World Cup winners told to rise to the next level
Southgate wants Paul Simpson’s squad to build on the progress they have made at international level by getting more game time for their clubs.
The Young Lions won the trophy in South Korea, a first international title at any level since the senior side lifted the World Cup at Wembley in 1966, with a 1-0 win over Venezuela courtesy of a goal from Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
Dominic Solanke, who recently agreed to join Liverpool from Chelsea, won the tournament’s golden ball award as top player, scoring twice in the 3-1 win over Italy at the semi-final stage.
Newcastle goalkeeper Freddie Woodman saved a penalty to keep the lead over Venezuela intact, but spent last season on loan at Scottish Premiership side Kilmarnock as his parent club won the Championship.
Of England’s winning squad, former Leeds United midfielder Lewis Cook – the captain of the team – played a total of 431 minutes for Bournemouth last season.
In total the 13 players who featured against Venezuela played 1,094 Premier League minutes between them last season – equivalent to 12 full matches.
Southgate believes it is vital for the whole squad to make their mark at club level to build on their title win in Suwon.
He said: “A lot of these lads have dipped their toes in the water at first-team level. The responsibility is over to them, what they can do next.
“You can never stand still as a young player, there’s always another challenge for you. Equally, I think when you win a tournament like that it shows everybody that we’ve got good young players.
“Without an opportunity for them to go and show that at first-team level, then it’s very difficult to progress.”
Southgate revealed England’s success in South Korea had come on the back of a change in emphasis over the types of games played by the England age level teams.
He said: “A couple of years ago we made a big decision to improve the games programme to give our younger teams better experience of playing teams from around the world.
“At the time it was a bit controversial. At Under-16 level we only ever played the Victory Shield, which was Ireland, Scotland and Wales, but we felt it was important that those sorts of games are the types of games that our kids get every week at their clubs.
“We needed to go and play the likes of Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and so on.”
This preparation paid off as England’s Under-20s played away against Mexico, a team they also came up against in South Korea.
“This group that won last week, in the last year they went out to Mexico and ended up playing Mexico in the quarter-final. Two months ago they went out to South Korea.
“I think we’ve managed to expose them to a good-quality games programme. We’ve been able to see they are at that level.”
Southgate gave the example of his own experience as the first time he faced a side from Brazil was at senior level.
“When I was a senior player, playing against Brazil was the first experience I’d ever had of running out against them,” he added.
“Our younger players are used to playing against these guys and have the confidence they need.
“Now they have won a trophy, not only does that give them belief, but it sets a good example for those that follow. They have to try and strive to reach those levels.”
Harry Kane will keep the captain’s armband for England’s season-ending friendly in France tonight, where Tom Heaton and Jack Butland will play instead of under-scrutiny Joe Hart.
Fresh from Saturday’s frantic World Cup qualifying draw against old foes Scotland, the Three Lions have returned to the country that last year witnessed one of their lowest moments.
Bowing out of Euro 2016 to Iceland still sticks in the craw and has seen Southgate attempt to bring leadership to a group that was lacking just that in Nice.
Kane became the fifth different captain in seven matches in the 2-2 draw at Hampden Park and will lead again today.
“I am not committing to a timescale on that,” Southgate said after being asked when a permanent captain would be named.
“I think it has been a good experience to develop other leaders.
“We’re seeing that not only in terms of responsibility, but the way the group are prepared to contribute when we’re discussing games, when we’re reviewing games.
“There’s lots of potential leaders in different ways – some are at the forefront, speak first, lead from the front in different ways.
“Others are more thoughtful, take responsibility on the ball, show leadership in other ways. Everybody’s different.
“But I am not in a rush to make that decision.”