Interim England boss Gareth Southgate insists the World Cup qualifying clash against rivals Scotland is far more important than whether he is in line to land the manager’s job on a permanent basis.
England host Gordon Strachan’s side on Friday before facing Spain in a friendly four days later in the last of Southgate’s four matches in temporary charge.
Despite being heavy favourite to land the job on a full-time basis following Sam Allardyce’s sacking, a historic clash against Scotland is all that is on the caretaker boss’ mind.
“What happens to me is not important over the next 10 days,” Southgate said.
“What is important is I am leading my team into an important and prestigious game. I’m not even considering the result going wrong.
“I was asked to take four matches. I have got another two really exciting matches and I am looking forward to that.
“I stood pitch-side at the last game [against Scotland] at Wembley and it was a fantastic atmosphere.
“It’s about leaving the team top of the qualifying group on Friday – that is my only focus.”
On the challenge of facing Scotland, Southgate added: “Whatever happened with their results does not reflect their performances.
“Their mentality for a game like this is unquestionable and they have unquestionable spirit. We will have to better that and outplay them to win the game.
“We have to have emotional control going into the game. It is important our players have an understanding of the history of the game. It is the oldest international fixture.
“We will make sure if the players don’t know about it, that they are made aware of it in the early part of the week.”
Southgate was asked about leaving Everton’s Ross Barkley out of his squad and acknowledged he had been forced into some tricky decisions.
He said: “It was difficult to make the call – to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Michail Antonio as well.
“We are fortunate we have some very good players in those positions. We have strength in depth and competition for places.
“Any of those guys could force their way into the squad. I had to take the decision for the games on Friday and Tuesday and that was the balance of squad we wanted.”
Southgate confirmed he had left out Chris Smalling and Luke Shaw for fitness reasons, but would not comment on criticism from Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho about some of his players’ reluctance to play through the pain barrier.
He added: “Chris has not played for quite a while, Luke played and had ongoing difficulties.
“Our medical teams are very close, and we liaise closely. The decision with Luke to not play [against Swansea City on Sunday] was a bit late and we are aware both players are carrying things.
“It is a club matter and it is not for me to comment on [Mourinho’s remarks] in terms of players playing with injury. In individual situations you need all the information to be able to comment.”
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