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England squad not affected by Gareth Southgate speculation, says Jordan Pickford

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 21 Mar 2024

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Jordan Pickford says speculation over Gareth Southgate’s future makes “no difference” to an England squad fully focused on winning the European Championship.

Having reached the World Cup semi-finals and quarter-finals either side of finishing as Euro 2020 runners-up, the team are favourites to be crowned continental champions this summer.

Euro 2024 could well be Southgate’s fourth and final tournament in charge, with the former England defender’s Football Association contract expiring at the end of the year.

The 53-year-old says contract talks are on the back burner as his focus is on glory in Germany, but background noise has increased this week following talk of Manchester United’s potential interest.

Asked what difference speculation about Southgate’s immediate future makes, England goalkeeper Pickford told BBC Radio 5 Live: “I think there’s no difference. I think there’s one goal and that’s to win a European trophy.

“Us as players, and I think the manager and the staff, that’s all our goal is, to be focused on winning the European Championship.

“I think all the noise around anything else will probably come after that.”

Southgate handed Pickford his England debut in November 2017 and made him number one heading into the following year’s World Cup in Russia.

“His character has not changed,” the 58-cap goalkeeper said. “He’s a top man manager and he’s got a great set of staff around him.

“The training’s always good with the manager and everything we do is good.”

Southgate is currently working with Pickford and his team-mates ahead of England’s friendlies against Brazil and Belgium, when the Everton goalkeeper could be joined on the pitch by some familiar faces.

Anthony Gordon came through the ranks at Goodison Park and has gone on, in Pickford’s opinion, to become Newcastle’s best player this season.

The 23-year-old was part of the England side that won last summer’s Under-21 European Championship, as was highly-rated Toffees centre-back Jarrad Branthwaite.

“He’s been really good, a bit of a Rolls Royce,” Pickford said of the defender after his first senior call-up. “He’s calm and he makes the right decisions as well.

“He’s been quality this season and it’ll be a massive honour for him and his family to get called up for England, but fully deserved as well, I would say.”

Gordon, Branthwaite and fellow new boy Kobbie Mainoo are desperate to make their England debuts in a camp Ben White opted not to join.

The Arsenal defender went to the last Euros and World Cup, but Southgate revealed last week that he does not currently want to be selected by the national team.

White left Qatar early due to “personal reasons” and reports emerged of a fall-out between him and assistant Steve Holland, although the England boss last week stressed there was “never any issue” between them.

Asked about White’s decision to snub an England recall, Pickford said: “Nothing’s been said. We just crack on as normal.

“That’s his own decision and you never know what’s happening at home, so you can’t really judge anyone I would say.

“But, for me, I love nothing more than wearing the England shirt and when I get the opportunity I grab it with both hands, which I’ve done for the last six, seven years.

“There’s not a better buzz than putting the England shirt on.”

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