Eric Dier claims England must mature quickly if they are to shine in Russia
Southgate fielded an inexperienced team with an average age of just 23 in their 1-0 friendly defeat by Germany in Dortmund on Wednesday, and it is likely to be a similarly youthful line-up in the World Cup qualifying match against Lithuania at Wembley tomorrow night.
But Tottenham midfielder Dier says England have to come of age sooner rather than later with a World Cup finals just 16 months away.
Dier, 23, won his 16th cap in Dortmund, but dismissed the idea the tournament might come too soon for this squad.
“We might be young but we can’t play the age card forever,” he said. “I’m 23. I don’t think that’s very young.
“We have a lot of players around that age. But we’ve all played a lot of games. Age isn’t everything.
Eric Dier could not prevent England losing to Germany on Wednesday
England rugby coach Eddie Jones visits Three Lions training session
Fri, March 24, 2017
England rugby coach Eddie Jones casts an eye over the Three Lions' latest training session ahead of their World Cup qualifier against Lithuania at Wembley on Sunday (5pm)
The FA via Getty Images
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England rugby coach Eddie Jones attends the Three Lions' latest training session
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“I like to go on a game-by-game basis. It would be foolish to think any further than that. We have to work hard to try and improve and get where we want to. There’s no point putting a target on it.
“I don’t want age to be an excuse. I am not planning on using the age card. I have never used age as an excuse and I don’t really care how old someone is. If they are good enough they are old enough. That’s the saying and I believe in that.
“It’s a matter of experience in games. You can be 21 and have played more games than someone who is 23. Someone like Raheem Sterling has probably played loads of games at a very high level, so he is extremely experienced.
“You gain experience from playing matches, no matter what age you are. I’m not bothered about the number of your age – it’s more about the number of games you have played.”
Joe Hart will captain England against Lithuania
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino has regularly given his younger players, like Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Harry Winks and Josh Onomah, chances in the first team since he took over.
Dier added: “Last season maybe we proved the age thing not to be too much of a factor. There were teams that were a lot more experienced than us, but we seemed to do okay and we are doing okay again this season. It’s more of an attitude, and a mentality than anything to do with age.”
Southgate will however turn to experience to lead his team tomorrow, with goalkeeper Joe Hart, a relative veteran in this squad at the age of 29, captaining the team in his 70th appearance.
Chelsea’s Gary Cahill at 31 was England’s oldest player on Wednesday and skippered the side, but he is suspended from tomorrow’s game, when England can further strengthen their grip on Group F, which they lead by two points from Slovenia after three wins and a draw from their four games.