England manager Gareth Southgate has warned players that off-field behaviour does come into his thinking as Jack Grealish awaits sentencing over two driving offences.
The Aston Villa captain admitted two counts of careless driving last month, the first related to an incident on March 29, during the first national lockdown, and the second taking place close to his club’s training ground on October 18.
Grealish is due to appear at a sentencing hearing on December 15 and Southgate, speaking after England learned their opponents for 2022 World Cup qualification, said the discipline and off-field decision-making of players does come into his thinking when picking a squad.
“The responsibility of being an England player carries a lot of weight,” he said.
“When you’re going towards a tournament, you want as little noise as possible around the group. You want the country to connect with the team, you want the country to feel excited by the team but also proud of the team, and that they’re good ambassadors for everything we’re trying to do.
“Of course we look at reliability as being part of the criteria. On-field decision-making, often that can be reflected in some off-field decision-making. I’m not going to say, ‘This is the line and anybody that crosses it we don’t consider’ because there are so many nuances to it, having to deal with different issues.
“But we’re always observing how players are looking after themselves, how professional they are, how will they be if they’re away with us for 35, 40 days next summer? All of those things have to come into our thinking when you’re taking a squad away.”
Mason Greenwood has faced his own disciplinary issues, having been sent home after England’s Nations League qualifier in Iceland after breaching coronavirus guidelines along with Manchester City’s Phil Foden.
The Manchester United midfielder has not been called up by Southgate since, but the national team boss was impressed by his classy goal against West Ham on Saturday.
“What you see with Mason, the finish at the weekend epitomises his biggest strength for me – one chance and fantastic touch to put himself in position, and a brilliant finish,” he said.
“That’s what we were seeing towards the end of last season, which is why we called him into the squads in September.
“With young players you’re going to have moments where they’re really flying and everything’s going well and then they’re going to have little dips and he’s got great support at his football club, he’s got people who care for him there and we’ll bring him into the team and out of the team at the right times.
“Hopefully he’ll get a run of games now. At a club like Manchester United every game is important so you’re always having to perform under pressure and with high expectation.”
England will take on Poland, Hungary, Albania, Andorra and San Marino in qualifying for the 2022 finals in Qatar, with the matches to be played between March and November of next year.