Gareth Southgate has cautioned Reece James about the potential risk of opting out of the latest England squad, emphasizing that there’s only one more international break before Euro 2024.
The Chelsea captain, who has faced injury challenges throughout his young career and recently recovered from a knee problem, chose not to join the England squad for matches against Malta and North Macedonia. Instead, he focused on rebuilding his full fitness.
While acknowledging James’s efforts to prioritize his physical condition, Southgate pointed out the inherent risk James has taken.
The England squad boasts considerable depth at right-back, with players like Kyle Walker, Trent Alexander-Arnold, and Kieran Trippier vying for positions alongside James. With only friendlies against Brazil and Belgium in March before Euro 2024, James might face a challenge to regain his spot.
Southgate expressed his understanding of James’s cautious approach, considering his history of injuries and the importance of having a fit and consistently performing player. Despite the potential competition and risk, Southgate conveyed confidence in James’s abilities. The manager revealed that he and James had extensive discussions about the decision, with James keen on clarifying his commitment to the national team.
Southgate acknowledged the complexities of James’s injury record, recognizing the need for managing his physical well-being. He stressed the importance of physical reliability, indicating that the current training reality involves James playing followed by a couple of days’ recovery. Despite expressing a desire to have James in the squad, Southgate conveyed calmness about the situation, understanding the player’s perspective and remaining confident in the decisions made.