“Look, I don’t only call when it’s bad news” – a voicemail Gareth Southgate had always expected to leave for Gary Cahill, having predicted the England defender would ignore his call fearing the worst.
The start of the week has been an anxious time for many England players hoping not to have their World Cup dreams shattered.
Cahill looked like he would be among the high-profile absentees after being overlooked from March’s squad, but improved Chelsea displays were enough to earn him a spot in the 23-man squad.
However, the Blues captain appeared to be expecting bad news – just as Southgate had envisaged.
“Gary Cahill I’d left out of the squad in March and I had a little bet with myself that if I called he wouldn’t pick up,” he told BBC Radio 5 live with a laugh.
“He didn’t pick up at first and then I left him a message saying ‘look, I don’t only call when it’s bad news’ so that was nice.
“Look, he’s got himself back in the team at Chelsea and has performed well.
“He looks happier in himself and happier in his game, so that was nice to be able to at least let him know that the reason for the call was a good one.”
While there was good news for Cahill, there was never any chance of a World Cup reprieve for Chris Smalling.
Despite impressing at Manchester United this season, the 31-cap defender was omitted from the previous two squads, with Southgate saying in November that he was not good enough at playing out from the back.
“He’s played well for Manchester United,” he told IRN. “I made the decision in November we had clean sheets against Germany and Brazil.
“We then played Italy and Holland, so across those four games we’ve only conceded one goal, so I didn’t see any reason to change tack on the defenders we were picking and the way we were playing.
“Chris is a man I respect a great deal, but I think we made that decision in November and I’ve not seen any reason to change the thinking on that.”
There also appears little chance of Jonjo Shelvey playing for England in the near future, despite impressing for Newcastle.
“We pick on how a player fits our system,” Southgate added.
“Do they have the attributes to play how we want to play, and does their character and personality fit into the group for the month, eight weeks we want to be away?”