Gareth Southgate looks to the future as he assesses England's path moving forward
Gareth Southgate has effectively shut the door on the old guard as the England manager prepares to make his squad even younger.
Just eight weeks after their memorable World Cup campaign came to an end, the Three Lions will run out at Wembley on Saturday in their UEFA Nations League opener against Spain.
Southgate has plumped for a young squad, with 28-year-old Fabian Delph the oldest member following Adam Lallana’s withdrawal.
Injury has also seen Raheem Sterling leave the initial 23-man squad and the England manager’s decision not to name attacking replacements has raised eyebrows.
“Well, we think we’ve got a strong squad,” Southgate said
“We’re three games into a new season and we looked through a lot of different players over the last couple of years and decided that because of the way we want to play and the type of players we want to work with that there are some guys that didn’t fit that model.
“And so now we’re into a fresh cycle of probably not going back to players that have been in before and that we’ve had a good look at.
“So the next group that we start to look at are probably coming through our younger age groups.
“There’s a couple of others that are still young, that still have room for growth – the (Nathaniel) Chalobahs, Will Hughes, Ross Barkleys – but I don’t want to bring them in now, three days into the camp.
“I’d rather do that when we feel they’re ready, we feel that we’re looking at them on merit and also we really like some of the age groups below and I think they’re quite likely to be the guys that push.
“But when you’re promoting young players you’ve got to be really careful about how quickly you do that because you want to give them game time, you want to bring them in, have them train and adapt to training.”
Jamie Vardy and Gary Cahill have stepped away since the World Cup, while Ashley Young – the oldest member of the squad in Russia – has been usurped for club and country by Luke Shaw.
Southgate’s focus on youth does not appear to bode well for the likes of Ryan Bertrand, Joe Hart, Chris Smalling, Aaron Cresswell and Jake Livermore, nor Daniel Sturridge given his stated preference for young strikers.
It sounds like in-form Bournemouth frontman Callum Wilson, 26, has a chance to break through down the line, but 30-year-old Troy Deeney’s Watford performances are set to go without reward.
“I think Callum is another player we worked with in the under-21s, so we know a lot about Callum,” Southgate told Sky Sports.
“He’s certainly one we have to keep monitoring.
“I think Troy is a player who really suits the way that Watford play and I’m a big fan of his.
“But I think that we play slightly differently, and I think that, for me, the next forward players that I see that should be challenging are some of the younger ones.”
Uncapped Fulham goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli is the only reinforcement to the squad since meeting up on Monday, but Southgate suggests a positive outcome for the under-21s could change things.
Aidy Boothroyd’s Young Lions face Holland in an important European Championship qualifier on Thursday, while the senior team have a friendly against Switzerland in Leicester next Tuesday.
Lewis Cook, Tammy Abraham and Dominic Solanke – who trained with the senior team on Tuesday – have all won senior caps, while Ryan Sessegnon, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Ademola Lookman and James Maddison are also with the under-21s.
Southgate added: “All being well if the under-21s do well on Thursday they’re pretty much qualified and we can think about a couple of them.
“And for training our under-19s and under-20s are here, so it is a good opportunity for us to involve some of those younger players with our squad.”