A tired-looking England side have laboured through fixtures in the UEFA Nations League and Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate is already fearing the effects of fatigue later in the year
Gareth Southgate has admitted he fears his England players could suffer burnout before the World Cup has even started.
Southgate confirmed the Football Association have asked the Premier League to avoid staging any “Super Sunday” style clashes between the Big Six clubs on the final weekend of November 12/13 before England travel to Qatar for the tournament.
But Southgate also expressed fears that any notion that a winter World Cup could favour England will be undone by players only having a short summer break, a gruelling fixture list to squeeze the games in and no time for the traditional get-together in October.
Several England players will have less than three weeks’ break after the Nations League before reporting back while Harry Kane’s Tottenham are playing a friendly in South Korea on July 13. England boss Southgate said: “I think it’s manageable but the demands on the players are huge, and I think we are all conscious that we can’t keep adding to the calendar.
We are still paying the price of Covid, really, in that three games in international windows, four games now, partly due to the timing of the World Cup because we lose the October camp so everything’s condensed, competitions are added but nothing is taken out. In the end I am sure players are gaining more of a voice in that and understandably so, and they should have a voice.”
The Premier League fixtures are announced on Thursday and Southgate said back in March that the FA would ask them to try and help them with the scheduling and league bosses are understood to be willing to help as much as possible. He said: “We have asked the Premier League to have a think about things but we also understand that the fixture programme is very complicated as you can’t have Manchester City the same weekend as Manchester United (at home) and so there’s all of those variations that we recognise are tough.
“We’d have a preference for none of those big games but to be honest the difference it’s going to make is fairly marginal. It could help us with perhaps a medical report if a team played Saturday it would give us an extra day to assess.” Southgate also said that there would be no room for another get together with so many fixtures and the two Nations League games in September will be the last chance to get together before England name their squad which will be done the week before the weekend of November 12/13.
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Southgate added: “There’s going to be midweek fixtures every week whether that’s a couple of League Cup weeks but definitely six European weeks and midweeks with Premier League games so you just won’t be able to. I’ve got to bear in mind the load for the players and to drag them for a meeting is probably wouldn’t achieve very much and would actually end up being detrimental rather than anything else.”
Meanwhile, Harry Maguire has leapt to the defence of Southgate after the Three Lions boss admitted last week he will “not outstay his welcome” after being stung by recent criticism. England were held to a goalless draw by Italy on Saturday and yet Maguire insisted people should remember what Southgate has done during the past six years in charge.
Manchester United captain Maguire said: “I think he’s brought top-level football back to the country. And I know when you start winning things and getting close, the expectations become higher and higher. But he’s brought that expectation back to what it was years ago. It’s been years since we were competitive in these top games. We’ve reached a World Cup semi-final when no one thought we had a chance of going anywhere, the Euros final which was obviously a huge occasion under the biggest amount of pressure.
“I think his record speaks for itself. I don’t need to speak too much about Gareth in terms of what he’s done for this country. But of course, the more you win football matches, the higher the expectation comes. And then when you don’t win one in three games, then obviously there’s gonna be scrutiny. But I’m sure we can cope with that and one thing I say is get behind us like they have done. The fans have always been brilliant, so get behind us like they do every tournament. It’s gonna be an exciting tournament and one that we need to make sure that we’re ready for.”