguire were the unlucky players. Maguire’s omission had little consequence, he was never going to be considered for the clash against Croatia due to injury.

For Sancho and Chilwell, however, the news would have arrived like a shot to the sternum they didn’t see coming.

Southgate was adamant his axed pair took it with good grace, saying: ‘Through no fault of their own we have to make a decision somewhere along the line and whoever we did that with is going to be a very good player who didn’t deserve it,’ said the England boss.

The decision on who to leave out each game gives Gareth Southgate an extra headache

‘There wasn’t a problem because of how professionally they took those discussions and how much respect they’ve shown for the whole group.’

Yet, while Sancho and Chilwell may have accepted the decision, they wouldn’t be human if there wasn’t a storm brewing internally.

Chilwell won the Champions League with Chelsea, and Sancho remains one of the most sought-after young stars in European football — a probable move to Manchester United is gathering pace.

Regardless of their previous achievements, Sunday’s Euros opener would have been one of the proudest moments their careers. Loved ones would have been at Wembley; to not be involved at all would have wounded their egos.

On Monday, as if to rub their faces in it again, both players joined in full training with the substitutes from the 1-0 win over Croatia at Wembley, while those involved from the start stayed indoors to complete a recovery session.

Who’s to say Chilwell and Sancho won’t suffer the same ignominy against Scotland on Friday? Will they take the news so ‘professionally’ if they are left out again? It is certainly another issue for Southgate to ponder.

Luis Enrique saw the squad size issue coming and only selected 24 players for his Spain squad

The England manager works hard to ensure harmony within his camp. He will make sure he doesn’t go too long in between talking to each player individually, no matter their importance or profile, during camps. He is also regularly on the phone to members of his squad in between international windows.

Club cliques that previously derailed England at tournaments no longer exist thanks to him.

Trevor Sinclair tells a story about how challenging it can be to be a squad player at a major tournament. Having not made the bench for England’s opening game of the 2002 World Cup in Japan, the former Manchester City and West Ham winger decided to have a game of tennis the day before game two against Argentina.

‘I had been in camp for a few weeks but hadn’t played much football,’ Sinclair revealed.

‘I was just eating all the pasta and all the carbs they were serving us every day and just felt sluggish and lethargic.

Sancho and Chilwell are stars at club level and will have been disappointed at their omission

‘I hadn’t been involved in the match squad so what harm could a game of tennis do? I had a game with Kieron Dyer. It was a hot day but I figured it would be a good workout.

‘That was until Sven Goran Eriksson found out. He sent Steve McClaren out and hauled us in for a right old ear-bashing.’

Sinclair’s story is indicative of what it can be like for fringe players in a bloated summer squad. Boredom and a sense of isolation can ruin players during a tournament.

Similar challenges will now present themselves to players like Chilwell and Sancho. Once Maguire is fit enough for selection, there will be another player sidelined.

Through no fault of his own, Southgate is having to tread carefully to keep the peace.

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