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Gareth Southgate says if he could have picked five or six right-backs for England’s European Championship campaign he “would have done”.
Boss Southgate has named four right-backs in his 26-man squad for this summer’s tournament.
Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold is joined by Chelsea’s Reece James, Atletico Madrid’s Kieran Trippier and Manchester City’s Kyle Walker.
Southgate said his squad consists of the “best 26 footballers”.
The Three Lions play two friendlies this week before starting their Euro 2020 campaign against World Cup finalists Croatia on 13 June, followed by a huge match against rivals Scotland on 18 June, rounding off Group D against the Czech Republic on 22 June.
Southgate said: “We have four players that play sometimes at right-back for their clubs.
“Kieran has been playing at wing-back, Reece has played right of a three or wing-back, Trent plays at right-back and Kyle has played centre-half for us in a three and has also played at left-back against Denmark.
“Basically they are in the best 26 footballers and that is why they are in the squad. If I could have picked five or six right-backs I would have done.
“We are here to play nine games. We already have some injury doubts in the group. We need adaptability, good players, good professionals, tactically savvy players and we are fortunate we have old and young players who fit all those categories.”
Atletico Madrid defender Trippier, who won the La Liga title this season, said it was a “very special moment” to be included in the squad.
“I know the competition I have got in the right-back position,” he said. “It’s just about playing well for my club, and I feel like I have done that this season.
“There are four quality right-backs and as Gareth said, we can all play in different positions to help the team.
“As competitive right-backs, we just want to help each other and help the team – and all four of us will do that.”
Injured Maguire and Henderson ‘have a bit to do’
Southgate was able to name 26 players in his squad to help with the workload on players following the coronavirus pandemic, three more than at previous tournaments.
Manchester United captain Harry Maguire is included despite missing the last four league games of the season and the Europa League final following ankle ligament damage.
Liverpool skipper Jordan Henderson also makes the cut, even though the midfielder has been out of action since February with a groin injury.
Southgate said both players face a race against time to play in the opening game, while he was told on Friday that United forward Mason Greenwood would withdraw because of a groin problem.
“We know exactly where he is at,” Southgate said regarding Maguire’s availability. “Our medical team have been with him in Manchester and he hasn’t travelled to join up with us.
“Maguire and Henderson both have a bit to do to be available but the possibility is that they can play a part and the fact that they are such fantastic characters to have around the group.
“Henderson, with his leadership and presence, is having an effect on other people, especially the younger ones. Given we were able to pick 26, the opportunity to have those two with us was a straightforward one.”
Bellingham ‘a hugely exciting player’
With an average age of 25 years and three months, England will go into the tournament with one of the youngest squads.
Borussia Dortmund’s 17-year-old midfielder Jude Bellingham is one of those included and will be the second-youngest England player to go to a major tournament after Theo Walcott in 2006.
Bellingham, who won the German Cup with Dortmund this season, is in line to win his third cap, while versatile 19-year-old Bukayo Saka is aiming to add to his four caps having stood out in an Arsenal side that had a poor season.
“He is phenomenal,” Southgate said on Bellingham. “Just in training in the last couple of days, to have a 17 year old who wants to compete with senior players, not only has the techniques but the competitiveness and maturity, he is a hugely exciting player.
“He will be an important player for England, we are not just taking him for the experience, that will be enormous for him and future England managers because I don’t see with him anything in his character that means he won’t succeed.
“His performance levels for Borussia Dortmund in the big Champions League games was what struck us, he stood up in those big moments and they are the moments we are assessing the players on.”
On Saka, Southgate added: “He has performed exceptionally well for us, he has performed well in a team that has had a difficult season.
“We saw real personality in his performance when he came on against Belgium, and he is adaptable, being able to play four or five different positions is a real plus for us.”
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