GARETH SOUTHGATE has left a number of senior England players stunned by overlooking them in favour of the next generation as he unveils his final 23 for Russia today.
Joe Hart is the highest-profile casualty after struggling to nail down a regular place in West Ham’s team while out on loan from Manchester City this season.
Jack Wilshere is understood to have been another senior figure to miss out on Southgate’s squad, even with the withdrawal Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain from midfield through injury.
Southgate broke the bad news to Hart in a face-to-face meeting on Monday, with Burnley’s Nick Pope joining Jordan Pickford and Jack Butland in the three goalkeeper berths.
Southgate had always pledged to pick the players who had come up through the ranks of the junior England sides and Liverpool defender Trent Alexander-Arnold appears to be the main beneficiary.
The 19-year-old’s impressive role in guiding the Merseyside club to the Champions League final looks to have booked him a late seat as cover for Kieran Trippier, with Kyle Walker’s switch to a centre-back now considered a permanent move in the international set-up after a successful trial in March.
Even though England do not have to declare their final squad until June 4 to satisfy FIFA regulations, Southgate has chosen to go early in order to ensure the group that meet up at St George’s Park next week do not see the pre-tournament friendlies against Nigeria and Costa Rica as a trial but more an opportunity to work together.
Southgate, 47, has spent the last 48 hours contacting those players who he felt duty-bound to tell personally they had missed out after their contribution to the qualifying campaign.
The FA are keeping tight-lipped about the names who will be confirmed later today although news of disappointment was bound to seep out.
Hart’s omission certainly caused shock-waves and Jonjo Shelvey and Ryan Bertrand also look to have been left out of the final 23 despite solid seasons playing regularly for their clubs.
Danny Rose and Adam Lallana may just have proved their fitness just in time, with both playing in the final round of matches in the Premier League on Sunday.
But Southgate’s decision largely to trust in youth has been applauded by a number of former England stars, with Rio Ferdinand describing the omission of Hart as “the right decision”.
He added: “I went to the world cup in 1998 and didn’t play one minute of football, but it was a great learning curve for me.
“When I went to the next World Cup, I didn’t have anything I needed to learn, I wasn’t apprehensive about things. I’d already seen what the best methods were.“
Taking a young kid to go there and experience that I think is a much better way to go.”