Gareth Southgate is ready to take a young, “fearless” squad to the World Cup – even if that bold approach puts the England manager’s job at risk.
Pragmatism has made way for experimentation as the Three Lions prepare for Russia next summer, with five-time champions Brazil lying in wait after Friday’s encouraging goalless draw with holders Germany.
Eric Dier will again skipper an injury-hit England side that utilises a three-man defence and the youth at its disposal, with a trio of uncapped players pushing for their debut after five made their international bow on Friday.
Jordan Pickford, Joe Gomez and man-of-the-match Ruben Loftus-Cheek impressed their boss on a night when the youngsters showed more in one match “than you might see in many more games from other players”.
Southgate says their emergence is creating “opportunities” rather than selection headaches and the England manager will not shy away from backing youth next summer.
“I will go with what I think is the best squad,” Southgate said. “At the moment I believe the best would include a lot those young players.
“It’s easy to be swayed at times by needing experience but you can have 100 experiences of the same thing or 10 different experiences that make you a more rounded person.
“What is the experience and what value it brings is a very individual thing.
“These young players have also had experience of winning youth tournaments, playing high level matches and challenges to get to where they are in their path.
“So they’ve had to show some resilience of their own. We’d love to have a team full of players who have won the Champions League but we haven’t got that.
“But I want players who will be fearless, prepared to have the ball and show what they are capable of on the biggest stage.”
That fearlessness will be matched by their manager.
“I think I was given the job because I understand the pathway and to join the whole thing up,” the former England’s Under-21s boss, and head of elite development at the Football Association, said.
“But I can’t control if we have moments of pressure, how other people respond.
“If you’re a manager and you worry about that it inhibits your decisions.
“You can become risk averse, and there’s a danger if you’re risk averse you can forget about trying to win, and try not to lose.”