Gareth Southgate has vowed there will be no let-up over the summer even though some of his Players could be running on their very last legs, in a message Premier League managers won't be too fond of. England travel to face Malta on June 16 before an Old Trafford meeting with North Macedonia three days later.
Players such as Marcus Rashford and Luke Shaw by then will be fast approaching 70 games for the season and their Manchester City counterparts are also still involved in three competitions between now and then.
With skipper Harry Kane also bearing the brunt of playing week in, week out for club and country, it would be tempting for Southgate to rest some of his assets ahead of another long campaign leading up to next summer’s Euro 2024.
But in a bid to secure qualification for Germany as early as possible, Southgate plans to play all the big guns. “We should always pick our strongest possible squad,” he said.
“We’re representing England. Caps have to be earned. Harry Kane won’t want to miss England matches in the summer - I’ll tell you that now. There’s physical freshness and there’s psychological freshness.
“And I think psychology is key. They’ll get a break before they come and we’ve talked with them about that to make that work in the best possible way. If we don’t select certain Players it sends the wrong message to the group.
“Then what’s to stop others pulling out and you could end up with a shambles pretty quickly.” England only just made it through last week after the withdrawals of Rashford, Nick Pope, Mason Mount, Reece James and Phil Foden through injury on top of Luke Shaw’s suspension.
“You saw this week if you lose one or two Players in the week then very quickly you are short,” Southgate said. “If it’s the summer and everyone has been on holiday for three weeks then it’s hard to call Players up.
“This group of Players are proud to represent them and I think that comes through in the performances that they deliver. And in terms of the mood, yeah, I think it was important that we showed our hunger again immediately after the World Cup.”
Southgate meanwhile admits he is set to snub a new play at the National Theatre in which he is portrayed by Joseph Fiennes. 'Dear England' stars the Shakespeare-in-Love actor as the England manager overseeing what is described as “the gentle revolution” of making the nation fall back in love with its football team.
Written by Sherwood creator James Graham, it follows Southgate's life from his penalty miss in 1996. However, the England manager himself has vowed to give the production, which opens on June 10 for a two-month run, a miss.
“Joseph Fiennes as me? That's generous casting!” Southgate said. “I don't know what to make of it really! No, I won't be going to watch it. It wouldn't feel right. Although the play I think is about the team.”