Gareth Southgate believes ‘innocence’ of youth can aid England’s Euro title bid

England take on Serbia in their opening match on Sunday.

Gareth Southgate’s England start their Euro 2024 campaign on Sunday
Gareth Southgate’s England start their Euro 2024 campaign on Sunday (UEFA Handout/PA)

Gareth Southgate believes the “innocence” of youth can help England in their quest to become Euro 2024 champions.

Three years on from losing the Wembley final to Italy on penalties, they are looking to go one better and open this campaign against Serbia on Sunday.

Southgate named a bold 26-man selection for this summer’s shot at glory in Germany, where 12 of England’s players are heading to a first major tournament.

But the national team boss believes such inexperience can be a help rather than a hinderance, especially given such players complement an experienced core.

“We have got a balance of players who have been some really big nights together and others who have a rawness, an energy and an excitement about them of being in their first tournament,” Southgate said.

“Both things I think are adding to the group. In Russia we were one of the youngest teams, one of the least experienced teams, so I don’t think it is essential that you have experience throughout.

“And equally we have enough players who have played on the big nights, either with us or their clubs, and they are able to deliver in those moments. That of course at times can be helpful.

“Innocence is a bonus, there are lots of players. When I went into Euro ’96 despite the end I had a good tournament, and I only went in with three or four caps.

“So, I think there is opportunity for people to make a name for themselves.

“This is a moment in time for them and we have picked some players who are in good form and showing that on the training pitch and they can add to what we are doing.”

Such is the youth in the squad that Southgate has decided to name 20-year-old Jude Bellingham in his four-man leadership group to ensure all voices in his young squad are heard.

The 20-year-old Jude Bellingham (left) is now among England’s leadership group
The 20-year-old Jude Bellingham (left) is now among England’s leadership group (Adam Davy/PA)

Up-and-coming talents and the experience of reaching at least the quarter-final of all three major tournaments under Southgate has helped build an inherent belief that England can win this summer.

“I don’t think there is any question that there is strong belief in the group,” he said ahead of the opener in Gelsenkirchen.

“Equally, I said to them last night when we had a meeting about tournaments and lessons we can take from the past, that there are things we should discard from the past.

“To have the experiences we’ve had are really, really important and irrelevant in equal measure. We have to go and play and get it right tomorrow.”

Trent Alexander-Arnold could start in midfield for England
Trent Alexander-Arnold could start in midfield for England (Mike Egerton/PA)

England face a tricky challenge against Serbia at the Veltins Arena, where Trent Alexander-Arnold is tipped to start in midfield.

The right-back has shown flashes of qualities in that position for the national team, but former captain, and all-time top scorer, Wayne Rooney says he “wouldn’t have him anywhere near the middle of the pitch”.

“Everybody’s more than entitled to opinions, so that’s our world,” Southgate said. “We have to accept that. Then we have to go and show what we can do. I’m really happy.

“I spoke to Trent about playing in this role over a year ago. It’s something he’s been really keen to do. He’s been really receptive to feedback and every bit of information.

“We know he can be a really special player. Equally we know it’s not something he’s been doing for the last five years. There is an element of the unknown to it.

“But I think it’s an opportunity that’s worth grasping because he could be something incredibly special.”