England manager Gareth Southgate hoping coaches will get a say on hectic schedules
The England manager is now preparing in earnest for those finals after discovering his side will face Poland, Hungary, Albania, Andorra and San Marino in qualification, with the first matches taking place in March next year, in the run-up to the rescheduled Euro 2020.
Southgate knows there will be challenges over how England and other nations prepare for both competitions, with the Middle East tournament set to create havoc for the club game as it takes place in November and December.
“I spoke before about the missed opportunity I felt given where that World Cup sits to juggle the whole calendar really – the UEFA calendar and the individual leagues,” he said.
“I would hope that within all the discussions that coaches are consulted. It doesn’t have to be me, but maybe coaches of the big clubs, maybe all the national managers, whatever it might be.
“I know Arsene Wenger is heavily involved at FIFA so I have confidence that he is going to put the right sorts of arguments on the table and think about player welfare, because I know he’ll be thinking about that.
“But generally speaking a lot of those decisions are made without the input of coaches I have to say.”
Before that Southgate has Euro 2020 coming up next summer.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has warned Southgate may inherit a jaded bunch of players, and be missing a number of his top stars as a consequence of a punishing fixture schedule, alongside the failure of a sufficient majority of clubs to stick with five substitutes for the 2020-21 season.
Southgate admits there is only so much he and the Football Association can do about it.
“I know that there have been talks about the FA Cup going that route (to five substitutes) so they’re the bits at the FA that we can control,” he said.
“I think Jurgen will be frustrated because in Germany the DFB and the Bundesliga work so closely together on those things – we don’t have that power on fixtures with the Premier League and we don’t have that power on the substitutions.”
England will hope to have enough quality to book a place in Qatar by finishing top of their six-team group, but Poland appear the biggest danger, and in particular star Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski.
“He’s a fantastic player. He’s as good a number nine as there is – him and Harry (Kane) and (Romelu) Lukaku when you think about number nines around Europe, they’re three that immediately come to mind,” said Southgate.
“He’s a player that can hurt you and his goalscoring record for his country is phenomenally good.”
The Poles have faced the Three Lions in qualifying for the 1974, 1990, 1994, 2006 and 2014 World Cups, as well as taking on England in the finals in Mexico in 1986.
Southgate said: “There’s a great history of that fixture. There was a spell when we seemed to draw them every time.”
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 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.
“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.”
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