Soccer

Southgate says experimental England must have right mindset against Australia

Gareth Southgate wants England to have the right mindset against Australia (Jane Barlow/PA)
Gareth Southgate wants England to have the right mindset against Australia (Jane Barlow/PA) Gareth Southgate wants England to have the right mindset against Australia (Jane Barlow/PA)

Gareth Southgate wants England’s players to be mentally “spot on” and grab their opportunity to impress as he experiments against old sporting rivals Australia.

The Euro 2020 runners-up can seal their place at next summer’s edition in Germany when they host holders Italy at Wembley in Tuesday’s Group C encounter.

But first comes just England’s second friendly since March 2022 after a run of 16 consecutive competitive matches came to an end with last month’s 3-1 victory at Scotland.

Southgate avoided over-experimenting in Glasgow but still managed to try new things, just as he will in Friday’s sold-out encounter under the arch against the Socceroos.

“It’s one of the great sporting rivalries and if Australia have any sniff that we’re not taking the game seriously, then we will be in trouble,” the England boss said.

“Our mindset has got to be spot on. Equally, we’ve still got a bit of work to do to qualify for a European Championship, but we are potentially six games away from that.

“We have good players and we need to give people opportunities to show what they can do.

“That is part of our bond as a team, making sure people get chances to play and feel part of the group and important within that, so we have to get that right balance.

England Training Session and Media Day – St. George’s Park – Tuesday 10th October
England Training Session and Media Day – St. George’s Park – Tuesday 10th October Southgate’s side are closing in on qualification (Simon Marper/PA)

“Most importantly, we have got good players and we need to have them in positions on the field where they can do their best work and feel comfortable, positions they play with their clubs, so that the transfer is as smooth as possible.”

Jarrod Bowen will be hoping to make a dream Wembley debut after the West Ham star returned to the England set-up for the first time since September 2022.

Chelsea defender Levi Colwill could make his debut, while uncapped Arsenal striker Eddie Nketiah and in-form Aston Villa frontman Ollie Watkins will hope to prove a worthy back-up to skipper Harry Kane.

Southgate would not confirm who will captain England on Friday, but it appears unlikely that Bayern Munich sharpshooter Kane will be leading the line from the start.

Asked if the Australia game is a chance for players to make their mark, the England boss said: “Yeah, I mean, I think one of the things we always want to do is to make playing for England enjoyable.

England Training Session and Media Day – St. George’s Park – Tuesday 10th October
England Training Session and Media Day – St. George’s Park – Tuesday 10th October Levi Colwill could make his debut against Australia (Simon Marper/PA)

“It’s to take the tension out of playing for England, we want the lads to express themselves.

“Equally, when you play for England there is a pressure and you know that you’re not going to get 10 opportunities unless you play well.

“Every player that comes into the squad experiences that, has always done.

“So, you can’t relieve that. No matter what I say to a player, he’s going to know that, so players coming in they are opportunities and you have to grasp them.

“But they’ve had to do that at every stage of their career as well, when they first got into a club as a young player or when they first got in the first team at the club.

England Training Session and Media Day – St. George’s Park – Tuesday 10th October
England Training Session and Media Day – St. George’s Park – Tuesday 10th October Harry Maguire revealed David Beckham had been in touch (Simon Marper/PA)

“They are used to that and all of them are more than capable of going and playing incredibly well, and they’ll also be very excited about a full house at Wembley and the opportunity to play there.”

Friday will only be England’s second match at Wembley this year and one that Harry Maguire would love to be involved in having found playing time hard to come by at Manchester United.

The under-fire defender was hounded by Scotland fans at Hampden Park on his last England appearance, which he this week revealed led former skipper David Beckham to get in contact with him.

“I was not aware (of the call from Beckham), but I can see from Harry’s comments how much it meant to him,” the England boss said.

“David has played at United, he has played for England, so he knows the world Harry is living in and it will have meant the world to him to get that support.

“(Maguire) is a very strong character, but nonetheless he is a human being and I am sure a call like that would have meant a huge amount to him.”