Kevin Phillips: Young Lions give Gareth Southgate a headache

I’m not a great watcher of England – especially in friendlies. They’ve frustrated me over the years.

Gareth Southgate
Gareth Southgate

Qualifiers are obviously different but even they haven’t been a test this time, writes Kevin Phillips.

But I was intrigued to watch how these young players given their debuts coped.

It’s refreshing and great to see from my point of view.

They were playing in what is, and always will be, a tough international fixture against the reigning world champions Germany.

They equipped themselves really well.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek was given man of the match and did really well.

You have to give the 21-year-old huge credit because, domestically, he’s playing in a team that have only won one football match all season.

He’s been used to losing week in, week out with Crystal Palace and that knocks your confidence. For him to be given an opportunity at international level after being in a team that is struggling is great.

Tammy Abraham

But secondly he got on the pitch and showed that it hadn’t affected him one little bit. He was probably England’s most creative player, it didn’t faze him to play in front of 80,000 people against Germany.

It was a solid debut and it’s refreshing to see.

There’s striker Tammy Abraham too, he wasn’t as good as Loftus-Cheek but it was great to see him in an England shirt. I’ve watched him live many times and been very impressed with him.

There were some real positives to come from the game. Credit to the boy after his domestic season.

Jordan Pickford’s display rightly puts pressure on Joe Hart.

Joe’s had a tough season down at West Ham. It was unfortunate for Jack Butland to be ruled out with an injury on the eve of the game, I think Jack’s a wonderful young goalkeeper.

But Jordan stood up to the test. The same as Loftus-Cheek and Abraham, Kieran Trippier and Harry Maguire, all of these young players.

You look at the average age the other night, it was very young.

It’s great to see. Pickford keeps pressure on Hart moving forward to the World Cup.

Their performances have given Gareth Southgate a huge headache.

After listening to his comments the other day, he seems to know a fair amount of his squad that will travel to Russia next year.

But there’s certainly opportunity for people to get a seat on that plane.

He must be thinking that way, because he wouldn’t be putting boys into games like this unless he really thinks that some of those could sneak on to the plane and get on the pitch and make a name for themselves.

He’s not afraid to give these young guys a chance and rightly so. There might be an argument now whether he should be looking at the team he’s starting with out in Russia and bedding them together.

But with a fair few injuries it was a great chance to give other lads an opportunity in a higher pressure situation.

None of them did themselves any harm. Put it this way, none of them should be booking their summer holidays next year yet. There’s another game tomorrow and more after Christmas, they could quite easily make it there.

The lack of fear – a trait associated with the senior sides in recent tournaments – is a sign of youth, isn’t it?

Jesse Lingard (left), Eric Dier and John Stones (centre) react after a missed chance.

We’ve seen the young England teams over this summer win World Cups and tournaments over the last few years.

Lewis Cook, Angus Gunn and Dom Solanke have also come up from the under-21s squad – it’s great to see.

These boys come in, they don’t fear it, they look forward to expressing themselves.

I just hope that, over time, us as pundits and the media don’t heap too much pressure on these young guns. Just let them get in there, express themselves and see what they can do, whether they can handle it.

If we don’t put the pressure on them, it certainly looks like they’re not putting it on themselves. Looking at the performance of these young lads, it looks like they love it.

It’s refreshing and I’m looking to see these lads that have come in get their opportunity tomorrow against another wonderful side in Brazil.

With Norwich loanee Gunn and Bournemouth man Cook called up, I don’t think we can moan about international caps being given out too easily because we don’t have a massive pool of players to pick from.

I look back to when I was playing for England and I got my eight caps and was in squads for two years solid. It was very difficult to break in and get a cap in those days.

There were a lot more English players around playing in the top flight than there is today.

So why not have a look at these lads in an England shirt?

Yes, people will say ‘We’re giving out caps left, right and centre’ – so what?

At the end of the day, we want what’s best for our national team. We want to win a tournament in the coming years. Why not use these friendlies as opportunities to put these players in and have a look and test them at a higher level? You certainly couldn’t say any of the players didn’t cope very well with the situation.

I feel very proud that I got my eight caps. Yes I would’ve liked to have a few more but it was a great experience. I was competing with six or seven other strikers who at that time were all scoring goals for fun.

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