While it’s getting framed as a “dig” at Maurizio Sarri because tabloids are going to tabloid, Gareth Southgate had some very encouraging words to say about Chelsea’s Callum Hudson-Odoi, who’s been called up to England’s senior squad for the first time, straight from the U19s without even stopping in the U21s.
The upcoming (and relatively easy) Euro 2020 qualifying games are big opportunities for players old and young to show what they got, and Southgate certainly believes that the likes of Callum and fellow teenager Jadon Sancho have what it takes:
“We’ve lost a lot of players but it’s opportunities for others. They’ve been excellent. Throughout the age groups they’ve been very similar in their development. Jadon has obviously had more big match experience at this point. He has been with us as a senior team for a bit longer. But Callum has fitted in brilliantly. I’ve won’t [sic] hesitate to start either of them in the game. They’re ready. They can play no problem for us.”
Of course, Sarri has claimed repeatedly that Hudson-Odoi is ready as well, but we’ve yet to see that translate into consistent minutes, let alone consistent Premier League miniutes. While Callum’s received more minutes recently, especially when compared with the first half of the season, most of us would like to see him play more frequently.
Will Southgate live up to his claims or will he talk the talk but not really walk the walk like Sarri? As the former England U21 head coach (alongside assistant and former Chelsea man Steve Holland), Southgate is unlikely to shy away from putting the pressure of responsibility on young shoulders.
“I know a lot has been said about what’s the selection policy, is it on form or capability… in the end, the players have to have the quality to play in this shirt.
“Ideally you’d have them all playing regularly and ideally they’d have a certain number of games for their clubs but I can’t wait for clubs to pick players 50 or 100 times. That’s not the landscape we’re operating in. What we’ve seen are players who are good enough. So we’ll pick them, we’ll play them. I’ve got no hesitation.
“Callum’s fitted in. He looks every inch an England international in training and I wouldn’t hesitate to start him in any of the games. He doesn’t look fazed by it at all. I think young people today actually have great belief, have great confidence in their ability and aren’t fazed by being surrounded by older, more experienced players.”
-Gareth Southgate; source: Metro
A refreshing and encouraging attitude, certainly, from Southgate, who, unlike Chelsea, looks more than happy to evaluate and select first and foremost on talent rather than age, number of games played at certain levels, or price tag. We’ll have to wait and see how that actually translates to match action in the next few days — England take on the Czech Republic on Friday and Montenegro on Monday — but it’s certainly all good news so far for Hudson-Odoi.